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Covid hit events firm set to bounce back with bumper year

An events company is looking forward to a bumper year after suffering heavy financial losses during the pandemic.

ACF Teambuilding and Events was on track for a record million-pound turnover in 2019 – before the outbreak of Covid.

But the firm lost hundreds of thousands of pounds due to lockdown and cancelled events.

Mark Fanning, who has headed the business for 10 years, said: “It’s been a tough couple of years. I’ve seen competitors go under and had to continually adapt to survive.

“But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else and it’s great to be able to host events in person again. We have lots of bookings lined-up and are looking forward to a bumper year.”

Covid challenges.

The events industry, estimated at £70 billion pre-pandemic, has taken a huge financial hit and around 126,000 job losses (BVEP).

Mark had to furlough his team and all bar one, who took voluntary redundancy, has returned to work for ACF.

The company also took the decision to pivot during the pandemic – holding up to 30 professionally-run virtual events each week during the lockdown periods – from game shows to live music quizzes.

Wellbeing focus.

Now the team is focusing on wellbeing in nature and team engagement – with activities ranging from axe throwing to ‘forest bathing,’ an immersive therapy developed in Japan.

Mark said: “I know first-hand the importance of getting out, exercising and socialising for wellbeing. It helped me get me through tough times and brought our team closer.”

The Lancet has reported Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of work in shaping population health and wellbeing.

Pandemics and an end to quarantine throughout history has often led to people wanting to preserve their health and celebrate life.

Mark said: “I think it’s in people’s nature to want to get out, socialise and do things again. Many people have felt the benefits of being close to nature during this pandemic, while companies want to increase engagement and wellbeing for their teams.”

From pig farming to festivals.

ACF is based at Aldwick Estate, in Redhill,  Somerset, which was historically a pig farm. Farmer and businessman Chris Watts set up a clay pigeon shooting business on site – holding its first event in 1984. The company, previously known as ACF Hospitality, grew and began to host corporate days out.

But Chris tragically died in a helicopter crash in 2011. His sister, Sandy, took over the running of the estate, which now has its own wine label and wedding venue.

Mark, who had joined the ACF team in 2006, ran the events business. He said: “Chris was a great man to work with and I learned a lot from him, including spotting changing trends.

“The biggest lesson he instilled was to make every effort to put on a good show and so that people left an event happy.”

Staff engagement

The company now hosts events off-site, at venues such as Folly Farm in Pensford, Somerset, De Vere Tortworth Court in Wotton-under-Edge and Celtic Manor Resort.

And it has events lined up throughout the year – catering for company festivals, family fun and team building days, focusing on emotional fitness.

Covid-19 has led to many employees working from home or following a hybrid model, with the benefit of greater flexibility.

But remote working has led to concerns around isolation, mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as challenges around communication and engagement.

Engagement has been shown to increase staff retention, improve performance by 20 per cent and enhance the bottom-line (IES).

Mark said: “We help firms, families and friends get together and build relationships. It’s a chance to try new things, socialise, enjoy nature and, of course, have fun.

“It’s about bringing people together and ensuring they leave with a smile on their face. Happier people tend to be more engaged and effective in their work.”


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The team at ACF Teambuilding & Events

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Notes to editors

ACF Teambuilding and Events, which is one of the region’s top event management companies, is based at Aldwick Estate close to Blagdon Lake. It was formerly known as ACF Hospitality and has been running since 1984. It was taken over by Mark Fanning in 2012, who previously worked as the sales and marketing director. It was then renamed ACF Teambuilding and Events. The farm has a 300-acre estate and a vineyard and wedding/conference centre are also based at the site. ACF Teambuilding and Events hosts events across the country at various venues that they work with – with an increasing focus on wellbeing in nature and team engagement events.

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