profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 21 in a continuing series
Head of Touring, Theatre and Television Sales Team, Martin Professional UK
Following experience gained from shifting scenery and hanging lights for the local amateurs, by the time Mark Ravenhill had reached 14 he knew his future was in lighting. He soon made contact with one of his local theatres, the Theatre Royal in Winchester, a 409-seat professional touring venue where the only paid member of the backstage staff was the technical manager. He duly learned with a vengeance from his peers against an atmosphere that he considered fantastic, no matter what the day or hour.
Through contacts with other local stage crew, more work became available at various theatres in the Hampshire area including the new Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, a 2,250 seat number 1 touring venue. After leaving school, he enrolled on a technical theatre course at Highbury College of Technology near Portsmouth, but found he was being taught things he already knew. Then, in 1987, a chief electrician position became available at the Theatre Royal in Winchester and Mark ended up with his first full time job in theatre. Two years on he felt it was time to spread his wings and joined Blazers cabaret club in Windsor as stage manager. Here, all the top cabaret artistes of the day trooped through including Jim Davidson, Lenny Henry, Joe Longthorne and even The Barron Knights!
With the rave scene taking over, a three month refurbishment gave him installation experience as Blazers became ‘Mirage'. Part of this refurbishment involved a new lighting system from Squires which included four Martin Professional 1005 scanners and a dedicated controller. This was in the days before Martin UK was established and the technical manager, Steve Rawlins (now of Martin Singapore) and Mark became highly experienced in the programming of the fixtures. When Martin UK was born, experienced programmers were needed, and the duo were drafted in on a freelance basis.
Finding life at Mirage drifting away from he wanted to do, Mark found a job at Thorpe Park for a summer season working in its various venues. Then, in 1991, he and Steve Rawlins got the call to produce the Martin lightshow for that year's PLASA Show. It proved great fun, and it also meant meeting up with then Martin boss Peter Johanssen, who was impressed enough to invite them to LDI in Reno to produce the show there. Whilst there, he persuaded them to produce all the company's shows from Denmark.
By January 1992 Mark was in Denmark - also organising dealer training and lighting larger shows for the Martin distributors around the world. He loved every minute of it and gained experience lighting TV shows, festivals, outdoor spectaculars, concerts, theatre shows and nightclubs - and started friendships with industry people around the world.
In 1993 he teamed up with leading LD Roy Bennett who designed the LDI presentation that year. Roy and Mark sat for almost 48 hours solid programming the show, but it was worth it in the end as it was awarded the light show of the year award at the exhibition. The next year LD Jonathan Smeeton was brought in for PLASA. Another amazing lightshow resulted, but due to space restrictions, it had to be tailored down for LDI. As Smeeton was already committed elsewhere, Mark and Steve Rawlins took the project forward alone and it duly won the best show award at LDI for the second year running.
A period of freelancing on productions worldwide followed before mark joined A.C. Lighting in 1996 as a member of their technical sales team and it provided him with an excellent opportunity to gain more product knowledge. Amongst other things, he was one of the people responsible for operator training on the Wholehog II console during its formative years. Working with Mike Falconer (now with A.C. Inc. in Los Angeles) they manned the telephones between them 24 hours a day so as to give full technical support to the A.C. Lighting product range.
An interlude in the US followed, with Mark looking to get out of the office and his hands ‘dirty' again, but the trip didn't work out as planned, and on his return was approached by A.C. Lighting's David Leggett who asked if he would like to come back after his ‘holiday'. He took up the new position of marketing manager for the company, but although admitting it was a great learning curve, he decided he wasn't really a marketeer. After an amicable split, Mark moved on again.
He was soon approached by Martin, who were looking for someone to head up their touring, theatre and television sales team in the UK, a post he took up in August 2000. It was a vastly different company from the ‘old' Martin he had previously known, and his own career is about to head in a different direction yet again. He has just accepted an offer to take over as Martin Professional's global product manager for their touring, theatre and television product range. It involves moving lock, stock and barrel back to Denmark - something his Danish wife is immensely pleased about!
It's Mark's belief that the next few years in the lighting industry are going to be very exciting as new technologies come to the fore at an amazing rate. He takes up his new position on 1st January 2002, just one month before he starts his 18th year in the industry. And, as always, he is thoroughly looking forward to all the challenges ahead.
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