A Handy Venue Guide to the Business Design Centre

Published on 28/04/2017

This week in our Handy Exhibition Venue Guide series, we’re visiting the former Royal Agricultural Hall – a grand Grade II listed building that now goes by the name of the Business Design Centre.  Situated in Islington, this striking venue features architecture originally inspired by the breathtaking Crystal Palace.

As its name suggests, the Business Design Centre is designed to boost business through exhibitions and conferences.  With prime space spanning 6,000m² and plenty of flexible facilities on offer, we think it’s the perfect place to big up your brand, and with over 300 events held there every year you’re bound to find one that’s ideal for you.

Here at Guardian Exhibition and Display, we’ve been helping our clients maximise their messages at the Business Design Centre for years – meaning we’re old hands at understanding what makes this such a special venue.  So here’s the lowdown!

A brief history

The Royal Agricultural Hall opened its doors for the first time in 1862, with an intended purpose to host agricultural shows.  As the years progressed, the venue was consistently developed, and the hall adopted various guises including a theatre, a bingo hall and even a makeshift Post Office during the Second World War.

Years of neglect followed, until the venue’s 1980s rescue in the form of developer Sam Morris.  It was in 1987 that the Business Design Centre finally prepared itself for actual business, with a grand opening by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

These days, the Business Design Centre hosts hundreds of events every year.  The Mezzanine, its main exhibition space, covers over 2,000 square metres, with conference facilities nearby that mean you can conveniently arrange a large exhibition and a conference to run together.

The Business Design Centre incorporates an array of conference space, the largest of which is The Gallery Hall, comprising 890 metres of space for large conferences and events.  The Gallery Atrium provides additional room for catering, stands and drinks receptions. 

Notable events

The venue’s Islington location was chosen for its proximity to the livestock market in Smithfield, and the Royal Agricultural Hall played host to the Smithfield Show every year until 1938.

Slightly grander events include the Royal Tournament, held there from 1880 until the early 20th century, and the first Crufts dog show in 1891.

More recently, the Business Design Centre is home to the London Art Fair, the largest contemporary art event of its kind in the UK.

Getting there

Incredibly well-situated, the Business Design Centre is just a short walk from Angel, Highbury and Islington tube stops, with Kings Cross St. Pancras and Euston not much further away.  There are plenty of bus routes, and an on-site car park houses nearly 300 spaces. 


The Business Design Centre is located in the heart of Angel, an appropriately heavenly setting for all kinds of bars and restaurants!  On-site restaurant Jack’s changes its menu daily, and there are also plenty of hotels within walking distance from the venue.

Shoppers are truly spoilt for choice too, with Camden Passage just opposite the venue and offering a tempting selection of independent boutiques and cafes waiting for you when you feel like taking a break from exhibiting.

What else is available for exhibitors?

It would be easier to ask what isn’t available for exhibitors at the Business Design Centre!  For starters, you’ll find a dedicated exhibition team on-site to help make your event run perfectly smoothly. 

The venue has just completed a huge investment in its internet and wireless systems, meaning it’s now one of the leading UK venues for infrastructure services – ideal if you’re bringing a digital display.

With a whole host of additional services on offer, you could even have fresh flowers delivered direct to your stand if you ask nicely enough!


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