WORKING ON THE LARGEST MUSIC CONCERTS IN THE UK
SARAH HEMSLEY COLE
Sarah has worked in live events for the past 25 years and is the company director of SC Productions who deliver prestigious corporate and public events including large scale music concerts such as Ed Sheeran’s UK Stadium tours.
She has also co founded NOWIE, a primarily online forum for Women working in the Event Industry.
How did you get started in the industry / what was your first job in events ?
I originally trained as a stage manger at Drama School post my degree.
I was a venue technician at a local theatre venue once I graduated and the opportunity arose to site manage / organise an outdoor event for the Council to celebrate the twinning of the Borough with another City in Czech Republic – I put my hand straight up, roped in a friend with more knowledge to assist me and off I went on a crazy journey .
12 months later the same friend recommended me to the boss of Cardiff Council Events team who were looking for a Production Manager.
I left just before the Millennium to take a theatre PM job (I wasn’t sure the outdoor event market would continue after the burst of New Year 2000) .
Whilst at the theatre Stuart Galbraith (of Promoter MCP – as it was in those days) asked me to site manage his Cardiff Castle and Warwick Castle shows and then in 2002 I took the leap and the rest as they say is history…..
You’ve achieved a lot since that first role , what would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
It’s hard to chose as there are always career highlights – but I always quote Nelson Mandela’s freedom of the City event in Cardiff back in the late 90’s as a proud proud moment in the presence of greatness.
We had built the site overnight and I was stood behind the first school group of kids as he stepped out of the car .
They started signing to him, he joined in and I sobbed!
Another would be The Passion of Port Talbot – a take over of the town for the Easter weekend 2011 – I headed up the production for National Theatre Wales modern telling of the Passion story starring Michael Sheen – really ambitious, ground breaking piece of immersive theatre across the landscape of a working class town in Wales – we created a piece of work that defined a journey for British theatre over the next 10 years.
And finally, site managing Ed Sheeran’s UK Stadium shows over the last 5 years is also fantastic – great team to work with
And what has been your biggest learning?
Never assume you know everything – there is always more to learn.
When I started out mobile phones were still in their infancy, we didn’t have CAD (had to learn that) – technical advances are one thing, but just how to be with people, motivate a team, solve problems – it is always a learning.
What is it about working in the events that you love? And why would you recommend it as a career choice?
For me – there is nothing better than watching all your hard work come together in a single moment or watching the faces of joy of folk enjoying their heroes.
I also love bringing my teams, staff, young people on that journey with me.
As a career it is a privilege and honour to do something I love, every day is different and I get to travel, go to amazing places and meet brilliant people.
And what do you think are the characteristics or qualities you need to succeed in events?
Hard work, commitment, positive polite attitude – you can learn anything and everything but only if you want to – you have to apply yourself .
I have worked with some really green talent and seen them go on amazing journeys – if you want it – it is out there for the taking.
If you are hiring someone is there one thing you look for above anything else?
As I mentioned above – I want to interview / meet / work with someone who wants it – who has a genuine interest and passion.
For me qualifications don’t matter – I want to know what the individual can offer.
I want someone who will give it a go and their best shot.
If you had to pass 3 pieces of advice to our younger self or someone else trying to get a job and succeed in the industry what would they be?
Never say no – give everything a go – you wont know what what you really enjoy until you try it.
Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Be open to learning and keep learning.