Delivering large-scale conferences for the UK’s biggest trade union


Since 2013, Freshwater has been responsible for planning and managing all national conferences for the UK and Ireland’s largest trade union, Unite the Union, including its flagship National Policy Conference.

Working with a multitude of teams at Unite, we continue to deliver end-to-end event management and full production of the National Policy Conference, among other large-scale union events throughout the year.



national large-scale conferences delivered


delegates in attendance, on average, at each event


of fringes, exhibitions external events and plenaries


Our national events brief is to deliver the biennial National Policy Conference – the union’s largest and most high-profile event in terms of scale, attendees and budget. Described as “the most important single week in the Unite calendar”, Unite members, VIPs, media and politicians from across the UK and Ireland, as well as international guests, are brought together to agree the union’s policy priorities.

The specifications of the event include developing a theme and brand for the conference, designing a high-impact stage and set, managing a shell scheme exhibition of 55 exhibitors, building custom-built offices and registration facilities, designing animated and video content, advertising the conference across the host city, and overseeing fringe events over a five day period.

Previous attendees included prominent politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Andy Burnham, actor Ricky Tomlinson and TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady.


We have now successfully delivered Unite the Union’s National Policy Conference annually. Due to the sheer scale of the conferences, our events management team develop a six-month project plan ahead of each date that includes a day-to-day breakdown of tasks, responsibilities, milestones and deadlines for every aspect of the event.

By working with Unite’s constitutional administration team, communications team, the legal service department and the General Secretary’s office we can plan to the granular detail of what each day will cover. We are trusted to manage every aspect of the event, including the delegate registration process, artwork, print and delivery deadlines for design collateral, set and audio visual display (including autocue), special delegate needs, digital marketing, catering, exhibition shell scheme and signage.

Freshwater’s project plan is fundamental to ensuring our team can coordinate the activities of multiple people involved in the project, and hit every major deadline and event milestone. In tandem, we develop an internal project risk register that is updated throughout the project, making it an invaluable troubleshooting and risk management tool.

For 2018, we held the conference at the Brighton Conference Centre having previously used the venue for Unite’s other large-scale events. With its expansive conference hall, exhibition space and multiple meeting rooms in a convenient, picturesque location, it met our long list of specifications well.

We developed a series of to-scale 3D animated fly through visualisations to map out the conference space and determine how the exhibition hall could best be utilised to include an appropriate stage and set, top table, floating screens, lighting and camera structures. By working closely with the General Secretary’s team, our interactive 3D fly throughs helped the client complete a visual walk-through of the event and gain an understanding of the delegate’s experience months in advance, and without even walking through the event space door.

Freshwater’s in-house design experts collaborate with the union’s communications team to design the conference theme and branding each year. In 2018 this centred on ‘Winning and Growing’ and sought to highlight the union’s determination to prosper for its members – through industrial strength, legal action, lobbying, campaigning and shaping the policy agenda.

We are on site for three days during set-up and rehearsal, plus five days’ technical management of the live event and breakdown. We are responsible for full on-site production management including programme, speaker, sound, projection and lighting.

As with any event of this scale, our team needs to cope with impromptu speakers, ad-hoc announcement and fringe changes, unforeseen client needs and extra security checks following the high-profile speakers’ changing schedules. Electronic voting to determine votes that were too close to call by the chairman were also used – adding another variable to event schedule.


Since 2013, Freshwater has been commissioned as Unite’s sole event supplier, and we have successfully delivered three National Policy Conferences. Our understanding and experience of the trade union sector and its priorities has been put to good use, with Freshwater successfully delivering sixteen conferences in total for Unite the Union, engaging with over 20,000 delegates, in the last six years.



Aled Edwards

029 20 30 40 50


Unite the Union

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    • Design
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2013 - Present