Graduate Careers: How I Got Here: `I was always a party animal'

Kate Hilpern
Thursday 23 December 1999 01:02

Ricky Magowan, 29, is Scotland's most prolific nightclub promoter. Having watched his business grow from the roots of the rave scene, he is currently organising the UK's biggest indoor Millennium club event and official Radio 1 FM after-show party, COLOURS NYE2000, for more than 15,000 people. It will feature more than 40 DJs with live ISDN links from around the globe.

Background and education: I left school at 17 and got the first job I could in a local authority. After a couple of years, I decided it was time to try to do what I was good at - graphic design - and got work at an advertising agency. Spending my time doing something I felt passionate about made me work really hard, and before long I was designing flyers for big parties and clubs in Scotland. As I became more deeply involved in advertising these events, I decided to try to organise a public party of my own. Six months later, this had become a full-time job.

The big idea: I was always a party animal. I adored the rave scene in the late Eighties and early Nineties, and I knew some of the UK's most renowned DJs such as Mike Pickering and Graeme Park. I also knew some - such as Carl Cox and Sasha - who were unheard of at the time but whom I recognised as being good. So when I decided, along with Jim McKay, to organise my own party for 1,500 people in 1989, I knew I could count on a brilliant and original line-up. I also knew, from my work in advertising, how important the publicity side was. You can have the best event ever, but no one will know about it if the advertising isn't exactly right. That aside, I think a lot of our success was down to the fact that I didn't have to invest a lot of money. Raves at that time were anti-establishment, so you could get away with having one light and a pretty basic venue. When we started to make money, though, Streetrave - which was what we called ourselves - got more and more original venues such as ice rinks and airports. We started introducing talents such as Prodigy, M People, Inner City and D:Ream. By 1995, we were getting a lot of bad press because of the new associations with the whole rave scene. So we changed our name to Colours, picked ourselves up and became involved with superclubs, even bigger events and, of course, Ibiza. We're more successful than ever.

Most desperate moment: A Saturday night last month. I was in charge of the COLOURSNYE 2000 press launch party with DJs Masters At Work and guests including Boy George, ATB and Dave Pearce. The DJs' record boxes didn't show up. I couldn't believe it. Eventually, we had to settle on finding some other people's records. It meant the DJs could only do a two-hour set instead of five hours. It was a nightmare, and there was nothing whatsoever that I could do about it.

I wish I'd known: About three or four years into Streetrave's success, I rested on my laurels too much and lost the vision to spot the younger DJs coming up. I let people such as Tall Paul go to other promoters, and although I got Judge Jules, I didn't keep him going. We really suffered because of that.

Now I have the foresight to give everyone a chance and the realism to know you should never take success for granted.

Greatest achievement to date: The three Eurodance New Year's Eve Parties I did in the early Nineties. They ran at what is probably the most incredible venue in the country - the Terminal Building of Prestwick International Airport. There were 5,000 people dancing on ticket desks and having a brilliant time. We didn't get the press we deserved because it wasn't in London. But the organisation it took to apply for a licence, get the event passed by health and safety, work out where everything would go, organise building control, and arrange a fantastic night was no mean feat.

Secret of my success: Having balls and attitude, yet treating people the way I want to be treated. It's a very fine balance. In this business, if you mess people around once you'll never work with them again. What's more, you'll get a bad reputation because everyone knows everyone else's business.

What you will need: Be impulsive. When I heard that the disused factory we're going to use for the Millennium party was available, it was the middle of the night. I couldn't stop wondering if it would be OK, so I got up and drove there right away. Being like that drives you and keeps you passionate enough to be the best at what you do.

Kate Hilpern

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments