International Business Festival 2018




28 June 2018

It was a day that brought an emotional element to a business environment in the way that only sport or culture could.

The International Business Festival's closing day began with the stirring video that won Hull the right to be celebrated as UK City of Culture in 2017, and ended with a similar emotional pull when Liverpool FC chief executive Peter Moore set strains of You'll Never Walk Alone ringing around the Futures Stage.

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox then closed the day by praising the Festival for having "focused the attention of the global business community on the opportunities here in the UK".

Dr Liam Fox in the UK Innovation HubHe looked to a future when international trade was "not a novelty but the norm", telling his audience: "Together we can build a truly global Britain."

Festival creative director and former Southbank Centre head Jude Kelly had got Sport, Culture & Travel Day under way by reflecting on how Liverpool had transformed itself since her childhood.

And the day host introduced a panel to discuss the power of culture and sport to do the same for other cities. Rosie Millard, who chaired Hull's culture year, said it was essential to put people at the heart of this process.

"The narrative of Hull and its people was absolutely hard-baked throughout the programme. We had world-class events and world-class culture with a local story," she said, adding that the 90% engagement of citizens was the envy of the arts world.

Debbie Jevans, who was London 2012 sporting director, agreed. She said the bid was aided by a decision to replace 100 VIPs on the trip to the voting panel with 100 young people whose futures might be transformed by the Games. 

"We were successful and then put the Gamesmakers at the front of our bid. Ultimately, it's people who will deliver and volunteers are at the heart of that," she said.

And people were at the heart of Peter Moore's talk about The Business of Football, when he said that despite Liverpool's "global pulse", the club would "never, ever forget" its roots.Peter Moore on the Futures Stage

"We have a massive local heart but this is a global entity," he said. Mr Moore said he visited supporters clubs all over the world and that members had all visited Liverpool purely because they wanted to watch their team and come back surprised at what they found, with some commenting: "No-one stole my hubcaps."

He had advice for businesses wanting to tap in on the global appeal of top sports teams. "The best way to engage sponsors with supporters is to get them to understand the city, invest in the city, be with us in the city," he said. "Use some of your marketing budget to give back to the city because the 'reaping your rewards multiplier' is amazing."

A video showing fans in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia, belting out You'll Never Walk Alone brought a rousing end to the Festival, and though Mr Moore said that though few of them could pick out Liverpool on a map, their passion demonstrated the club's need to serve its global fans.

But perhaps it won't be too long before those Australians can feel more a part of things. The Futures Stage audience had just heard from Ben Smith, of immersive tech company Laduma.

Most Liverpool fans around the world would never have the chance to experience a special night of European football at Anfield, he said. But he said that one day augmented reality experiences could take a taste of that atmosphere to fans thousands of miles away.

"The thought you could bottle that and bring the experience to people in their own homes is compelling," he said.

Cherie Blair in conversation with Jude KellyIt was a suitably futuristic note on which to close a forward-looking Festival. But its final day featured warnings, too, about the work still to do to create an equal society.

In the final session of our Future World of Work strand, Cherie Blair described the motivation for setting up her foundation to help women entrepreneurs by remembering how she qualified as a lawyer and qualifying top of her bar course.

"I said 'hello world, I'm going to work as a lawyer', then suddenly discovered there was a big problem... that I was a woman." Firms would not take her on because their clients did not like dealing with women, or because they already had one female lawyer.

While things had improved at home, she pointed to the fact that two-thirds of the world's illiterate people were women, and that women accounted for a similar proportion of "workable hours" around the globe.

"When people saw 'we live in a post-feminist world, we don't need feminism', I'm afraid the statistics tell a different story."

The 2018 International Business Festival has been all about arming people with the tools to overcome challenges, enabling them to build relationships and see new sides to people, places and products.

And in his closing remarks Dr Fox said that much of the Festival had been about dreams.

"Thank you, Liverpool, for nine days of the dream."

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