Sound & Stage Power List 2016

Sound & Stage rounds up just some of the key figures making an impact in their respective fields
Thomas Ovesen, CEO, 117 Live
Thomas Ovesen, CEO, 117 Live
Stefano Duchi, General Manager, Giochi di Luce
Stefano Duchi, General Manager, Giochi di Luce
Tom Clements, Managing Partner, Maestra Group
Tom Clements, Managing Partner, Maestra Group
Danielle Nay, General Manager, The Fridge
Danielle Nay, General Manager, The Fridge
Dan Bolton, Director and Co-Founder of Dan Bolton Consultancy
Dan Bolton, Director and Co-Founder of Dan Bolton Consultancy
Warren Barlow, Head of Events, Al Laith
Warren Barlow, Head of Events, Al Laith
Rebecca Wilson, Managing Director, ESP International Event Recruitment
Rebecca Wilson, Managing Director, ESP International Event Recruitment
Oliver Wood, Innovations Director, Blink Experience
Oliver Wood, Innovations Director, Blink Experience
Andy Reardon, Managing Director, Creative Technology Middle East
Andy Reardon, Managing Director, Creative Technology Middle East
Rick Wade, General Manager, Neumann&Müller Event Technology
Rick Wade, General Manager, Neumann&Müller Event Technology
Gordon Cooper, Group Director, SES Entertainment Services
Gordon Cooper, Group Director, SES Entertainment Services
Natasha Fownes, Owner/Producer, The Fixer
Natasha Fownes, Owner/Producer, The Fixer
Martin Lubach, General Manager, Eclipse Staging Services
Martin Lubach, General Manager, Eclipse Staging Services
Bruno Marx, Owner, Eventknowhow
Bruno Marx, Owner, Eventknowhow
Katie Veira, Managing Partner & Principal Creative, HQ Creative Live Communications Co LLC
Katie Veira, Managing Partner & Principal Creative, HQ Creative Live Communications Co LLC
Elie Battah, General Manager, Robe Middle East Trading LLC
Elie Battah, General Manager, Robe Middle East Trading LLC
Lee Charteris, President, ILEA ME Chapter
Lee Charteris, President, ILEA ME Chapter
Lesley Fair and Nicola Holmes, Directors and Owners, Custard Communications
Lesley Fair and Nicola Holmes, Directors and Owners, Custard Communications
Andy Jackson, General Manager ME, Delta Sound LLC
Andy Jackson, General Manager ME, Delta Sound LLC

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Thomas Ovesen, CEO, 117 Live

Back in December 2015, Thomas Ovesen was announced as CEO of 117 Live, part of the Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG). The appointment of Ovesen to run the newly-formed company marked the next stage of the group’s growing media and entertainment arm.

Based in Dubai, Ovesen is responsible for directing all global activity for the division with a focus on live events, from music through to comedy. He also will be heading up plans to expand 117 Live’s interests into talent management, venue management and programming.

With creating spaces to host events a key part of the 117 Live strategy, a temporary 20,000 capacity greenfield site has already been launched in Dubai, known as the Autism Rocks arena, before 2017 will see the launch of a 25,000 capacity open air Amphitheatre in Dubai, wholly owned by AAHG.

At the time of his appointment to the position, Ovesen commented: “With all of the exciting developments and acquisitions AAHG have made recently this is a fantastic time to be joining them. I will be working on a joined up global strategy, ensuring that we use all of our various assets to the very best effect. 117 Live will be a driving force in entertainment and we’ll look beyond the Middle East and into the Far East, Asia and US.”

He continued: “With the imminent arrival of the new amphitheatre this is a pivotal moment for our company and I’m proud that 117 Live will be leading the charge.”

Stefano Duchi, General Manager, Giochi di Luce

Previously head of the sales and production department at Giochi di Luce in Italy, Stefano Duchi joined the UAE branch in 2012. During his years at GDL, Duchi also held the role of key account and productions manager, which allowed him to enjoy key management roles in some of the biggest events Giochi di Luce has been involved with in Europe and Middle East ranging from corporate events to 3D mapping shows, opening and award ceremonies, product launches and fashion shows.

Now, as general manager, Duchi’s main role is to supervise and coordinate operations within all the company’s departments. However, he is very much an active face within the industry, taking a hands-on approach to the managerial role and often being found manning GDL stands at trade shows and networking events. Duchi explains: “My great involvement is still on the field, following clients and supervising the production department, from the creative and technical design to the execution on site. You can’t forget the passion that drives on working in the events market.”

Tom Clements, Managing Partner, Maestra Group

As one of the ‘new kids on the block’, it’s been hard to ignore the rapid rise of event production company, Maestra.

Managing partner Tom Clements says: “We have an exceptional team across our group, and we were particularly proud to be named Supplier of The Year at MEEA.”

He continues: “We offer our team regular training and opportunities to work throughout Europe. As a result, I am extremely proud to see our team developing and growing with the company as we increase our presence.”

Clements adds: “We have just moved to our warehouse facility in DIP, with 50 per cent more space, meeting rooms and clean/testing rooms that give clients an opportunity to see equipment mocked up prior to delivery.”

He adds: “A strong UK network gave us the opportunity to open up a second branch in London this year, which is already seeing fantastic success.”

Danielle Nay, General Manager, The Fridge

Having moved to Dubai in 2009 to work as a creative producer in the events sector, Danielle Nay struggled to source the quality of original content and creative suppliers in the UAE that she had become used to working in London. This prompted her into setting up her own company, and Transformers was born.

This year, however, saw a new and exciting announcement from Nay, as The Fridge revealed her appointment into the newly created role of general manager. Speaking of her new role, Nay revealed: “This is a proper ‘intrapreneur’ role: I’ll be harnessing everything I’ve learned to effect growth and positive change in this highly distinctive and pioneering performing arts business. The Fridge has rich talent, deep roots, artistic credibility and authenticity: that real-ness is priceless, especially in the UAE. The business opportunities are immense and I can’t wait to get started.”

Dan Bolton, Director and Co-Founder of Dan Bolton Consultancy

Even though it has only been one year since Dan Bolton Consultancy was founded, the man behind the company name has been a well-known face in the regional industry for years.

Dan Bolton explains: “I’ve been in the industry for over 17 years and always worked with other companies and agencies in a booking and senior management role. At some point you have to take the plunge and go it alone, build your own team and grow things the way you see that you would like them to grow. Last year saw us take that leap of faith and we have had a successful first year where everyone involved has performed above and beyond anything I could ask of them. We all share a common vision where we aspire to collaborate with like minded people and do what we love — entertain.”

So with a meteoric year that has also seen Bolton assume the role of president elect at ILEA’s Middle East chapter, it comes as no surprise that the future of the company sees much growth lined up. Bolton says: “We are proud of everything that we have achieved so far, none more so than the way the team have come together to play significant roles in some of the region’s most recognisable events — from the National Day ceremony in Abu Dhabi, The Warehouse 421 festival, Expo 2020 rebrand, F1 shows and many more.”

He continues: “[Plans are] to build the team and continue doing what we are doing. It’s only been a year since we founded the company and we feel that this second year will be about solidifying relationships and building our service to the clients we work alongside.”

So while it’s all go for the company itself, Bolton’s personal position as one of the industry’s power players is also increasing as, alongside a host of other young movers and shakers in the industry, he and his peers push forward into a period of fresh input and approaches. He explains: “We see the industry starting to mature, develop and find its own unique vibe. We actively participate in the ILEA and through this global organisation we support and promote industry best practices and standards from health and safety to liaising with the DTCM on permit challenges. We also see greater collaboration and pooling of resources. Smaller, more diverse and fluid companies like ours are partnering with much larger and established agencies to work on and develop unique event experiences.”

Warren Barlow, Head of Events, Al Laith

Being involved in many of the region’s biggest live event productions, you might imagine it would be difficult for Warren Barlow to pick out his highlights. However, the charismatic head of Al Laith’s events team told Sound & Stage: “Particular projects to note would always be those that challenge us the most, and that can be based on available time to complete, or technical complexity. Whilst there are many of note, National Day celebrations with HQ Creative — where most of the structures were built on water — was certainly complex.”

He continues: “Similarly, The World Air Games opening ceremony, where we had to work around an excavation to house the technical effects. The weekend on which Take That at Media City, Sensation at Meydan, and numerous other shows were to be completed simultaneously would top the bill for complex logistics.”

So with one busy season behind him and another only just starting, what does Barlow have planned? “On the development front,” he reveals, “the company has again seen many changes with the construction of our new facility in DIC having now started.” He continues: “The Al Laith Events team is taking on a fresh new look with four talented new recruits to the team. We are very excited about these engagements and believe that it will give us the strongest team to date. On a material front we are also going to further invest into our premium products and add further flexibility to their design.”

Having worked in the events industry for almost 20 years, Barlow credits his versatility and understanding of the industry as a whole as having placed him well for his current role at the company. He says: “Al Laith continues to be a solid company, and with a solid future plan for continued growth. Al Laith is proud to be associated with all of its clients, and congratulates all the award-winning production companies, venues and events in which Al Laith has commonly played a significant part in helping to deliver turnkey solutions. It’s great that Al Laith is recognised by those clients as a major contributor to our collective success.”

Rebecca Wilson, Managing Director, ESP International Event Recruitment

After nearly a decade developing and managing a UK event recruitment business with her business partner, Rebecca Wilson set up ESP’s Dubai office in 2008. Wilson explains: “With a background in the events industry, I’ve always been excited by the sector and recruitment has enabled me to combine my passion for people and helping them to find their vocation in life; as I myself am fortunate enough to have done.”

And Wilson’s dedication to the industry does not end with ESP International, as she recently handed over the presidency of ILEA’s Middle East chapter to Lee Charteris after two years in the role. Wilson told us: “I’ve had an amazing two years with a great board. My pledge was ‘back to basics’ so I think I’ve achieved a lot of the things I set out to do because I kept them simple. I feel like I’ve had a brilliant couple of years and we really have put ILEA on the map as an active trade association.”

Oliver Wood, Innovations Director, Blink Experience

Originally starting in business development, Oliver (Olly) Wood has been based within the Middle East for over 10 years now, working for a variety of event management agencies and consulting on live campaigns for a range of brands and corporations. However, it’s in his current role at Blink Experience that Wood really gets to implement his ideas to the full. He previously explained to Sound & Stage: “‘Innovation’ by reputation is an exciting space. Position this within the thrill of a live event, where brands come to life, and we can get direct engagement with target audiences, then you’re talking about arguably the greatest marketing position there is. Tangible emotions, visible reactions and a chance to invent, create and develop exciting ‘stories’ from start to finish. I take pride in leading a team who values the clients’ ideas and responses to our thinking, listens and understands their needs, and then also understands just how their consumers behave and interact with their brands.”

Andy Reardon, Managing Director, Creative Technology Middle East

Andy Reardon is one of many on our power list who believe health and safety is a priority. He told Sound & Stage: “Completing our OHSAS 18001 certification has been fantastic for the team and the business in general. I’m a big believer in pushing the health and safety side of the business and trying to get the industry to understand that it’s extremely important to what we do. It was something we set out last year and now we have someone who is fully qualified.”

He continues: “Including the integration between Doha and Qatar as a complete business and a team, there are some real positives that we have achieved over this year.”

And next season looks set to see even more development. Reardon explains: “[There are] lots of new things happening at CT. We’re starting the season off in a brand new facility — we’ve obviously got a new facility in Doha as well, so both facilities have got new operations. We’ve got some fantastic new LED products arriving in October, which will be a first for the Middle East in terms of their technology, and we’ve also got new flexible projectors and servers arriving.”

Rick Wade, General Manager, Neumann&Müller Event Technology

So far, 2016 has seen much success for N&M across all markets, explains Rick Wade, general manager. He says: “In Dubai we are pleased to have built up trust-based relationships with our clients, who know and expect us to deliver technically sophisticated concepts with efficiency. This is so important in this region — they know they can rely on our expertise and a high level of commitment.”

He continues: “That is why I am very proud of leading our team that have been chosen to create and deliver projects like The 44th National Day Celebrations with HQ Creative for the second year in a row and The Museum of the Future and Edge of Government projects with PublicisLive for the third year.”

Wade elaborates: “What also makes it so rewarding for us is that many of our clients and business partners have been recognised and were shortlisted for the Middle East Event Awards 2016. We were highly commended for ‘Supplier of the Year’ and ‘Employee of the Year’ and ‘Best Use of Event Technology’, and were very proud to be awarded ‘Supplier of the Year’ in 2015.”

Having been general manager at N&M since 2010, and having worked in the Middle East region for over 16 years, Wade has seen growth across all areas of the company, particularly its people. He says: “We heavily invest in our people by providing continuous technical training on safety and quality, following our certification from the German Certification Body of Event Technology, Deutsche Prüfstelle für Veranstaltungstechnik GmbH (DPVT), wherein we were among the first companies to receive this.”

“We all need to ensure we are ready to deliver to the highest possible standard in terms of quality, safety, efficiency and innovation,” he adds. “Over the next 12 months our objective in the Middle East is to continually deliver to our existing clients the level of service and expertise we are known for and to grow the business with new clients. We are continually investing in new equipment, resources and — importantly — people. Our team is growing to make sure ‘the quality we deliver sets standards’.”

Gordon Cooper, Group Director, SES Entertainment Services

Over the past 12 months, SES has been busy working on many major projects all around the globe. Group director, Gordon Cooper, explained to Sound & Stage: “The film and television industry has been particularly busy in the last few months and SES has been busy manufacturing a very wide range of power distribution and cable products to cater for this demand. Festival season is always crazy for us and this has not been any different this season.

He continues: “The touring industry has also been very busy and we have been manufacturing a massive amount of 19” 400A racks and various other power solutions for Neg Earth, who sadly lost a vast array of product in the devastating fire a while back. We are especially proud of this project as the racks we have built for them were very technical and demanded a very high spec build.”

Based in Dubai, SES Global started working on the new Middle Eastern season from the beginning of June, planning deliveries of new product and stock to arrive at the beginning of September. Cooper explains: “Having the right type of stock in our warehouse is key to our success, and we have many plans to increase the quantity of stock and the profile constantly. Being able to supply our customers in the region quality products from stock is a welcome relief to those that need kit at a moment’s notice.”

He adds: “SES have been trading in the Middle East region for over 20 years and are proud of the fact that some of our kit from back then is still going strong today. To withstand the arduous conditions for this length of time in this industry is a testament to our build quality, which we continue to improve with every passing year.”

Natasha Fownes, Owner/Producer, The Fixer

Since starting her career in TV production over 20 years ago as a production manager, Natasha Fownes has become known as a lady who is never afraid of a challenge. By 2011, Fownes had already garnered a list of achievements as a live event producer in the Middle East, including the annual Dubai Jazz Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and also being part of the event management team that launched the RTA’s Dubai Metro and The Queen of England’s state visit in Abu Dhabi. However, it was at this time that Fownes identified a gap in the market for a film and event facilitation company that serviced international agencies coming to the region that required local resources, and The Fixer - Films and Live Events was born. To date, the company’s clients include major brands and companies from Cirque Du Soleil to Louis Vuitton. Earlier this year, Fownes was also appointed to the board for the ILEA Middle East chapter, where she now holds the position of vice president of programmes.

Martin Lubach, General Manager, Eclipse Staging Services

As always, Eclipse Staging Services has been evolving and expanding at pace over the past year. The company’s general manager, Martin Lubach, says: “Internally, we have had a major focus on our audio department. We’re thrilled that investments in both kit and staff have paid off, and our audio offering is now a competitive force.”

Having started his events industry career over 30 years ago, it was in the early days that Lubach found himself collaborating with eclipse’s Mark Brown on a product called the Starlaser. In 2013, Lubach was contacted by Brown, who offered him the chance to head up eclipse Staging Services in Dubai.

Now with a host of services under one umbrella, Lubach says: “Each of the disciplines within the eclipse Group is now equally strong. Looking to the future, we will continue to grow each of them with both key team members and, of course, some new toys.”

He adds: “Finally, I think I can speak for every member of the eclipse Group when I say how pleased we were to have been named the MEEA’s Employer of the Year for the second year running. We see our staff as our biggest asset and it’s extremely gratifying to have this recognised.”

Bruno Marx, Owner, Eventknowhow

As owner of event Health and Safety consultancy, Eventknowhow, Bruno Marx is regarded by many to be one of the top authorities on the subject. Passionate about raising standards in the Middle East, Marx regularly conducts seminars for professional event staff on topics such as crowd safety, event hazards and event venue safety, and holds the position of vice president of Health & Safety for the ILEA Middle East chapter. For over 30 years, Marx has been instrumental in shaping the German event industry, an expertise that he now brings to the regional market. He holds a bachelors degree in Event Technology Management and Operations, and speaks regularly at events and conferences like PL+S and the Middle East Event Show.

Katie Veira, Managing Partner & Principal Creative, HQ Creative Live Communications Co LLC

Over two decades, HQ’s Katie Veira has been quietly positioned behind some of the region’s biggest special events. She explains: “I set up HQ on behalf of local partners 20 years ago when I came to Abu Dhabi to work on aspects of the UAE’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations for the Higher Committee of the Celebrations. We became involved in the — then brand new — Dubai Shopping Festival and the Al Ain Flower Show and Festival. Through our involvement in those initial projects we developed strong relationships and a good reputation on which we were able to build in the years that followed.”

And the company’s reputation certainly has built since then. When asked for a highlight from the past year alone, Veira reveals: “Definitely Dubai’s 44th National Day Show, staged on the water at D3. The project was challenging both creatively and technically and allowed the team to push boundaries.”

She continues: “It’s always special to be part of an occasion or event that has such significance and meaning to the entire country. For the same reasons we are also extremely proud of the Zayed Heritage Festival in Abu Dhabi that we have managed and helped develop over the past three years. Also, having the opportunity to be involved in the Mother of the National Festival and work hand-in-hand with a couple of other great local agencies was a unique experience that proved the results of successful collaborative efforts.”

So with a legacy of prolific events under the HQ Creative umbrella, what lies in store for Veira? She explains: “The market now has some very strong competition and it certainly doesn’t get any easier. There’s always room for improvement and we are continuously looking at how best to develop our team and business in this ever-changing landscape.”

She continues: “I think the increasing competition is healthy and will continue to push us all forwards in terms of escalating the level of production delivered here. The UAE is on the world stage and this is important to truly showcase the pioneering talent of the UAE events industry alongside the achievements of regional industry sectors across the board.”

She adds: “Receiving the Middle East Events Awards for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry a few years ago meant a lot to me personally, although it was also through the efforts of the great and dedicated team — many of whom have been by my side for years — that I got it.”

Elie Battah, General Manager, Robe Middle East Trading LLC

Over the past year, Robe has delivered many projects in the region including The Sheikh Jaber Cultural Centre in Kuwait, a project that used over 600 lights in total. Another project, Lusail in Qatar, saw Robe supply LED lightsources for seven bridges, while at the Mall Of Qatar, the company delivered more than 80 lights including BMFLs, Pointes and LEDWash 1200s.

Elie Battah elaborates: “Several rental and production companies are buying our products in Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, KSA and Lebanon, and using them for a wide range of events, festivals, shows, corporates etc.”

He continues: “Robe’s core philosophy involves the continuous development of new and innovative products, and that will continue with the BMFL range, DL7 series and the new Spikie. All of these will keep the brand a front-runner in the world of moving lights. The Spikie — a dynamic new LED spot and beam fixture — will be properly introduced in the Middle East in September.”

Robe Middle East was founded in 2013, with the target of building a local presence in a market where fast delivery time is a key. Battah explains: “By having stock in Dubai we can deal with enquiries immediately, and Robe Middle East has developed by distributing top quality products and brands in the region like MDG fog and haze generators, Magic FX, LPS Lasersytems plus a multiple cables and accessories for the lighting industry”

Battah continues: “The market in Middle East is growing but also becoming more professional and better organised. From Robe’s angle, we’re seeing more requests for the BMFL range from around the world. It is specified on most major tour riders now and, with that, demand is also increasing in the Middle East.” He adds: “The new Spikie will also boost sales in the area.”

Lee Charteris, President, ILEA ME Chapter

With 30 years of worldwide tour and event experience, Lee Charteris moved to Abu Dhabi back in 2008 to join the newly-founded Flash Entertainment. Having held the role of vice president of operations for eight years, Charteris last month revealed that a new direction is in the pipeline, as he steps down from the role to pursue other projects.

While at the time of printing Charteris’ new ventures had not been revealed, we here at Sound & Stage are sure that — as one of the most well known faces in the regional industry — it’s going to be big. And, having recently taken over from Rebecca Wilson as president of the ILEA Middle East chapter, Charteris looks set to be more involved than ever in the regional events industry. “The past eight years at Flash have been great, we have really built a brand for Abu Dhabi and the UAE to be proud of,” Charteris said. “I look forward to new challenges and to more time for my new role as president of ILEA Middle East.”

Lesley Fair and Nicola Holmes, Directors and Owners, Custard Communications

It’s two for the price of one when it comes to this entry, as both the women in charge of Custard Communications make their way onto our power list. With Lesley Fair and Nicola Holmes both key figures in the regional industry, and Fair also deputy president of the ILEA, the pair explained to Sound & Stage: “We had a monster November last year that proved to us again that we can sustain quality work under pressure. We were extremely proud of the creative projects we produced on behalf of some big name clients.”

Holmes continues: “We started Custard in 2010 with the ambition to bring value and quality to clients. We joined ILEA in the early days and being quietly opinionated got us noticed. It became apparent that it was time to step up and Lesley has been involved, supporting the leadership, ever since.”

Fair adds to this: “ILEA has had a successful transition from Rebecca, our outgoing president, to Lee, our new president for the coming year, and the board is a strong leadership team for the organisation — and I think that is something the whole team can be proud of.”

But aside from being staunch supporters of the regional trade association, what lies ahead for the company? “We feel we are in a good place to set sail and to weather any storms ahead,” explains Fair. “It will also be the first season of operation for our Abu Dhabi office based in twofour54, and we are confident in the value this will bring to our clients and partners in the emirate.”

Holmes adds: “We strongly feel that collaboration is key and we will continue to seek out great relationships with clients that see value, partner companies that strive for the same quality, and suppliers that can give us as much creativity as we can give them. We think building positive relationships supports the industry.”

Andy Jackson, General Manager ME, Delta Sound LLC

Over the past year, Delta Sound has been involved in around 300 projects. But it’s not simply the sheer amount of assignments that keeps the company at the top. General manager ME, Andy Jackson, says: “I think the most significant development was our ability to produce multiple arena/stadium shows at the same time, due to our expanded inventory. Two of the highlights were both National Day shows for Dubai and the UAE in Abu Dhabi. We also got involved with some great concerts and festivals including Yasalam F1 concerts, Redfest and Take That. Our communications division was busy providing complex solutions for NYE at the Burj Khalifa, Mother of the Nation show as well as sporting events such as the Rugby 7s.”

Prior to setting up Delta Sound in Dubai, Jackson was a freelance sound designer/engineer. He recalls: “I had no interest in purchasing equipment. Things changed as clients expected a design/supply and build and, at the time, it was difficult to procure the standard of equipment I expected.” He continues: “The partnership with Delta Sound was a natural progression as I had remained close since leaving the UK operation in 2002. There were sceptics who challenged the sustainability of a specialist company in a market dominated by ‘one stop shops’, but as soon as we set the company up it was clear that clients had a choice and a cost effective solution for a different approach. That was 10 years ago, and we continue to build the delta brand, moving into high-end communications, distribution and system Integration.”

“Our communications offering will continue to grow throughout 2016-17,” Jackson reveals, “with a vast increase in equipment and shared resource from our UK partners, and new offerings including ‘digital system transport control systems’. Simply put, we can provide a site infrastructure for signal distributions for audio, comms, audiovisual, as well as global IT and security solutions.” He continues: “Following the success of our integration company Delta AV Solutions’ first year of trading, we are hopeful of many more integration projects.

He adds, “We have been BSI OHSAS compliant for two years now, and we have found is that this now forms the backbone of all our company policies - everything from HR to Health & Safety. It has allowed us to structure the company in a far more cohesive way, whilst actively promoting all aspects of H&S and crew welfare.”

Jackson continues: “it is great to be recognised by our peers. We are lucky enough to have won MEEA Supplier of The Year in 2013 and Best Sound Production 2014-16. This year’s award has been dedicated to Claire Ferguson, who sadly passed away in July.”

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