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A look into the Events Industry – with John Radford

With an impressive 15 years of experience under his belt, John Radford, the founder of JR Event Services gives advice on how to be successful in the events industry. He takes us on a career spanning journey of how he started up, to working with the Olympics, and finally setting up his own business…

 

Firstly, thank you for your time John! We’d like to talk about your career to give our students and prospective students a little bit of behind the scenes insight – what made you want to get into the events industry?

With my background in a role where teamwork plays a huge part in fulfilling a task, and my long-term interest in the technical aspects of stage work, I guess you could say it was inevitable I would end up where I am in terms of career. I love the fact that every event takes a group of individuals working in synergy to ensure that the result is perfect, and that you can take a vision and turn it into reality. It’s not for everyone, the hours are challenging as there is never a 9 to 5 working day, but to me that just makes life more interesting and it’s certainly more a vocation than simply a job.

You have over 15 years of experience in the field, but how did you go about getting into the industry?

I had spent almost 10 years in the Royal Air Force before entering the events industry full time. I had always maintained an interest since my school days and with contacts that I had kept over the years. I ended up working for ‘Stage Electrics’ in 1996 and then progressing with them for nearly 14 years until I set my own business up in 2009. I knew ‘Stage Electrics’ from my student days so it was a natural choice for me working for a company I knew about, and had used on amateur and semi-professional productions, as well as technical installations.

How important is gaining on the job experience whilst still studying?

To my mind, the two elements work in synergy and really help students gain a better understanding of the industry. The practical knowledge and understanding that come with experience enable the theoretical knowledge to be developed and applied in the real world. It also allows students to see first-hand what the roles are, and provides them with a clearer perspective on the industry as a whole.

Since founding JR Events Services in 2009, what have been some of the challenges you have faced running your own company?

As you can imagine it was a big leap moving from a large company with over 250 employees to a small start-up, and having to find new customers and projects in order to pay the bills. If that wasn’t enough I also had to learn about how to run a business, in terms of accounting and the paperwork and documentation needed. Now we are more established, it’s about making sure we find the right projects to enable us to continue growing, whilst ensuring that we build long-term relationships with our clients. It’s a very competitive marketplace, so we’re always trying to ensure we demonstrate our core values and collaborative approach to the events we are involved with.

Events can demand a great deal of responsibility and planning – what do you do in your role when starting on a new project?

I believe that the most important thing is to listen to the client carefully, taking notes and trying to fully understand the vision that they have in their mind. All too often, we hear of clients simply getting what the event company wants to give them. Their original vision is then lost. It’s a huge responsibility taking on a project and we have a clear duty to ensure that the original vision is not diluted or forgotten. This is where we can use our experience and knowledge to ensure that the end result matches all the expectations and needs.

What are the most consistent issues when dealing with an event?

Event Safety should be at the core of the event, not just for the audience but also for the crew and staff as well. We integrate safety into all of our planning on events so that it’s not just seen as an “add-on,” but at the heart of the finished project.

Alongside that, it has to be budgets and matching what the client wants with the money available!

Have there been any heart sinking moments?

A few! – This is where having a great team on site really helps though. Sometimes it’s the weather or something technical that doesn’t work but if you have a team all working together, I’ve always found that most issues can be resolved. All that knowledge and experience means that if there is a problem or issue we can normally sort something out in response.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

I have been very lucky in the past and have managed to work on some unforgettable projects. Including being Technical Project Manager for the launch of ‘Make Poverty History’ with Nelson Mandela, and designing the set and Project Managing the technical aspects of the Olympic Host City Result in 2005 when London won the bid. They certainly rank highly in terms of pride in the outcome.

For those students thinking about joining Backstage Academy, what kind of topics will you be tutoring them on?

I look after “Working at Height awareness training, an introduction to The Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and other Events” and also form part of the feedback team for one of the Event Planning modules.

And finally, what would be your dream event to work on?

I love working on unique events where the audience are given a truly outstanding experience. So anything along those lines is always a privilege and joy to work on. There is always something special about overhearing people making positive comments about an event that you have helped create. With my business hat on it would be nice to have a budget that makes the above easier to fulfil as well!

Check out JR Event Services here

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