I got into the event industry because I had tried a variety of things before starting Cirque Bijou. I’d built custom cars, was a dedicated graffiti artist, had a one-man street theatre show and performed in the circus. Then one day someone asked me to produce show for Jaguar to launch its new car at a large press show in the middle of the desert in Dubai and I realised I could combine all these things.
I have worked here since I started Cirque Bijou with Billy Alwen in 1999.
I was attracted to this particular role because I love being part of a creative team, and seeing a creative idea taken from the original concept to a fully formed live experience.
Not many people know that I was on Sky Sports representing the UK in the finals of the unicycle hockey championships. We were thrashed by the Dutch team.
My worst experience at an event was when I was working with a young trapeze artist who – due to a trick that involved her pirouetting around a trapeze bar in a rather modest outfit – managed to loose her entire costume halfway through her routine. We look back at it and laugh.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s keep learning, experiment with new ideas and visit as many live shows as possible. Cirque Bijou runs a mentoring scheme for emerging artists. A young free runner showed me a piece of video mapping software he’d created in his bedroom recently and it was breathtaking, its not all about budgets, it’s about good ideas.
The best event I’ve been involved in was a show for the Muse tour involving a huge inflatable UFO with an acrobat hanging from a harness inside. We flew it low over audiences of 90,000 people and each time it appeared they erupted. It was an amazing feeling.
If I could do it all over again I would have took the time to visit a client in Bognor Regis. I didn’t because of other commitments and a slight prejudice against Bognor Regis. It turned out he had a massive contract I would have loved. I definitely should have made the time to make that meeting.
The one thing I can’t stand is when people totally ignore the audience or event they are performing too. I’ve seen some great shows put on in front of completely the wrong audiences. It’s important to know who your audience is and not just put on the show you want.
Outside of work I spend my time getting muddy on my mountain bike.
If money were no object I’m currently producing a show as part of the London 2012 celebrations called Battle for the Winds with a cast of more than 200 artists. I love working on big shows and if money were no object we’d be rehearsing it indoors with a full orchestra.
The one thing I can’t do my job without is a network of talented collaborators dancers, circus performers, musicians, video artists, choreographers, stylists, riggers and lighting designers. It has taken many years to build such a strong team. There’s much truth in the phrase ‘you’re only as good as the people around you’.
If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be I wouldn’t mind being Danny Boyle right now.
If I ruled the event industry venues would have really high ceilings with plenty of rigging points and really large stages, it would be sunny 365 days of the year and all health and safety officers would answer to me.
Comment below and let us know what you think.
For more in-depth and print-only features, showcases and interviews with world-leading brands, don't miss the next issue of Event magazine by subscribing here.