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Access All Areas: Under the industry’s skin    

Graham Brown, founder of Access All Areas and managing director of Bristol-based PR firm Plaster, takes a look back at the magazine’s evolution and the rise of industry veterans

Access All Areas was born out of a need to build a bridge between event producers and suppliers.

I ran a small PA alongside running my band, often collaborating with other PA and lighting companies around Bristol. We all got work through advertising in a magazine called Venue (the local equivalent of TimeOut), so when we wanted to start connecting to the developing festival market, we looked for the best outlet.

We found a directory called The White Book – the go-to contact directory – but there was no magazine doing the job. After 18 months persuading the publishers of Venue that my ‘fag packet’ business plan was a goer, we launched our pilot issue. The next day we received a call from the National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) about working together and before we knew it we had our first issue out in Spring 1994.

It was a great team; they had a passion for the local live events scene and understood publishing. I soon developed a passion for how events were put together and we connected with and followed the growth of innovators such as Melvin Benn, John Probyn, Dick Tee and, of course, our local organiser Michael Eavis. The first HSE Pop Code was being launched at the same time so these guys were making the rules up as they went along – and they didn’t always get it right – or agree.

The magazine’s appeal stemmed from our willingness to get underneath the skin of industry issues, follow and support new legislation, as well as our broad inclusion of all of the service elements that contribute to an event, which were largely ignored by the more technical trade press.

The next milestone was the acquisition of Access by Inside Communications, part of Trinity Mirror in 1998. They had already bought the successful Outdoor Event Exhibition, located at Wembley Arena every January, and were also buying The White Book from Dick Tee and Andy Ayres, so I was optimistic enough about our prospects to relocate from Bristol to Coventry.

I remember, when we were settling into life within The Mirror Group, being asked to take my director Tanya to meet our top 50 clients. I will never forget her amazement as she entered the alien world (to her) of companies like Eat to The Beat, Skan PA, Star Events and LSD (whose evolution led them to merge with PRG). From her corporate background she found it incredible that this was the cream of our industry.

I think that disconnect was at the heart of why I eventually moved on from Access All Areas. It was tough, but the decisions being made at the time didn’t have the live events industry or the products at their core.

I have been fortunate to continue working with Access as a PR with my company, Plaster. There have been some great memories along the way, from huge gigs like Led Zeppelin re-forming at The O2, Bowie bringing The Isle of Wight Festival crowd back to life after the England Euro’s semi-final defeat to France had been beamed out on the giant screens, to the smaller gems like Pulp playing the Forestry Commission tour to promote their album Trees. There are too many to list them all. While all that was going on, Access became part of Mash Media and it’s been great to witness the team make its mark on the magazine and take it forwards alongside The Event Production Show, Awards and The White Book.

With Emma Hudson newly installed as editor, I expect the magazine will flourish and I’m looking forward to many more adventures with Access. That’s one of the joys of the live events sector – you’re never sure what you’re going to meet around the next corner, but chances are it’ll be fun, bringing with it inspiration and opportunity.

See part 3 of this feature here.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Access All Areas