How did you get into the rental/staging business?
I got a bit of a taste for the industry whilst still at school in Torquay where I had friends in various bands and another running his own PA company doing the local gig scene. Another friend’s dad worked with The Police and The Bangles. Torquay is the last place you would think of showbiz - but I even remember Sony doing their annual conference down the road at the Palace Hotel with Mariah Carey making a guest performance.
I love physics and how things work and originally had thoughts of becoming an architect or product designer. To satisfy my ‘how things work phase’ I went to Leeds University to do a degree in mechatronics, a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering.
It was during fresher’s week that I came across the various performing arts societies as well as the stage management department of the students union. I was recruited to help run the lighting department and was quickly bitten by the bug and amazed by the productions featured in the department’s stash of LSI spanning several years!
Leeds was an amazing experience and gave me the opportunity to get hands-on designing and providing production services for various theatre shows, live gigs and club nights. I started my first production company, Aura Projects, whilst still a student having won the production contract for fresher’s week and the graduation ball - both of which featured numerous popular artists at the time. My best memory was of getting a bit over-enthusiastic on the kit order with Neg Earth and having to deal with an articulated lorry load of kit for a week with just me and three mates as the crew covering three venues and ten shows.
Production became my main focus in the end and, after finishing my degree with a paper on moving light technology, I formed a company called Logistik with the current MD and continued the Graduation Ball contract with the University. Following the event I started to see my future in London with the obvious opportunities that brings and managed to get in the door at Theatre Projects with a job in prep at Greenford. After a few months, I moved onto international party planners Banana Split where I well and truly finished finding my feet in London and started my next business called Productionism.
Productionism was a great partnership with Paul Gray who is now Palaces Group Director at Historic Royal Palaces. We started producing events with clients including Woolworths, Umbro and WorldCom and I also still freelanced with the likes of Banana Split, SpotCo and HFM
To cut a long story sideways; after a few years I rejoined Logistik as production director, opening their London office but then went back doing my own thing and formed my current enterprise DesignScene which celebrates its sixth birthday this year.
We have grown a loyal and exciting client base at DesignScene including Google, YouTube and Manchester United and continue to work on a rich variety of b2b, consumer and private projects around the world.
What is your favourite project that you’ve ever been involved in?
In terms of making the hairs stand out on my neck, it has to be the Radio One Love Parade in Leeds back in 2010 where I was production manager. I used my engineering skills to design and execute a successful floating rigging system for the Technics decks to work whilst on the back of a dozen different flat bed articulated lorries doing circuits around a lumpy field. This was in the days before the ticketed events, so Roundhay Park was an open site and it was reported that over 300,000 people turned up. I remember testing the monitor system on the main stage first thing in the morning and about ten thousand early arrivals just erupted. It was an amazing night closed by Pete Tong on the main stage and I think it still holds the title as the biggest free party in the UK.
My recent favourite has to be with Miller in Miami where we organised a series of parties during Winter Music Conference. Miami has always been a great place to work and the events are always hugely enjoyable. We flew in 100 competition winners and new DJ talent from around the world for a few days of fun culminating in the best party at WMC 2010 co-hosted with Get Physical Music from Berlin.
Is there are a particular product that you’ve come to look on as ‘an old favourite’?
I am a lampy at heart and still do all the lighting designs for our productions. My favourite piece of kit on this basis has to be the VL5. It has to be the Patt 23 of the moving light world. As soon as it became available on the ‘series 300 network’ via Paul Normandale’s Lite Alternative I was in there, featuring it on all my Leeds productions and was the first to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on a sell-out production of Chess. It is still a great product to this day and features on many of our events.
Is there a recent product that’s caught your eye that you think will be very useful in your business?
The hottest thing for us are the wireless LED luminaries. We use then on every event we do now and have just invested in our own batch. I am really surprised none of the big boys have got a product out there yet. The easiest lighting department in the world with only a charging cable to worry about!