Fifteen to One | Sam Glenister-Batey

In a new Fifteen to One feature the University's Head of Conferences and Events, Sam Glenister-Batey, reveals the launch of our new city centre conference venue, Cloth Hall Court.

Sam Glenister-Batey, Head of Conferences and Events

To mark the recent launch of Cloth Hall Court, Sam tells us about this exciting new city centre venue, including its recent use as a Nightingale court and its pivotal role in engaging more with the city. 

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

I’m Head of Conferences and Events, and lead the University’s conference service which involves working with internal and external customers to deliver exceptional events across campus and our new city-centre venue Cloth Hall Court. 

How have you enjoyed your time at the University so far?

I started at the University about a year ago and I’m really enjoying it. One thing that stands out in this is the people; there is a great culture within the Facilities Directorate and an appetite to improve the service we offer to staff, students and visitors to campus, and that is really infectious.  

In Conferences and Events in particular, there's a fantastic opportunity following the pandemic to grow our business and engage with new customers, and that is really exciting for me. This includes Cloth Hall Court, a new city centre conference venue, which we launched in April; this is a once in a career opportunity and is fantastic to be part of.  

What really impresses you about the University of Leeds?

The ambition of the organisation, it doesn't sit still. We’re one of the leading universities in the world, but still have that ambition to drive forward. The new 10-year strategy and the values of collaboration, compassion, inclusivity and integrity can relate so much to events. I feel that as a conference service we can work towards that core mission of the University. The University’s ambitions towards net zero and community outreach are also admirable. 

What are you most looking forward to working on?

We've just launched Cloth Hall Court, so I’m looking forward to growing the business there. The venue has nine rooms and there is scope to do lots of different types of events. This new venture also allows us to further support the University’s strategy by hosting more events which support core University aims, such as research conferences, engaging more with the wider city and this in addition to raising essential funds for the University.  

Herringbone cabaret at Cloth Hall Court

A cabaret layout at Cloth Hall Court

The University acquired Cloth Hall Court in 2020 with the aim of continuing the operation as a conference centre, but due to the pandemic, it quickly pivoted, and it’s been used as a Nightingale court for the past 3 years to support the backlog in court cases caused by lockdown. We’re now back doing what we do best, delivering exceptional events! We can host events up to 300 delegates in one room, but 500 over the building in total. We operate on a day delegate rate at Cloth Hall Court, meaning the venue, catering, AV and delivery support are all included in one simple per-delegate cost, making planning and budgeting easy!

We've done a very good job in positioning ourselves as an industry leader as an academic venue that hosts conferences, but we were limited to Easter and summer breaks, Cloth Hall Court allows us to host events all year round, and this will further cement our position as industry leaders in the conference sector.

Merchants Hall at Cloth Hall CourtMerchants Hall at Cloth Hall Court

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career?

The whole conferences and events industry inspires me, but in particular the way that the sector came together during the pandemic, including being able to switch to hybrid and virtual events so quickly. It made me realise how close knit of an industry it is. The industry relies heavily on people; from the food that you're eating, to the AV set-up, the registration and the overall delivery is all put together by teams of people.  The sense of community has continued post-pandemic, and that inspires me. Events professionals are some of the most creative, toughest, hard-working and resilient colleagues that you can find.

 What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is how you learn. 
I certainly wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without making mistakes along the way, it is taking risks that can lead to great achievements, and if it doesn’t work out, then you learn from it and are stronger from there on. One thing I always say to my team, particularly with events, it's not about making mistakes; it’s how you deal with them 

If you didn’t work in HE, what would have been your chosen career?

Before choosing to go into events, which led me to higher education, I was quite keen to be a graphic designer. That’s where I thought I would end up, and it’s something I’m still interested in now. I still maintain an element of design in my current role, as events are a design in themselves, from the way you present the communication, the rooms, the food – it’s just design that is consumed when the event starts! 

What are your highlights so far?

The conferences we held over Easter, particularly the Times Higher Education event, Digital Universities UK. This event put the University centre stage, and the various teams that all support event delivery at the University delivered to an extremely high level. I am delighted that we received so much great feedback. 

In addition to events, seeing spring bloom across campus has been a highlight, including seeing our resident rabbits! The teams in the Facilities Directorate responsible for making the campus look and feel like an inspiring place to learn, work and be do an excellent job and their work has made coming to work a pleasure - it also makes selling campus for events a lot easier!   

What do you do to relax away from University life?

I am a keen runner, completing my first marathon last year. I love going to parkrun each week and I recentley completed the Leeds 10k with Helen Raby from the Conferences and Events team and we’re also taking part in the Leeds Running Festival in August.

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

Anywhere with snow in the Alps, as skiing is my favourite holiday! I don’t think there is any better way to switch off from work and the pressures of life than by hurtling down a mountain trying to make sure you stay alive. 

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