Tour de France Header


Regular readers of the MEETinLEEDS blog will remember that long ago (a week is a long time in the Digital Age) we pledged to show our support for Le Tour Yorkshire by cycling the entire Leeds to Harrogate stage of the Tour de France 2014, using spinning bicycles at the Edge Sports Centre.

For those of you that missed the story, here is a quick recap:

Along with our colleagues at the Edge, (all conference delegates and MEETinLEEDS residents at Storm Jameson Court get free access to the facilities at the Edge, remember!) and Great Food at Leeds, who provide catering for our conferences and events, the 20 riders each completed 9.5km to take us the 190km distance to the finish line. We calculated the total time it took us and then we will compare this to how the professionals fare on the 5th July!

“Team Leeds” ranged from novices to spin class teachers, travelling in pairs to instigate a bit of healthy competition. A full gallery of the photos from the day can be found on  our dedicated Tour de France page.

So without further ado, here is a rundown of the day (you can click on the images to make them larger)…

Marion-Tony-and-RobResidential Services took on The Edge in the opening pair, with Tony Hall posting a credible 24:43 for his 9.5km (bearing in mind Tony cycles into work, and at an hour that even the tweety birds are still napping. He hastens to add that he had the resistance on the bike set to high, and so did the equivalent of the Ilkley to Chelker Reservoir section of Stage 1) and his Sports counterpart Rob Wadsworth averaging 18:45 per 9.5km. We say averaging because Rob thought he may as well do 21.1km while he was on the bike. This was just after taking an hour long Spinning Class. We think he is going to enter the Tour de France team next year to join Froome, Wiggins and Boardman on Team Sky.

Lisa-and-Tilly-FinishNext up was MEETinLEEDS’ own Lisa Wood, who took on Tilly Hall of Great Food at Leeds. Tilly had also taken the same Spinning Class as Rob, forgetting she would be back on the bike within an hour, but posted an excellent time of 20:59, and was there to cheer Lisa over the line in 24:08. This was despite Lisa’s protestations that she could not do it (but still pedalling at the same time as pleading).

Alan-and-Nat-Face-offIt was an all MEETinLEEDS affair in the next round, as Alan Gallagher squared up against Natalie Ruecroft. Alan steamed over the line in 20’06” with Natalie shortly behind in 21:54. It was Natalie’s first time on a bike since her school days at Castleford High School, so she treated herself to a nice Mocha from the Edge Café to celebrate.

Matt-and-Helen-FinishMEETinLEEDS’ Digital Guru Matt Hamnett took on Helen Moulding of The Edge next. Helen crossed the line in 19:48, without even breaking sweat, while Matt’s effort to make 19:15 was manifested on his brow. “Fit people sweat more” was his mantra, in which case he could give Mo Farah a run for his money. Admittedly, your reporter did try to quiz him on the finer points of Digital Marketing throughout his 9.5km stint, which he answered with aplomb, if a little breathlessly.

Harriet-and-Luke-Fist-BumpIt was MEETinLEEDS vs The Edge as we passed lunchtime to hit the halfway stage,  Harriet Boatwright facing off with Luke Wilson from The Edge. The crowd anticipated Luke to be a strong contender and were proven right as he raced to the top of the leader board with a terrific 17:26. However, just 5 seconds later Harriet zoomed over the line and into second overall. This turned out to be the best time of the non-cyclists. Harriet put her amazing effort down to the pacing of Luke (“I just made sure my legs were spinning as quickly as his”) and pure grit.

Miek-and-KevWe then had a Financial Face-off as Kevin Stephenson and Mike Ferraby from the University of Leeds Finance Department. The partner-pacing effect came into play once more, Kevin hitting the 18 minute mark exactly and Mike not far behind at 18:35. Brilliant effort from the boys more accustomed to spreadsheets, budgets and other elements in the dark-arts of Accountancy.

As news of the event spread Paddy Craig of The Edge fame decided to try his hand (or legs) at the 9.5km mini-stage. As he didn’t have a cycling partner, I hopped on to help Paddy keep the pace. Unfortunately, he left me in his slip-stream and took the lead with a time of 15:56. After obviously taking a wrong turn somewhere I wheezed over the line in 19:52. I wrote this off as rustiness as the full extent of my training was walking to the chippy the night before.

As the competition heated up 2 pros stepped up to the plate, as Gary Butterfield from The Edge and Ricky Thompson of Great Food at Leeds straddled their stationary steeds in full cycling garb. They finished with times of 15:53 and 17:25 respectively. Gary is training for an Iron Man event in Australia, and took the lead with just 3 seconds between him and his closest rival. A special commendation goes to Ricky who not only posted a top time, but carried on for a full hour, completing a total of 30.9km!

Nick-and-Jo-FinishAnother member of the Finance Department, Nick Holdsworth, took to the saddle along with Jo Bayley, the PA to the Big Boss of MEETinLEEDS. After some good natured banter and ruddy faced exertion Nick crossed the line first in 18:53, taking time for a quick lay down as Jo breezed in with 21:33.

Tom-and-Ryan-Square-UpIt was time for me to make my practice run count, as I attempted to tackle Tom Exeter from The Edge. Now, Tom is a spinning instructor, and I am brilliant at spinning on my chair, so all I could do is try and do MEETinLEEDS proud and sabotage Tom by chewing his ear off. However, Tom had a plan: headphones. My plans scuppered, I endeavoured to beat my earlier showing. I looked over to my right after around 13 minutes, as there was some very audible exertion coming from Tom. After 14:04 Tom had crossed the finish line, reporters were scrabbling and pushing microphones in his face, asking how he felt after beating the 9.5km record by nearly 2 minutes. At least in my exhausted mind they were. 5 minutes later in a time of 19:23, I crossed the line, attributing my lack of a sprint finish to cramp (honestly).

Ian-And-Stew-FinishThe final 19km was a clash of the titans, as Stewart Ross, Head of MEETinLEEDS, took on Ian Robertson, Head of Residences. There was an obvious healthy rivalry (and excellent colour coordination with our background banners) as they took to the saddle and a look of determination on Stewarts face as he chased Tom’s record. After 9 and a half minutes Ian declared himself finished, much to the astonishment of the crowd. After an official adjudication, it was discovered that Ian had mistaken his time for the distance covered. Ian recovered and regained momentum to finish with a superb 17:40, while Stewart had already streaked over the line in 15:08, taking silver and a place on the podium.

It was time to tot up the totals and see how long it took us to cover the 190km of the Tour de France Stage 1. Drumroll please…

6 hours 18 minutes and 10 seconds was the total time of the top 20 of our 21 riders (sorry Tony, you missed the cut). This was at an average speed of 30.1 km/h.

Tour-De-France-2014-InfographicThe fastest average speed of the Tour de France is that of Lance Armstrong in 2005 at 41.7 km/h. However, our performance was only enhanced by Mocha and Espresso.

Our clear winner, Tom Exeter, had an average speed of 40.5km/h. If this was extended over the total 190km of the Leeds to Harrogate route it would give a total time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 28 seconds, which would give the peloton a run for its money. However, being privy to the colossal effort it took to keep up that speed for just 1/20th of the total distance makes you appreciate the dedication and preparation it must take to compete at the very top level.

A massive thank you to everyone involved in the event and roll on the 5th of July!

Do you think we have what it takes to beat Froome, Wiggins, Boardman and co over the finish line? Tune into the Tour de France and cheer on Team SKY. Better still come on down to Leeds and join in the fun!


For more information about the Tour de France and for some awe-inspiring images of our Homage Event you can visit our dedicated webpage here.


Jeremy Bradshaw and the Teach First Delivery Team Winner of the Special Award for Contribution to Business Tourism in Leeds

Natalie Ruecroft (3rd from left) and Natasha Rahanu (3rd from right) of the MEETinLEEDS team

We are proud to announce that MEETinLEEDS hard work has been recognised at a glittering Leeds Hotels and Venues Association’s (LHVA) awards ceremony on 13th June 2014.

The LHVA awards celebrate the best in service from over 30 hotels and venues across the city.

Stars of the sector were invited to the special ceremony at Leeds United’s Centenary Pavilion on Thursday, June 12, which was hosted by TV legend Harry Gration.

MEETinLEEDS, along with Well Met, were nominated for the ‘Top Team’ award for the delivery of TeachFirst’s Summer Institute residential training programme. The combined events held by Teach First in Leeds will be worth £5.5m to the city’s economy in 2014 and 2015, plus additional revenue that delegates will bring to their stay in the city. The MEETinLEEDS sales team, which in this case was spearheaded by Natalie Ruecroft, have been working with the events team from Leeds Metropolitan for almost two years in order to secure Teach First’s Summer Institute, a huge event which, in previous years, has taken place at the University of Warwick.

Natasha Rahanu, Event Manager at MEETinLEEDS says:

“It was fantastic to be nominated involved in the LHVA Awards Ceremony. At the beginning of the night we were honoured with a ‘Special Award for Contribution to Business Tourism’, recognising our collaborative work on the Teach First Project, between institutions & also with First Direct Arena & Accommodation in Leeds, including Unite. It was a great feeling to be recognised for the hard work we have done, and that we still have to do!”

The Summer Institute this year will be attended by approximately 2700 delegates, which is set to rise to 4000 in 2015.

Roll on another Busy Summer for the MEETinLEEDS team in 2015!


If you are attending the Teach First Summer Institute you can find out some of our favourite places in Leeds on our blog.

Nat Blog

So the day has finally arrived.

Friday 21st March 2014 is the final day I shall spend with Richard Handscombe as my Head of Sales and Marketing or, in my words, The Boss.

I have been working for Richard and the MEETinLEEDS team for over 4 years now but I can remember my interview like it was only yesterday.

Trotting to the University of Leeds campus in my Sales Executive 4 inch heels, I took my seat in the interview waiting area in University House and calmed my nerves by remembering the interview advice granddad had given me earlier: “Stay calm sweetheart, and crack a few clean jokes if you can”.

Walking into the Cloberry room (where the interview took place), I remember taking one look at Mr Handscombe and thinking: “This guy is way too suave; I’ve got no chance here!”

However, somehow (probably down to granddads advice) Richard decided to give the girl from Castleford a chance and hired me!

Nat-Blog-for-28-03-2014Over the past 4 years Richard has not only put up with my strange childhood stories; my numerous house moves; my constant demands for a cup of tea; but he has also been my personal mentor and role model. To me, Richard displays all the qualities of not only a great manager but a great leader. The way in which he empowers and trusts each member of our small team is what pushes Matt, Lisa, Ryan, Harriet and I to perform the way we do – fantastically! He has created the MEETinLEEDS brand, a brand that sets itself apart from the rest by not being frightened to try new things or to think outside of the box. More importantly, Richard has developed a working culture where I do not only see my team members as colleagues but as great friends. To say the team will miss Richard is an understatement!

Just a few of the things I will miss about Mr Handscombe:

  1. Our in depth chats regarding Henry and Anne – the fact we share a mutual love of all things Tudor and spend at least 10 minutes every Monday morning discussing this
  2. The way he accepts that I make him cups of tea with suspicious looking floaters in
  3. The way he subtly lets me know when I have applied too much fake tan


To be honest, there’s nothing I won’t miss about Richard and I hope he’s ready for the home visits and numerous emails he will be receiving from me after today. He might be retiring but I still have course work that needs checking over! (I’m currently studying towards a degree in Business Management, something again that Richard encourages and supports me with!)

So there’s nothing much left to say apart from on behalf of me and the team, thank you Richard Handscombe, mainly just for being you.

Oxley Grounds


I recently took a trip down memory lane and visited Oxley Hall with my colleague Natalie Ruecroft (AKA Ginger). I used to be the Assistant Hall Manager at Oxley Hall some 16 years ago and I must say I felt like a queen living, and working, in such a beautiful hall. What a way to start my University career!

Working in the central sales office we have recently had a number of new enquiries for Oxley, hence our visit to introduce Natalie to the hall, and for myself to be reacquainted with the venue that kick-started my career.

I have fond memories of Oxley and the lovely surroundings. There are new flats in the grounds now as well as the main hall bedrooms, enhancing the selling opportunities – perfect for my current role!

Since visiting I have already secured a hockey camp booking for the Hall (ideal with it being next to Weetwood playing fields that are managed by the University’s sports department) and potentially a government booking at the venue also.


Knowing the Hall as I do I am confident that they will all have a fantastic stay and that they’ll all enjoy a real Oxley Hall welcome!

Oxley Hall is our #venueofthemonth for February. You can find out more about Oxley Hall at

Wedding Cars

As you’ve no doubt read already, September 1st 2013 saw the University of Leeds host its very first wedding fayre at Devonshire Hall.

This was a project that the sales and marketing team had begun working on only 3 weeks prior to the fayre taking place so needless to say, those 3 weeks were jammed packed with planning and also excitement! Who doesn’t love a good wedding?!


The lead up to our very own big day saw new MEETinLEEDS web pages createdregular tweets and Facebook statuses and an advertising campaign taken out with the Yorkshire Post. One of the newspaper adverts even featured an interview from yours truly – a very proud moment for my mother I’m sure!

The day itself was a huge success. With over 40 brides in attendance, wedding cars displayed in the courtyard, the live band playing and the foyer filled with exhibitors the day had a fantastic atmosphere. It really was a brilliant day that everyone enjoyed, including the MEETinLEEDS staff who dressed up for the occasion complete with button holes and corsages courtesy of our exhibiting florist.

As a result of the fayre so far we have 3 happily confirmed brides and more enquiries in the pipeline waiting to confirm The University of Leeds’ very own Devonshire Hall as their dream wedding venue.

Wedding Fayre Flyer

Over the past few months we’ve been working hard on a new project that has added an extra dimension to the event facilities we can offer: weddings!  Whilst the University has hosted these special days in the past this is the first time that MEETinLEEDS will have hosted a wedding fayre.

Wedding-Fayre-FlyerDevonshire Hall offers brides and grooms a beautiful and unique location to create their fairy-tale wedding and will be the scene for our first Wedding Fayre this Sunday September 1st.
The event is free to enter and takes place between 11am and 4pm and we think it’s the perfect opportunity to see the venue in all its splendour, as well as offering the opportunity for couples to find inspiration as they meet a number of our hand-picked wedding suppliers.

A champagne reception will be the start of the experience where brides and grooms-to-be can view wedding cars in the courtyard, listen to the live band playing throughout the day and speak to the exhibitors including cake designers, florists, a photographer and wedding venue dresser as well as stands with wedding gowns and a photo booth.
Should you choose to book an exhibitor for your wedding day, for your convenience all of the suppliers are located in Yorkshire.

During the wedding fayre people can picture themselves on their special day as they ascend the winding stone staircase, stand by the open fireplace and take a stroll through the picture-perfect courtyard and lawns.

Couples can also see Devonshire Hall dressed for an evening reception as well as meet our wedding team who will be on hand to help you plan your special day.

I’ve been working with Natalie Ruecroft, Sales Executive in our very own office, on this project and she’s really looking forward to showcasing the picturesque location. She said: “Devonshire Hall really is a hidden gem in Leeds and the fayre will showcase exactly what can be achieved here for that special day – in fact a one-stop wedding shop”.

The wedding fayre will be held at Devonshire Hall, Cumberland Road, Leeds, LS6 2EQ on Sunday September 1 between 11am and 4pm.

For more details visit the website herevisit the Facebook page at or follow on Twitter @meetinleeds and use the hashtag #wedinleeds.

The University of Leeds is taking bookings now for 2014 onwards for June to September and the Christmas period. University term-time dates are unavailable.