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Interview with Mike Jackson, Head of Live Events at Stage Electrics

In one of those strange twists of fate, Mike Jackson is now with a company he first used as a supplier twenty years ago. Here, he reminisces about the changes he's seen from 35mm slides to powerful, easy-to-use projectors.

How did you get into the rental/staging business?

By a very circuitous route! I started 25 years ago as a client working as a training manager for Boots, commissioning videos from a London-based corporate video company. When Boots made me redundant, the video company offered me a sales job and I spent a couple of years making videos for retail clients, before deciding to jump into the exciting world of live events – working for the then-largest production company, Spectrum Communications. After four great years I set up my own agency, Ultimate Events, with a couple of partners, eventually merging with PCI to form PCI:Live. A few years down the line I’d had enough of the agency world and fled to Bristol to try a few other things, but was enticed back to the world of events by a call from Stage Electrics, a company I had first used as a supplier over 20 years before! Over the last 18 months I have found the different perspective of being a supplier very refreshing and it’s really rekindled my love of the events world.

What is your favourite project that you’ve ever been involved in?

It has to be one of my first – the conversion of Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh into the Media Centre for the Edinburgh European Summit in December 1992. It had started with me answering a ringing phone in reception at Spectrum Communications a year before, putting together the most expensive pitch the company had ever done, winning it and then spending a year working with a great team planning the conversion in great detail – turning an indoor running track into a 24-hour restaurant for 1,500, a rifle range into 50 edit booths, numerous sports halls into 12 fully equipped and soundproofed briefing rooms, and the crowning glory of building a media centre with 1,500 workstations on the floor of a sports hall with a newly built temporary stage to use the 800 seats of the viewing gallery as the main press auditorium. All to be done in three weeks and put back in five days whilst under total security lockdown as the event came during a high point of IRA activity on the mainland. And who was my main electrical and lighting contractor? Stage Electrics!

Is there are a particular product that you’ve come to look on as ‘an old favourite’?

I’ve always loved video projection as I was there for the transition from slides to graphics when projectors were connected to early computers by cream boxes you adjusted with a screwdriver. The latest Panasonic WUXGA PT-DZ 12000 projectors we have recently invested in blow my mind in terms of ease of use and image quality – but it’s still a magic lantern pointing at a wall. I’ve been asking for years when will we have lightweight high resolution screens that will make projection redundant and it’s always five years out. Just recently I’ve seen some US products being used for advertising hoardings that look like they are getting close to that combination of ease of use, price and resolution – perhaps this time it really is five years!

Is there a recent product that’s caught your eye that you think will be very useful in your business?

LEDs in both lighting and video are transforming how we rig and power events. Lights that are silent and low power, together with video screens that are the same, to me represent a similar leap as that from slides to PCs 20 years ago. We have recently added the latest Martin Professional LED lighting fixtures and a great modular 20 mm curtain LED screen to our stock and they are flying off the shelves, winning great reviews from clients. I’m really looking forward to seeing a 100 sq metre video wall made from our new 20 mm LED screen, which is being used by one of my favourite bands during a tour of the best summer festivals all over Europe. It should be spectacular!