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2015 Annual Conference

in Annual Conference, Events tagged


Past Event – Wednesday 11th & Thursday 12th February 2015

Thank you for everyone that attended the Conference & Trade Exhibition, we hope you enjoyed the event.

Click here to see the photos

Presentations will be available soon.


The Programme

Tuesday 10th February

Free Tour of 360 Play and Kids Play Day Nursery
2pmVet n petIf you arrive early, we’ve arranged a free exclusive tour of 360 Play (an innovative playcentre) and a tour of Kids Play Day Nursery (the same brand behind Willows Farm Day Nursery).
Free Exclusive Tour of MKS Dons Stadium
5pmEnjoy a FREE exclusive tour of the MK Dons Stadium, home to the MK Dons Football Club (not available to the public). In this fun and informative tour you’ll get to go behind the scenes and visit the impressive pitch and dugouts, walk through the player’s tunnel, take a look in the corporate box, see the players lounge and more.
Informal Evening Supper
7:30pmWhy not join us for a very informal evening supper at The DoubleTree by Hilton.

Wednesday 11th February

Pre-Conference Visit to Mead Open Farm
9.30ammeadThis day includes welcome refreshments, a talk from the owners, extensive tour, Q&A session and networking lunch.  Download the Pre-Conference Tour at Mead Open Farm Programme.
Drinks Reception
6pmDelegates in previous years have requested more time to visit the Trade Exhibition, so we’re now opening the Trade Exhibition during a drinks reception before the Awards Dinner.
Awards Dinner
8pmContinue networking at the NFAN Awards Dinner and find out who has won the 2015 Awards.

Thursday 12th February

Main Conference & Trade Exhibition
8:15amRegistration: Coffee/tea and bacon rolls. A chance to visit the Trade Exhibition
9:00amWelcome and introduction – NFAN Chairman, Matthew Heast
9:15amKeynote Presentation: Multi Award winning – Ian Pigott, founder of Open Farm Sunday
9:50amReviewing three Christmas models, – Marsh Farm Park, Bocketts Farm Park, Cannon Hall Farm
10:25amBreak: Coffee/tea and an opportunity to visit the Trade Exhibition
11:10amTalk from the Farm Attraction of the Year Winner
11:35amCamping/Glamping – giving added value to your attraction business – Charles Gulland, Wigwam Holidays
12:00pmNFAN AGM
12:25pmNetworking lunch and chance to visit the Trade Exhibition
2:00pmPsychology of Play – Beth Cooper, Timberplay
2:25pmVisitor Attraction Footfall – Chris Webster
2:50pmBreak: Coffee/tea and an opportunity to visit the Trade Exhibition
3:35pmThe Attraction Investment Cycle – Paul Kelly, BALPPA
4:00pmPanel Debate – Ask the Experts

Introducing our sponsors

For every event, NFAN are always extremely grateful to sponsors, who help keep delegate prices down.

Main Gold Conference Sponsors
S. GregoryDaviesLogo
Pre Conference Tour Sponsors
Drinks Reception Sponsors Awards Dinner Sponsor
RupertOliverLogo140116 New Nursery Logoagility_logo

Keynote Speaker – Ian PigottIan Pigott-cropped

Ian runs a diversified farming business on the urban fringe between the affluence of Harpenden and the industrial town of Luton. Farming 2,000 acres across a number of holdings the business is also home to a 40 office small business park.

Having spent his early career broking commodities in London,  Ian recognised an enormous disconnect between consumer’s attitudes to farming and food production and the reality on UK farms.

He founded Open Farm Sunday, a national farm open day  in 2006 which has subsequently welcomed more than 1.4 million people onto UK farms.

Ian Chairs the charity FACE (farming and countryside education) and has helped develop a cross industry careers initiative for farming and food supply called BrightCrop.

In 2014 Ian launched The Farmschool, an on-farm classroom and cooking experience. In his spare time Ian relaxes spending time with his family, playing cricket or golf and penning a regular column for the Farmers weekly.

Ian is going to be a great keynote speaker and we’re all really looking forward to seeing him.

Hannah Gowing and Becky Hildrey, Bocketts Farm Park
Presentation Summary: Reviewing the Christmas Model
becky and hannah

Becky & Hannah, Bocketts Farm Park

Bocketts Farm has been running visits to Father Christmas since opening 22 years ago. The addition of the grotto has been key to keeping visitor numbers afloat during the otherwise quiet month of December, whilst also providing an additional income stream.

Bocketts Farm has a relatively low investment grotto set up with a waiting room ‘workshop’ and cottage style ‘Grotto’, set deep inside a large hay barn.

Unlike most Santa attractions, the children visit in groups and nobody queues. Oh, and there is only one Father Christmas!

Hannah Gowing and Becky Hildrey are General Managers at Bocketts Farm. Their parents, Jane and James started the farm attraction 22 years ago.

Hannah predominantly oversees the Farm Park attraction, HR and Health and Safety. For the past 4 years she has coordinated the build and design of the grotto.

Becky oversees the running of the Tearooms and Gift Shop, and is also responsible for much of the marketing and events.

Julie Nicholson, Cannon Hall Farm
Julie Nicholson

Julie Nicholson, Cannon Hall Farm

Julie Nicholson is married to Robert Nicholson of Cannon Hall Open Farm situated in the Village of Cawthorne, Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

Julie was active in the diversification of the farm with the Nicholson family, when it first opened in March 1989.

Her first role in the business was Manager in the Tearoom; she produced the baking and was one of the chefs during opening hours.

After having two children and working in the tearoom for 9 years, Julie’s roll in the business changed.

In 1998 the farm became computerized and then she began processing wages and accounts.

Julie now processes the wages for the whole business.

However, at Christmas time, she also becomes a veteran Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, at Cannon Hall Farm’s Santa Experience, where she helps to co-ordinate and entertain the children in the Tearoom and Santa’s Grotto.

James Sinclair, Marsh Farm Park

Presentation Summary: Reviewing the Christmas Model

James will talk about his business of Christmas and how with his team created a £600,000 business with it , welcoming more than 25,000 guests.  Coupling magic tricks with a great story, amazing elfs and giving more than your guest expects.

Find out just how much work goes into making a 3 hour christmas experience work.

Revealing all figures in the speech. (good and bad)

BiographyJames Sinclair

James’s business life started with “Partyman Entertainments”, James created his alias “Jimbo the Partyman” – a family entertainer and magician, when he was just 15 years old. With this character he went on to create the multimillion pound business that is now “The Partyman Company”.

The group now encompasses a family entertainment and events business providing entertainment and corporate events, a chain of play centres (Partyman World), a chain of day nurseries (Twizzletops), an online party shop, a chain of Laser arenas (Laser Kombat), a family fun park (Fort Fun) and a 70 acre farm attraction (Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park).

Partyman looks after over a million guests every year-and this is growing.

The Partyman mission statement is to be the customer experience experts with trusted national brands that families LOVE.

The Partyman company believe in 3 simple core business values of consistency, experience and most importantly great people.

Above all else, James believes that the people at Partyman are their biggest asset.  Although the company is larger now than when James started the business way back when, Partyman enjoy acting as a small business that THINKS big.

The Partyman company values are ….
Happiness and Laughter
Honesty and fairness
Trust and respect
Hard work and focus

The word “wigglebottom” is fabulous and should make you smile.

Other business interests :
James is the author of “The Millionaire Clown” – a book which describes essential business rules for any entrepreneur.

On the back of this and his business story James is an in-demand public speaker, often asked to speak at business events and seminars. He shares his philosophy through his Entrepreneurs network at

James also has a property business and has shares in a recruitment consultancy that operates in London and Essex – Success Search Ltd.

Charles Gulland, Wigwam Holidays

Bio and photo coming soon…

Beth Cooper, Timberplay

Presentation Summary: The Psychology of Play 
Beth Cooper, Timberplay

Beth Cooper, Timberplay

With the continued diversification of farm attractions Play is becoming an integral part of the visitor experience.  Delivered well Play increases dwell time, engagement, the number of return visits and overall visitor experience.

But to deliver Play well we need to understand it, to recall and remember its uniqueness. As with any investment, it is vital to understand what you are investing in, Play is no different.

This talk will simplify some of the complexities of Play, the benefits of Play and its function in children’s development before using that understanding to introduce ways of considering the delivery of Play in your settings. It will introduce Simply Play a simple assessment developed by Timberplay to support the maximisation of Play opportunities in any given space as well as exploring ideas of how to deliver Play as part of your wider offer.


Passionate about Play and the positive impact on health and wellbeing of quality Play opportunities Beth Cooper is the Creative Play Consultant for Timberplay Ltd. and an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University for the Childhood Studies course.

Since starting with Timberplay as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate Beth has been involved in developing Simply Play a Play Value Assessment Tool as well as consulting on Play provision in a variety of settings including developing farm Attractions.

Prior to this role Beth worked for City of York Council as a Project Officer for the Playbuilder Initiative delivering Play in the form of play areas across the city. Beth also spent two years as a director of Yorkshire Play a regional Play Organisation and was a member of the Homeless Play Project in Sheffield.

Prior to this she spent over a decade working in the community arts field it was her graduation with a BAHons degree in Children and Playwork which consolidated her interest in Play and the associated benefits and Beth has since completed a PGDip in Organisation Development and Consultancy.

Chris Webster

Presentation Summary: Visitor Attraction Footfall

PREDICTING VISITOR NUMBERS The Science & the Art – Extract
“If anybody could predict with certainty “if I did XZY a specific number of paying visitors will come as a result” not only should they be millionaires but they should be able to make future investment without risk.  Some might say that would take all of the fun out of running a attraction based business.  Chris in twenty minutes will try and give a few pointers based around both science and art which might help reduce some of the risk without eliminating the fun around this area of business strategy.”


Chris Webster, WINK Associates

Managing Director, WINK Associates Ltd.  Deputy Chairman, Yorkshire Wildlife Park Ltd.  Associate Director, Vision XS Ltd.  Qualifications/Memberships – Fellow, Zoological Society of London.

After a successful army career (13 years) Chris has been an operator and consultant in the Leisure sector since 1989 including General Manager of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, CEO of Woburn Safari Park, Deputy Chairman Yorkshire Wildlife Park and CEO Vision XS Ltd, an international consultancy specialising in developing visitor experiences and associated investment plans which are appropriate for the intended market.

Chris also chaired (3 years) Experience Bedfordshire, a sub-regional DMO, was a non- executive director (8 years) on the East of England Tourist Board and was also a non-executive director (4 years) at Visit England giving him detailed knowledge and experience of issues relating to developing a visitor attractions and destinations at a macro level in a balanced and sustainable way.

Chris has been CEO of two not for profit organisations, Endeavour Training Ltd, a national educational charity which he turned around and the Woburn Centre for Conservation.  He is now chair of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation.

Current projects include ongoing input into YWP which achieved 560K footfall in 2014,its fifth full year of operation, the re-opening of Dreamland, Margate planned for 2015 and input to three Wine Estates in South Africa developing their visitor experiences.  Chris worked with Andrew Wolfe, CEO of Willows Farm from June 2013 to November 2014 supporting the strategic development and master planning for Willows’ next five year period. Further information can be found at

Paul Kelly, BALPPA

Presentation Summary: The Attraction Investment Cycle
Paul Cropped

Paul Kelly, BALPPA

Once an Attraction has got over the trauma of opening, settling into a visitor pattern and establishing a presence the next big decision is when is the best time to invest in that business. Should you use a complicated series of metrics to decide or just a gut feeling. We will look at how big, medium and small companies make their decisions and whether or not their ‘golden rules’ can apply to any attraction business.


My background is entirely filled with the leisure industry. I started work at Thorpe Park in 1986 as a ride operator. Over the next 13 years I worked in every operating department in the Park. That operational management experience was put to good use when I went to open the London Eye in 1999. This proved to be a big challenge as it grew to be one of the most popular attractions in the country.

After the Merlin acquisition I worked in business development both here and abroad working on projects in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. I left Merlin in 2010 and worked on a number of wheel projects  both in the UK, Eire, Cape Town and Hong Kong. I have been in my current role as CEO of Balppa since 2012.



Reception area
DoubleTree by Hilton

The Conference is being held at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (part of the MK Dons Stadium), to book a room please click here to book direct with the Hotel.

Other Hotels

We have researched some lower cost hotels, please see below.  Please note we have not stayed at these hotels, only researched online.

Name                    Campanile Hotel Restaurant

Address                40 Penn Rd off Watling Stratford, Bletchley, MK2 2AU



Tel                          01908 649819 or 0207 5195045
Name                    Travelodge

Address                Travelodge Milton Keynes Central Hotel, 199 Grafton Gate, Milton Keynes, MK9 1AL


Tel                          0871 984 6199


Name                   Premier Inn Bletchley

Address               Lakeside Grove, Bletcham Way, Caldecotte, Milton Keynes, MK7 8HP


Tel                          0871 527 8780


Name                   The White House

Address               The White House, Watling Street, Little Brickhill, MK17 9LR



Tel                          01525 261353 or 07592 725261

Trade Exhibition

With over 60 stands the Trade Exhibition is very much part of the Conference.

You can see the latest products from play and entertainment providers, find out about the latest online ticketing and web innovations, as well as have an opportunity to discuss your requirements with specialist industry experts from the marketing, planning, insurance and accountancy professions.
You can also meet this year’s sponsors Davies & Co, Marsh and Company and S Gregory & Co.

Exhibitor list coming soon.






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With over 200 farm members, The National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN) unites the farm and rural attraction industry.

Encouraging best practice and knowledge sharing, we proactively update members on the latest HSE advice, represent the farm attraction industry at government meetings, run events and provide ongoing support and guidance.

Find out more about the role of NFAN.


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