Written by David Jamilly.

It is only twenty-five years or so since Leeds Metropolitan University introduced the first full time event management course in the UK. Since then this study area has become a mainstream degree subject with over eighty UK universities and institutions offering event management full time degree courses.

Leeds University – Guardian / Leeds University creative Arts Building – Hawkins Brown

This relates to a growing global demand for such services in the wake of an increasingly ageing population which is both wealthier and working less hours. Exposure to wide ranging media and the web has also helped to fuel the need for faster more exciting frontiers when it comes to entertainment/leisure and motivational experiences.

Before Leeds innovated, the only similar university courses were under the banner of Tourism and Hospitality and it is an interesting cycle that a current popular trend is to incorporate event management with other studies like Business and Marketing. However, what is the real basis of event management? Is it a contemporary subject and phenomenon? Or is it as ancient as time itself reflecting the innate human need to socialise and celebrate?

Pompei – Wikimedia common

The ancient Greeks had a word ‘Xenia’ which means ‘guest-friendship’ and Zeus the king of the Gods himself is sometimes called Zeus Xenios. The basic rule of Xenia being that the host must be hospitable to the guest.

Xenia the Ancient Greek hospitality concept – Wikipedia

An ironic twist on this was in the Roman period around 90 AD when Domitian held a dinner party with a subversive agenda. Domitian was known as a cruel emperor and in those days it was not uncommon to simply murder your enemy on a whim. His rich and famous guests arrived at his palace on Palatine Hill to find that the banqueting room had been decked out entirely in black. Black marble, black paint, flickering funereal lamps and a black tombstone engraved with the name of each guest at each place setting.
Food was served by naked boys painted black and even the food was dyed black on black onyx plates.
Guests feared the worst and were lightly relieved when they were able to leave. It had just been a cruel joke by Domitian to further scare his subjects into submission under his rule.

Domitian – Historical Portraits

One wonders whether the famous lavish parties at Chatsworth House in the Victorian era, hosted by the Duke of Devonshire were inspired by stories such as these. He too had troupes of school boys (not naked and painted black!) bearing lit torches to usher his guests into a diamond, emerald and pearl dressed room with red geraniums as centrepieces.

The End Dinner – Jules Alexandre Grun

History it seems, repeats itself and the world of event management has taken on many forms through the annals of time. It would seem that the professional events world of today and the events world of ancient times have quite a lot in common.

Unknown Source / Ira Lippke Studios

Heston – Daily Mail