UKCEM 25 Years Alumni Stories: James Boardman

When the pandemic hit the UK in 2020, BA Events Management graduate James Boardman took the difficult decision to start his own business. Here he talks about how his time at UKCEM helped prepare him for one of the industry’s toughest ever years. 


Celebrating 25 Years of the UK Centre for Events Management

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Event Management 
Years of Study: 2009 - 2013 
Current Position: Creative Producer & Photographer at JPBoardman 

James Boardman

Can you give us a quick overview of your career since finishing your course?  

I graduated from Leeds Beckett with a first-class BA (Hons) in Event Management back in 2013 and was awarded the SJM Prize for Contribution. At the end of my final term, I participated in a graduate competition called ‘The Eventice’ which also let to my first job in industry with Technical Production Company, Blitz. I swiftly progressed to become an Account Manager with the responsibility for a number of large clients. In 2018 I joined Stagestruck, an events, experience and communications agency as Client Manager and then became Head of Business Development, helping existing and prospective clients find the most effective solutions to their briefs. In 2020, as part of the ongoing impact of Covid-19, I took voluntary redundancy to pursue a freelance career as a Creative Producer for Virtual, Hybrid and Live Events. 

Do you have any standout memories from your time studying at the UK Centre for Events Management (UKCEM)? 

I remember how committed my tutors were to making sure I gained as much knowledge and experience as I could whilst on the course. As someone keen to do just that, they helped me not only by teaching in the classroom but also offering me the opportunity to gain real life experience out in industry. I worked at a number of events and music festivals alongside my tutors and am grateful to a number of them for spring boarding me into industry. I also think the industry placement year really added value to the course and ensured I had gained valuable experience before completing my degree. 

What skills did you learn at the UKCEM that have helped you in your career? 

The way I look at it, my course was a business course but with an events twist. Events are businesses and the skills I learnt across my modules from beginning to end have helped me in one way or another since graduation. Since becoming a freelancer, I get to put even more of those skills into practice for myself. Events aren’t just about organisation but budgeting, marketing, data analysis, creative concepting, sustainability, safety, production and much, much more. 

Large darkened conference venue with bright chandelier

The NatWest PCA Awards 2016, one of the events James worked on during his time at Blitz

What has been the standout moment(s) so far for your career in events?  

This would usually be the time that I would list out all the major festivals and events that I’ve been a part of over the years. But truth be told, I get a standout moment at the end of every event, no matter how big, small, stressful or boring. There is something magical about the camaraderie of event delivery. Anyone who works in this industry will tell you the same thing. It is the ultimate team sport that leaves you feeling proud, every time.  

How have you and the sector you work in adapted your practices in response to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic?  

The pandemic has rewritten our industry as we know it. In 2020, whether you were an industry supplier, agency, festival owner or corporate client, we all had the same choice: wait it out or adapt. Like much of the industry I chose to adapt and quickly learnt the ropes of producing virtual events with the support of industry friends and peers. Since then, I’m very lucky to have had a busy eight months, delivering virtual events/broadcasts and supporting clients with consultancy about what’s next. My thoughts are daily with those who have lost their jobs, businesses and years’ worth of growth throughout this time. It’s been really tough.  

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career in the events industry?   

Work hard, build your network and love what you do every day. I’d challenge you to find a job more rewarding. We might not be saving lives but we’re certainly improving them one event at a time. 


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