A job came up in marketing food, and I took it. I was quite switched on culturally, too, and dabbled in journalism, reviewing for a regional magazine in Bristol. I liked the marketing job, and was earning a lot of money, but I was working crazy hours. After a few months I applied for a job front of house at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon. I worked there as an apprentice in the press office in the spring of 1979. By night, I was front of house in a dickie bow, and by day, I was telephone selling.
I was also promoting bands, such as Echo and the Bunnymen. I got to know some journalists, and by hanging around them learnt how to spot a story. I got press coverage for the Wyvern, not only locally but nationally. After 18 months, I went to see all the well-known London theatre publicists and Philip Hedley, the artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East, created a job for me as its press and marketing officer. At the age of 23 I was the youngest resident theatre publicist in London.
But then the Arts Council started making cuts and some staff at Stratford East were made redundant. As a result, I found myself looking after education, publicity and press in the theatre's most important season. We had to fight to keep the place open, but it was an incredibly successful season - it included Nell Dunn's Steaming - and we survived.
I was there for four or five years, and during that time started doing freelance publicity for West End shows. I was press consultant to the Young Vic, looked after Gerry Cottle's circus, and was freelancing for other major PR companies. But all that created tension, because at the age of 25 I was running around with a BMW and an expense account at Langan's, and the Theatre Royal was in one of the poorest boroughs in London.
So, in 1986, I decided to set up on my own. I met up with a researcher from The Telegraph called Joyce Quarry, and the journalist Mervyn Edgecombe, with whom I created a union of sorts called QEB. We started dabbling, and Mervyn and I stumbled across a man called Wolfgang Zeuner, who, with a bunch of academics, believed he could trace Hannibal's walk from Spain through the Alps to Turin. We thought this was a great idea, and Ian Botham, who'd just done his John o'Groats to Land's End walk, picked up on it. The plan was to raise money for leukaemia.
I became the press liaison between Ian Botham and the nation's media - but Botham didn't want to talk to anyone who wasn't actually walking. It was madness, and I had an awful time: it was a major event and I was having to pull it all together with other events like the Moscow State Circus and the Bolshoi Ballet. Afterwards, Mervyn wanted to do more big events but I wanted to go back to doing the kind of publicity I knew, and set up a leisure-oriented company.
I became spokesman for an amazing circus theatre company called Archaos that I'd seen in a festival outside Berlin, which formed the basis of the company I run now.
Since 1988, I've grown it from one person to 20, and we do everything: Gordon's Gin, Action Man, Gary Glitter, Joaquin Cortes, Damien Hirst - an eclectic bunch. I've always kept my eye on the small, emergent things. People say I'm a hype master, but hype only works if the product's good and, besides, I like to tell people how it is. We did Cliff Richard's Heathcliff, and when the reviews were bad we decided we'd still plaster them up everywhere. Basically, I'm a publicist who likes to facilitate things; we're not into "protection" heren
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