30 years under Dan’s watchful eye…
Our head of security Dan Blyghton has been at QEII right from the start and has seen many changes here, as well as overseeing security at some of the biggest events of the past 30 years. To mark our 30th anniversary, we caught up with Dan to find out more about his time here.
What was your role when you first started working at QEII, and how has that role changed over the years?
I started as a security guard supervisor in 1985, having previously worked at no.10 Downing Street before being promoted. I used to work on the airport-style security we had at the entrance, but that was relaxed after the Good Friday agreement and the scanners were taken out. They were brought back when 9/11 happened, but now we’re just as vigilant without being as in your face and now as head of security I’m responsible for all operations.
What is it about working here that you love and has stopped you moving on to a job elsewhere?
The diversity is what keeps it interesting, every day is different.
You’ve been part of QEII right from the beginning – how do you think the centre has changed and developed in that time?
We’ve become much more commercially successful, there have been great upgrades to the building in recent years which is down to the management team and Mark’s vision. The original design for a government centre wasn’t really feasible for a commercial centre so we’ve had to create back of house areas, cloakrooms and storage spaces. Furniture was expected to stay in situ, so different layouts and how spaces could work wasn’t considered, which it is now.
What have been some of the most memorable events that have been held here?
We’ve had such a huge variety of events here, from hosting EU summits to hosting the BBC Sports Review of the Year for nine years, which was always a great event. It was held in the Churchill with drinks on the 3rd floor, then a BBC staff party afterwards. Getting Paul Gascoigne out of the building was quite a challenge after he’d had a few, with all the autograph hunters waiting out the front.
In 1995 we hosted the Veterans Centre for VJ Day, with lots of ex-servicemen coming in. I remember the event well because I met a Jewish ex-serviceman who escaped Nazi Germany, joined the British Army, went back to fight and was then captured and sent to Auschwitz. He escaped from there, and then went back to fight again with his unit, which was an incredible story. His friends brought him along to the event here and I spoke with him after lending him my phone to call his son.
What’s the most challenging scenario you’ve had to deal with?
There was an invasion by the campaign against the arms trade in the 80s, where we had protesters laying down the foyer that had to be removed. They were suited and booted and had come in to ask for a showround before beginning the protest, that was one fairly challenging
In 30 years of working at QEII, what’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen or heard?
In 1990 we had the Scottish Rugby squad race through our security scanners at 3am – crawling through the scanners in their kilts, worn traditionally! That’s one occasion I won’t forget.
London is a prominent target for terror attacks. How do you work with clients and security agencies to minimise risk?
We work closely with the Metropolitan Police, keeping an eye on the risk and threat assessments that they issue. We have regular training and we constantly review events taking place here, working with the client to identify any risks and alert the police of things that they might need to know about. The rest is down to constant vigilance.
What innovations has the centre employed in the last 12-18 months that has changed the way you screen visitors?
The introduction of the concierge has softened the approach to screening but our staff has remained vigilant. The concierge compliments the security presence and allows the guards to physically step back so it isn’t such an intimidating welcome, but security is always on hand. We’ve worked hard to strike the right balance with security and feedback has been positive.