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The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is an exhibition centre in Birmingham, England. It is near junction 6 of the M42 motorway, and is adjacent to Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International railway station. It has 20 interconnected halls, set in grounds of 628 acres (2.54 km2). It is the busiest and seventh largest exhibition centre in Europe.
Opened by Elizabeth II in February 1976, the first event to be staged at the venue was International Spring Fair and has returned every year since. Growing annually, the event now occupies all of The NEC's 20 halls, the LG Arena (formerly The NEC Arena) and is the largest single exhibition staged at the venue.
The NEC was originally going to be built adjacent to the M1 junction 21 near Leicester but it was turned down by Leicestershire County Council with claims that "The big shows won't move away from London".
In November 1971, the Secretary of State for the Environment granted outline planning approval for the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. The NEC, originally comprising 89,000 m2 of exhibition space, was opened by the Queen in February 1976. The building was designed by Edward Mills.
In 1989, the Queen opened three further halls, increasing the space to 125,000 m2. Four more halls were added in 1993, the total exhibition space increasing to 158,000 m2. Another four new halls, opened in September 1998 by Neil Kinnock, European Commissioner for Transport, took the total space to 190,000 m2 (2,045,142 square feet). These buildings were designed by Seymour Harris.
As of 2009, The NEC is nearing completion of a five-year, £40 million venue improvement programme which has seen improvements made to everything from the car parking to signage, seating and catering. The most obvious result of this development has been the redesign of the Piazza - the central space around Halls 1 to 5, which has received a contemporary update.
Sir Cliff Richard has performed numerous concerts at the venue and is the artist to have played the most shows at the arena. With 14 shows on one single tour in 1990!
Since the 1980s, The NEC has hosted performances by many international musicians and music groups, several of which have played at The NEC Arena on more than one occasion. Canadian rock band Rush filmed their VHS and DVD release entitled A Show of Hands at The NEC Arena in 1988. Some of this recording featured in the the audio album of the same name.
U2 recorded the version of Bad that appears on their EP Wide Awake in America.