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BACKSTAGE Behind the Scenes: Meet the Team

2018 is a year of big events for The SSE Arena, Belfast and we would love for you to join us on our journey! This week we begin a blog series entitled, “Meet The Team.” Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be spotlighting members of our SSE Arena team, their backgrounds, roles, and unique perspectives, so you can get to know the people that are working hard to make The SSE Arena Northern Ireland’s premier entertainment venue.

Claire Cosgrave: Deputy GM / Executive On Duty

Claire tries to play it coy when I ask how long she’s worked here. She then tells me it’s been a total of 11 years, starting in March 2007 (working those long hours haven’t aged her anyway)! The role she’ll be describing in this blog is her ‘Executive On Duty’ role. She explains there are other senior members of staff who also take on this role for every event and that their main role is to be the event controller on the night of the event.

However, to get a real feel for what Claire does within the arena she explains that when she first started it was as an Event Coordinator for the arena. Through the years she has then become an Event Manager and a Senior Event Manager. Now her role sits as Deputy General Manager AND Head of Events and Operations (She has a lot on her plate)!

So Claire, how did you end up in your role?

Claire tells me that she went to Ulster University and completed a Degree in Communications, Advertising and Marketing. After she finished her degree she had various temporary event roles but this was just a stop gap to pay for her travelling. She spent a year in Australia, then travelling around South Africa, New Zealand and South East Asia (she describes as one of the best experiences and is a big advocate of it), before returning home to work as Event Manager in the first Ireland v England cricket match game held at Stormont. After this, she was all set for a big move to work in London when her Granny showed her the Event Coordinator role in the newspaper (how very retro) and she’s still here 11 years on!

Explain your role in 3 words?

Her first reaction is “I love it!” Exactly the reaction you would hope she would have!
She then describes it as hectic, lively and compelling!

So what’s a normal day for an EOD?

Claire explains she’ll do a full day of work in her primary role before the show. It won’t be until she attends the event briefing with the Event Manager that she’ll step into her EOD role. She’ll oversee all aspects of the event from then onwards. After meeting any relevant authorities she’ll scan the building and make sure all facets of it are ready for the public. She claims the EOD is there to monitor everything and react to any issues that may occur. This includes queues, cleanliness of the building, crowd management, security issues and generally anything that goes wrong! With her many years in the arena, she has experienced a wide variety of issues and there is no set way to deal with them, it’s about reviewing what you have planned for but remaining flexible and reacting calmly. The perfect person you’d want in a crisis!

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the Arena since you started?

After some deliberation, Claire states, “Customer Expectations”. It is no longer acceptable to provide customers with basic provisions, in a venue that is “just ok” with staff simply going through the motions. Customers expect more and rightly so with the money they are paying. Claire explains it is important that we do what we can to meet, and hopefully exceed these expectations. That means investing in the Arena and its staff to ensure that we are delivering exceptional customer service, the building is in the best possible condition, and that we are reacting to trends, new technologies, and processes to make the customer journey as enjoyable as possible.

What’s your favourite part of being EOD?

For this blog, we based it on the Frampton v Donaire fight in April. As EOD she explains it’s the buzz of working on the event night that’s her favourite. She points out that anytime Frampton fights in SSE Arena, there’s an electric atmosphere that isn’t at every other gig. Something the team knows all too well. While she and the team are responsible for the enjoyment of all guest, including the AAA’s, she states it’s not all champagne backstage and can get stressful (not from where we’re sitting Claire)!

What’s the favourite show to have worked on?

Claire regards all the events to be amazing (Good answer Claire ;)) but managing both the MTV EMA’s AND BBC Sports Personality of the Year were career highlights. These were 2 huge events in NI, “They were bigger than just Belfast, they were worldwide events with worldwide audiences!” With these events, the arena had the full backing and buy-in from everyone around the city. Whether that be the council or the people of Belfast – everyone was invested. She describes it as ‘really special’.

Favourite show that’s come to the Arena while you’ve worked here?

With 11 years under her belt, she feels that there are too many great events to just pick one. However, there are a few distinctive ones that spring to mind. Listing them off she names Oasis because the atmosphere is completely electric. Beyonce & Pink because of the spectacle they put on. Adele’s opening night of her world tour, Metallica because it’s not her type of music but she couldn’t help enjoy it along with the crowd, and Bruce Springsteen – because who needs a reason to love The Boss?

The dream act you’d love to bring to the arena?

She’d love to have Stevie Wonder play as she’s seen him previously in The Point (now 3 Arena) in Dublin! She’s also tasked our Event Booking Manager Sharon with getting Lauryn Hill’s tour to our shore and always has the regret she never got to see and hear Amy Winehouse sing live!

Top 3 songs?

Claire has an eclectic taste and it depends on her mood but finally settled on…

  1. Van Morrison – Into The Mystic
  2. Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered
  3. Alicia Keys – If I ain’t got you

Quote you live by?

She starts off by commenting she doesn’t like quotes, then proceeds to joke she’sjust real like J.Lo” <– that might be the best quote we’ve got from anyone! With her can-do attitude, she settles on ‘No excuses, no regrets’. The perfect quote to fit her personality!


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