AS Glasgow and Berlin look forward to hosting the inaugural European championships in August a veteran of the events business says ministers should not underestimate the impact that smaller scale gatherings can have on the economy.


Martin Dare.



What is your business called?

Rural Projects Ltd.

Where is it based?

Ingliston, Edinburgh.

What does it produce?

We deliver a range of public consumer and trade events. These include AgriScot, Gardening Scotland and the Countryside Area of the Royal Highland Show.

To whom does it sell?

It services the land-based sector.

What is its turnover?

£250,000 to £300,000 but the events that we organise turnover more than £1 million.

How many employees?

Three plus four consultants.

When was it formed?

1999 by my late father in law Bill Romanis.

Why did you take the plunge?

I started in July 2000 when Bill invited me to join the company. The business had expanded rapidly and Bill needed extra help to manage the events. He retired in 2007 when I took over the reins as managing director.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was working in employee relations for Royal Mail but was looking for a new opportunity. My role there had a strong organisational element so there was a good fit for me to join Rural Projects. Bill and I worked well together and I think our attributes complemented each other.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Two events that existed at the time: ScotGrow and DairyScot contributed funds to get Rural Projects off the ground. Those small loans were quickly repaid.

What was your biggest break?

Launching Gardening Scotland, Scotland’s largest horticultural event, in 2000, transformed the business and added consumer events to our portfolio.

What was your worst moment?

2016 was a tough year. Ayr Flower Show came to the end of a 56 year run, I had to contend with unforeseen staff turnover and Bill also passed away suddenly. Although he had been completely out of the business for a long time it was a personal loss for me. I always appreciated being able to discuss problems and opportunities with him.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Loads. There’s nothing to beat a tight-knit team working together to deliver an event. Working in events is really hard but when you pull it off and you know visitors and exhibitors have had a good experience it is a very rewarding and satisfying business to be in.

Running a small business like mine gives us freedom to explore any opportunity we choose.

What do you least enjoy?

Most of the time I enjoy the buzz of events, the plate spinning and the hard work. I expect to put in long hours but when it tips over and the work life balance is poor and it impacts on family time it can be challenging.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

More actions to help retailers would be a start. The prevalence of online retail threatens events as much as the High Street. Of course there’s an obligation on the events industry to promote itself as a platform for consumers to see, feel and touch products. We also need to create experiential attractions that add value and encourage visitors to attend live events. My particular sector also requires that the horticultural and agricultural industries are vibrant and government can help with that. Brexit is clearly causing all sorts of uncertainty in those industries but, particularly for the horticultural sector, there is potential for growth and an opportunity for Scottish growers which I hope the government will support.

It feels there tends to be a fixation at government level on large set piece high profile events like certain music festivals, the Edinburgh Festival and one offs such as the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup. Other events that still generate a lot of money for the economy get almost no attention or support. Local government support can be an issue. Within the events industry, Glasgow particularly, but also other local authorities, are known to be extremely proactive and supportive.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

I started a new business in 2015 to organise non land-based events and so we now stage the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on an annual basis. I’d like to expand that business by adding to the existing portfolio as well as maintaining Rural Projects for the land-based sector in Scotland.

What are your top priorities?

Ensuring that our current events are in a healthy position.

I want my team to continue to be motivated and find fulfilment and pride form working at Rural Projects.

We are currently scoping out a new event that I hope we can launch in 2019.

I’d like to be in a position to add an additional member of staff to the team. I plan to invest in our IT systems.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

Doing what you say you’re going to do is very important to me.

How do you relax?

Scandi noir on TV! I love the outdoors having climbed my first Munro 40 years ago. I’m a gym rat and low key runner. I’m a season ticket holder at Easter Road. I read a lot, love films and I enjoy visiting independent coffee shops at any opportunity.