The director of Harry Guthrie Event Production talks floods in Dubai, hand drawn stage plans and the future of festivals.
I did my first firework display when I was 15 – it was just about safe. I was interested in the theatre from the age of about 12. My dad works for the BBC so I think I was destined to go into some sort of entertainment service.
I did a technical theatre course, which is different to an event management course. In its basic form, it was nine to five every day, but we also supported the acting and the musical theatre, doing the technical stuff for their shows. You did the hours that people do in real theatre, which is not too different from the events work. It’s a big part of it, the antisocial-ness of our industry. Can you really be prepared for it if you’ve done six hours a week at university and then gone to the pub?
When I first started at the National Theatre, they used to hand draw all their stage plans. You used to put a sheet of tracing paper over the original drawing and trace the bit that you needed. And that’s not that long ago, I’m only 34! By the time I left, 90 per cent of the sets had 3D models.
What was fantastic about the Queen’s 90th Birthday was the collaboration – everyone bought into it, from a creative and delivery point of view. My drive to do something like that is different from a commercially-led job.
I went out to the Dubai Air Show in 2013 and we had to evacuate the site because it flooded. I’ve never seen rain like it, it was just waves of water. There were all these sockets outside, none of them covered, and we were looking at the forecast thinking, ‘It might rain’. We thought we should at least wrap them up and get them off the floor, but there was none of that. Eventually I thought, ‘I’m not going anywhere near that, I’m off’.
Broadcast has got a place in live events going forward. We don’t want to watch reality TV; it’s been done. I don’t understand why festivals don’t just stream themselves. It would be half the cost, and you’ve got the internet connection on site anyway. For not a lot of money you could get a team in and put four or five cameras around your main stage and stream it yourself.
One thing that I think is coming over the next five years is VR. The virtual reality side of things is going to explode. Google, Facebook, YouTube; they’re all behind it. They’re all investing in that world. Walk on stage with Adele at Glastonbury. Stand in the pit at the main stage. That’s a consumer experience that is waiting to be exploited.