29th January 2016

Eric Porter – An interview with a Rigger…

We spoke to chief rigger Eric Porter about his experiences in the events industry, playing Eric Clapton’s guitar and his new rigging courses!

Hi Eric! First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. You’ve certainly been there, done that and got the t-shirt with your hefty career! Can you tell us why you wanted to get into the events industry?

Originally I was playing in three different bands in the Seventies. And working for an equipment hire company meant that there was always some spare kit to borrow for weekend gigs. They were happy to have staff who weren’t itching to get on the road, but after all the bands fell apart an offer to tour as assistant carpenter on Queen’s “News of the World” Tour came up – the money was better than warehouse wages. Halfway through that tour, I was recruited for ELO’s “Flying Saucer” Tour and then my face was in the frame.

In your line of work, what do you enjoy doing the most?

In the early days, travelling to interesting places all over the world was the biggest joy. After starting a family, the time spent away became less appealing so I gradually started to do more corporate shows and fewer long concert tours. Nowadays, my greatest satisfaction comes from “seeing the light-bulbs come on above peoples’ heads” as they gain new understandings during training courses. It’s very satisfying to share decades of knowledge and experience with interested folks.

Working with the likes of Elton John and Queen must have been an amazing experience, can you tell us some career highlights?

What happens on the road ought to stay on the road. However, there were privileged moments and I can share a couple here: firstly, to be sitting in a hotel suite whilst Elton and Davie Johnstone were working on a new song and hearing it come to fruition was pretty good. Secondly, at an end of tour party to have one foot up on Chris Stainton’s piano-stool playing the little Martin ‘parlour guitar,’ (on which Eric Clapton composed “Tears in Heaven”) accompanying Eric and other luminaries jamming through various songs in his front room – that was also a rare treat.

What have been the hardest challenges of your career?

Without a doubt, the hardest challenges have included MTV European Music Awards Shows, which I did for six years on the trot during a period when budgets were larger. Also, certain large car company launch events where timetables were optimistic to say the least. The difficulties with these types of shows remain exactly the same as ever: balancing budget, timetable, crew numbers, physical realities and the often unrealistic demands of powerful people.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the rigging business?

Get your toe in whatever door opens for you, even if it is not exactly what you had in mind. Once your face is in the frame and you have employers who trust you, then try to move into the direction you want. Listen to everyone and then start working out who not to listen to.

What made you want to teach people individually about rigging?

It seems to be a natural progression. I am reasonably literate and numerate and enjoy the interaction.

Can you tell us about the rigging short course that’s on in March – what will people that are already in the industry gain from it?

A 2-day course has to be something of a compromise – I could talk for a fortnight. What I try to achieve is to convey understanding rather than just deliver information. After all, information has never been more widely available. What is in short supply is the understanding to process it. I never know who will be attending, or what their skills, knowledge or experience may be so no two courses are identical, although they do all follow the same basic syllabus.

People already in the industry nearly always show up some bad habits/practices/misunderstandings, and these are good issues to focus on during the course.

As you write up the course structures here at Backstage, what can delegates expect to learn?

Correct use of Fall-Protection equipment, correct use of rigging hardware and hoists, an understanding of Risk Assessment processes, some simple physics relevant to rigging, knots and rope-work. Also, how to approach geometry choices in rigging, an idea of what goes wrong and why.

What would be your dream event to work on?

One that has been properly planned and budgeted!

What does the future hold for you Eric?

Hopefully an enormous Lottery or Premium Bond win; failing that, a steady stream of work that allows me to have a life as well. I am now approaching state-retirement age and can’t afford to retire, but I’m lucky to have fulfilling work training riggers, and assessing for the National Rigging Certificate.

A big thank you to AC Rigging for letting us use their kit!