My Event World - Martin Hawthorn

Martin Hawthorn, owner and managing director of event technical production company Hawthorn, set up the company almost three decades ago, starting the business from his garage. He talked to Event about working on the Queen's Coronation Festival, staging his own events for family and friends and why he would like to train and mentor future designers.

Hawthorn MD Martin Hawthorn
Hawthorn MD Martin Hawthorn

I got into the event industry because of my passion for the technical side of the theatre, primarily lighting and engineering. This led me into the role of designing technical installations and creative solutions for theatres. The event industry was a natural step to expand my skills and passion for live experiences.

I have worked here since I set up Hawthorn 28 years ago from my garage, working on theatre production and installations. The business has grown since then, with continual upsizing of premises and employing more people. We are at the point now where the Hawthorn warehouse is measured in the size of acres, and we employ more than 130 full-time staff in Cambridge, Leicestershire and London.

I was attracted to this particular role because my role as managing director has been a natural progression through the success of the business. In this role I have been able to maintain my hands-on passion for creative production and solve logistical as well as business challenges. The mixture of technical design coupled with creativity and the realities of budget and timescales gives great scope for solutions. Every project is so varied and different, it keeps my passion for events alive.

Not many people know that I got my first job in a firm that designed theatres. The job was given to me through pure perseverance and forever calling into their offices on a Saturday morning and asking if they had got a job. By sheer luck and probably desperation, I was eventually told to come back on the Monday morning and speak to the boss.

The best event I've been involved in was... so difficult to narrow down or choose. Maybe a choice between a very elaborate party in Thailand for a multi-millionaire Dutch prince to celebrate his 80th birthday and last year, providing the technical solution to stage the Queen’s Coronation Festival gala concerts. Mark Harrison of The Full Effect and I were invited out to Thailand on a site visit a year before the birthday party. Prince de Lignac’s belief in the imagination and creativity of our team allowed us to deliver an absolutely imaginative one-off event.  

My other favorite and probably the one I have the most emotional attachment too was being part of the team that delivered four days of amazing performances for the Queen, 18,000 spectators and 3.2 million television viewers.

If I could do it all over again I would have turned off my huge brick of a mobile phone 25 years ago while in a meeting with a billionaire client. I was embarrassed with the phone ringing repeatedly. I was not invited back to future meetings, despite the rest of the team staying on.

The one thing I can't stand is people who purport to be event professionals but don’t know the first thing about staging creative live experiences.

Outside of work I spend my time entertaining family and friends and having large parties at home. I also enjoy travelling and outdoor walks as well as roaming around a city and studying its urban landscape and historical buildings satisfies my passion for architecture and design. I also attend theatre and jazz performances as often as I can.

If money were no object I would train and mentor future designers and technicians and stage lavish fundraising events for good causes.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be with a large American prestige designer who has open-ended budgets. However, I would want an entirely English crew so, maybe, I should celebrate what we do have in this country.

If I ruled the event industry I would give the events industry dispensation from traffic wardens.

Want to be featured in a future My Event World?  Email news editor Samantha Edwards for further details.

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