profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 44 in a continuing series
Partner, Dobson White Partnership
To look at his coiffure today, would you will believe that Gary's first ambition was to become a hairdresser of great stature! So, in true Dick Whittington style, he left home at 16 to find his fame and fortune as artistic director of Toni & Guy or Sasoons. He quickly discovered that the streets were not paved with gold, but he did start his apprenticeship with the equally fashionable, but less well-known Zebou in Manchester.
Gary spent the next two years of the fashion free era known as ‘The 80's' working clients' hair into mohicans and frizzy perms with the odd blue rinse thrown in for good measure, but in 1985 a friend invited him to help on a fit up (not the Moss Side variety), at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre. Gary was instantly hooked, and the experience was to change the course of his life as he soon realised the industry offered an alternative outlet for his creative talent. So, he decided to throw in the towel and hang up his scissors in exchange for an adjustable and makita.
Paul Griffin, the Exchange's production manager at the time, then offered Gary a full time position (so now you know whom to blame!), and with a thirst for knowledge, he honed his craft during the next three years on some wonderful shows from The Alchemist to All My Son's.
In 1988 he joined Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland as head flyman, duly changing seven shows a week. Enjoying the beautiful Scottish scenery and partying with the small community of thespians and technicians until the early hours cemented his fondness for the industry. As the season drew to a close, Gary had already decided to broaden his knowledge of other disciplines when fate intervened. He was in the right place at the right time when legendary sound designer Phil Clifford offered him the number 2 on a tour of ‘Hello, Dolly!' During the tour it only took a moment for Gary to fall for his own leading lady and wife-to-be, Debbie.
The couple moved to London where Gary worked at the National Theatre. It was during this period that their first child, Chloe was born. The growing family prompted Gary to swap the hustle and bustle of London for the peace and quiet of Kent. So it was onto TVS in Maidstone, where he worked as a prop guy on programmes such as HOW, Catchphrase and The Bobby Davro Show.
In search of a fresh challenge, he joined Birmingham's International Convention Centre in 1992, where he worked on conferences for the first time. Rapidly building a reputation amongst colleagues and visiting production houses as a gifted and conscientious Stage and Platform Manager his talent was recognised when he was promoted to Production Manager. It was also during the ICC years that three grew to five when Joseph and Gabby were born.
In May of that year, news of our rising technical star reached Unusual Rigging's Alan Jacobi who was looking for an Operations Manager. "Are you interested?" AJ said. "If so, come and see me," Gary explains. "I asked ‘When?' and typically AJ answered: ‘Now!' " The straight talking pair hit it off and Gary was working at Unusual within three weeks.
Gary co-ordinated the transfer of Unusual's Operations to Northampton, and in setting up Health & Safety systems at Bugbrooke he found the time to gain a diploma in safety management. This led to him co-ordinating health and safety assessments for many major events. In due course he was asked to lead a new division when he became General Manager of Unusual Engineering, which specialises in permanent fittings such as the winch installation of the flying system at The Royal Opera House, and Saddlers Wells, to name but a few.
After his Unusual experience, Gary then joined Chris Cronin at Total Fabrications as Sales Manager and he worked closely with Chris and Peter Hind on a number of interesting high profile projects including the development of the proprietary award winning T2 truss system.
But it was the independence of having his own company that Gary now craved. In 2000 he joined forces with Brian Dobson, whom he had met during his ICC days, to become The Dobson White Partnership. With the experience Brian had gained in Communications and Gary's technical expertise, they combined their unique skills to offer "corporate clients excellent service in the field of live event production - and managers of special projects, experienced technical support", to quote their USP. Two years on and they are enjoying the freedom and creative licence which comes from owning a company, having delivered major events for Sony, The Woolwich and Sky Digital Classics, amongst others. Gary's time away from DWP is spent with his wife Debbie and their three children and the occasional cycling tour of Great Britain, which is enough to keep him busy for now, and still not a hair out of place!
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