I got into the event industry because I simply fell into it. I ran several businesses before Contraband and each business has morphed organically into the next. I was a professional henna artist running training courses, with an online mail order business and working at public events as well as being hired for corporate parties. My business simply morphed from performer to agent.
I have worked here since 2003 when I set the business up initially working from home. Today we have 12 full-time staff and a swanky new office in the Chocolate Factory with views of Alexandra Palace and the city.
I was attracted to this particular role because it means we’re regularly giving work to performers – they’re real people who have devoted their lives to perfecting their craft. It’s fantastic to be able to reward their hard work and share it with a larger audience.
Not many people know that I changed my name by deed pole to Archie Archer when I was 19 years old. It’s definitely a conversation starter, and nobody forgets my name. My parents still call me Anna though.
My worst experience at an event was six years ago, when we booked a string quartet for the Torture Garden annual ball. The client hadn’t explained it was being held in an S&M dungeon. The musicians we’d provided from the Royal Academy of Music were quite shocked by their experience, not knowing exactly where to look. It certainly was quite an eye opener.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that it is really important to maintain a great reputation by giving great service every day. Not only does this apply to our clients but it also applies to the performers we work with and who regularly recommend us, just as our clients recommend us. At the end of the day, we’re all working in a service industry and it takes time to build that reputation, it’s vital your reputation stays strong and consistent, and that it is carried over to each and every person employed by Contraband.
The best event I’ve been involved in was a George P Johnson-organised event for Cisco in February at Excel. It was an urban sports-themed event due to Cisco’s Olympics connection. We provided a variety of acts from aerial performers and basketball freestylers to The Fab Bananas stilt walking band and Betty the Strong Lady. The event was spread over two days and attracted 8,000 delegates.
If I could do it all over again I would not change a thing. I value every experience that I’ve had along the way, good or bad, as they’ve all played their part in getting me to the place I am today.
The one thing I can’t stand is snow and traffic. There’s nothing you can do about either but they can truly disrupt an event.
Outside of work I spend my time with my son playing football (badly) and encouraging his music, dance and stand-up comedy abilities. I’m also really passionate about cars and try to do as many track days as I can. I’d love to buy a go-kart in a couple of years when my son is 10 so we can get into semi-professional racing. It would be a great sport for us to do together at the weekends, and one that I wouldn’t do that badly at.
If money were no object I’d buy a huge house on Bishops Avenue and move the office there. I’d build an enormous swimming pool so that we could have staff meetings in the pool and parties for our clients and performers. This is London after all – work hard and play harder.
The one thing I can’t do my job without is my team at Contraband. I’m incredibly blessed to have such a close-knit, talented, creative, hardworking gang.
If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be Sally our lovely hand balancer whom my client in the Seychelles adores. The events are over several days and each trip can last as long as a week. Spending time in the sun, having fun on the beach and sitting by a pool most of the week, bar one or two five minutes shows sounds to me like the way to live life.
If I ruled the event industry I’d give more opportunities to performers, students, graduates and international interns to get their careers kick started in the industry and encourage apprenticeship schemes.
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