You started out in the entertainment business, but in a completely different sector – the circus. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yea I was 16 and a friend of mine took me to Cyprus on a holiday she had won in a dancing competition. At the time I never really knew what she did however all I knew is that she was dancer and got paid to perform at venues all over the UK. She dragged me along one day to her classes and I met her teacher who also owned a talent agency. They had a big tour coming up and where looking for performers that could fire breath, stilt walk and basically run about in costume. She has if I would mind training up, packed me off to circus school and the rest is pretty much history.
16 years later I have hung up my clown shoes and now look after other talent, help get them on jobs and work with a team of people in trying to create different entertainment ideas around the region.
Where there times when you put your life at risk?
There have been a few. I have set myself on fire twice and nearly ended up in the emergency room. fire breathing really is as dangerous as it looks and then there was a time I was performing on stage in Ireland. The act included a metal angle grinder. Someone must have broken the plug through the set and as I go to take it out of the socket I was electrocuted and this plug stuck to my hand! There was also the time I fell down some stairs on stilts and landed on a midget however i guess it was his life that was more at risk rather than mine. My only images of the circus are from the 60s and from Water for elephants.
How does a modern day circus look like?
In many ways it still has that same essence, however animals are no longer accepted as performers and as we have progressed, technology plays a major part in any shows these days. The basics are still there. The traditional clown type characters, the acrobats and aerialists, the contortionists and crazy people that can do literally anything with their bodies, some major circus shows are still held in big tops.
As time has gone on though people want to see something different and what entertained them 10 years ago has no relevance today. Now you have grand productions like Cirque with its intricate costumes, set designs, lights & special effects and even inspiration from major global icons like the Beatles and Michael Jackson whose music can be heard in “Immortal” or “Love”
So, after all that you move to Dubai. What were your first impressions of the city?
It’s tricky as when I first got here I was mesmerized by the glitz and glam of everything and had envisaged that it would be somewhat like a Vegas of the Middle East. I thought There would be shows, Theaters, an amazing entertainment industry and lots happening. I quickly found out that the complete opposite was almost the truth. I failed to do my research that this was infact a country that was only 36 years old at the time and was just starting to flourish and develop an arts and entertainment scene. Hotels like the Atlantis where not even built, the metro had only just begun and the Burj khalifa was only 2/3rds complete. everything still had a long way to go.
Then came the crash and everything halted. This was probably one of the best things to have happened for the entertainment and culture scenes. It was no longer about the worlds largest buildings or man made islands. It was about something else. Creating a soul for Dubai. People started getting creative, galleries opened, spaces had to transform to attract customers, big budget events where slashed meaning you had to think of new ways to entertain people.
Do you still feel and experience Dubai the same way?
Not really, I think after being here for a while you start to see the place differently. After 6 years I have so many good and bad memories of the place. Friends have come and other have moved on, it really does feel like home and you move beyond the glitz, glam of everything. The one thing that does stick with you thou is the feeling that anything is possible. It’s a young and vibrant city full of people that are here to make a difference. Nothing is too big and if you can persevere and work through the many hurdles that will be thrown in your way, then you really can achieve anything you want.
What would be the perks of your current job?
The biggest perk is that I get to work with my friends, lots of creative people and I get to do something different everyday. It’s really not a job and sounds such a cliche but it really is a lifestyle. It’s part of the job description to attend events, check out shows, travel the world, meet people and be inspired. What better perks are there?
Being in the entertainment business I guess you’ve seen the creme de la creme of Dubai ‘s shows. Which stand out for you?
Ooooooo that’s a tough one. I have to say the Michal Jackson immortal tour earlier in the year. It was an amazing show although there where faults with the production of it here in Dubai and I was dissapointed by the small audiences. That said the concept, costumes, performers and choreo was amazing. I’m an MJ fan and have friends who have worked on the show so i’m slightly biased. I certainly hope that if someone asks me the same question in 5 years then I can say its actually a show that has been produced, created and developed here in the region and using locally based talent. There is the talent pool here and some people are working very hard to make it happen. It will happen one day. Cirque started with a group of artists performing on the streets of Montreal. whose to say that something similar could not happen with a group of talented performers who used to hand around a warehouse space in Al Quoz?
If you had a good friend visiting dubai where would you take them and which parts would you skip?
I think you have to take them to all of it. Get the 5* star stuff out of the way first and do the usual tourist haunts before taking them down Diera and creek to see the reel Dubai. I love the road trip to Hatta and the mountains by RAK. I’m yet to do a camping trip in the desert so that’s got to be on the list somewhere. the best things you see are those that you stumble upon. like the deserted village in RAK, the fruit sellers by the roads and wandering donkeys down dusty dirt tracks.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I would like to think that I would still have a base here in Dubai but the dream is to help grow the agency to a point where lots of other people such as our talent or the amazing bookers we work with can take the reins and take it into a new direction and into the future. They will be the ones that will create amazing shows that can be exported internationally or fly in the best talent that the world has to offer. Dubai really is a global city and especially now everyone wants a piece of it, it will be nice to look back in 10 years time and think “I helped create that”. I will still be there pottering around in the back ground but my performing days will be over. It will be time to start building that house in the Indonesian jungle and learn how to relax 🙂
Your office is packed with inspirational pictures and magazine spreads.which would you say are worthy to follow in this region of the world?
I’m going to be controversial and say stay away from the magazines you get off the shelf at spinneys. It’s all full of the same generic content and Kim Kardashians face. Instead go and immerse yourself in whats happening in Al Quoz at places such as Al Serkal Avenue and The Courtyard or delve online and on social media and check out the underground arts and performance scene. Don’t just look at things in magazines, go experience them for yourself. There are so many performers, artists and creative people here, you just need to scratch the surface a little. It’s here where you will find inspiration and at the same time will help support and grow the entertainment and arts industry…