To give you a little background, I’m an only child who grew up just outside of Henley-on-Thames on a racehorse stud farm called Juddmonte, which was owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In fact, you may have even heard of them for their breeding of what is arguably the greatest racehorse to ever have lived, Frankel. Ring any bells of a drunken bet at Ascot? Anyway, my mum worked there as a Stud Hand due to her incredible passion for anything and everything to do with horses. Thinking about it, this really should have been my career path due to my upbringing, but I just never took to the equestrian world. I was always more interested in tech and cars, the very opposite to both of my parents! Due to the nature of that industry, we needed to live on site, so my parents had a picturesque two-bedroom cottage on the estate.
I attended the Piggott School in Wargrave and, if I’m being honest, school was of little interest to me. I always just wanted to leave and start work. In my mind, the sooner I could leave, the sooner I could start to earn my own money! However, whilst at Piggott, I made some fantastic friends and I have some very good memories of my time there. My passion throughout that era was sports, I literally participated in everything that I could fit in. In fact, looking back, I’m not sure how my parents were able to squeeze everything in around their busy working lives!
As a child, I played ice hockey for Bracknell, this was a sport that took us all round the UK due to the small number of teams in this country. I will always have a place in my heart for hockey, but when I moved to secondary school my teacher Mr Prince (legend) introduced me to rugby. I soon fell in love and transitioned over and made this my main focus as I could see that I would be able to progress much further with rugby than I could with hockey. Throughout those years I played for Henley Hawks and the Oxfordshire County and, of course, the Piggott School Team.
I left school at 16 immediately after my GCSEs and went straight into the working world, no long summer holiday for me! If I remember correctly, the time from leaving school to starting a full-time job was just 10 days. I was very fortunate to find an apprenticeship programme through the Henley College. This allowed me to work at the Volvo Car UK head office in Marlow while also completing a business administration course. Being truthful here, what attracted me to this job was that it was just up the road from where I lived and also that they offered a company car scheme, something I was very keen on for when I later passed my test!
I ended up working for Volvo UK for ten years in a wide array of jobs. My apprenticeship started in the IT department and after three years I was offered a full-time role and moved into Customer Services. I stayed in that position for around two years, before finally moving into the Warranty department, where I saw out my days with the company. As I look back on my time at Volvo, it’s very clear that it made a huge contribution to getting me to where I am today. I was quite literally thrown in to the deep end at 16, as my main job was looking after the departmental finances. Obviously, I had no power to move the money, but I was in charge of all the invoices/credits that were being received and was tasked with entering the data into the system. Looking back, I can’t believe they let me do something like this with zero experience and very minimal training. I mean, only months prior I had been playing football in the school playground, now I’m responsible for reconciling a global brand’s IT department finances, crazy!
The reason I mention the above though is because it meant I was able to pick up the business world very quickly at a young age. I was able to see what software was used and how, learn about processes and how they would be created and modified, the array of communication methods, meeting structures, finances etc. The list goes on.
The biggest impact my time at Volvo had on my future career was gaining confidence, and it is undoubtably where I was formed into who I am today. I mean picture this, as a 16-year-old apprentice I would correspond with senior management, directors, dealership principles and external account managers to name but a few. This gave me a great confidence when talking to people and dealing with high pressure situations.
So, as you’re reading this, you must be wondering why on earth do you feel like you’re reading a rubbish autobiography! Well, stick with we, I’ll soon get to how I ended up with Virtual Events.
In the early days whilst my friends were all still at school doing A Levels, I was earning and saving money. This then meant that when the first ‘lads holiday’ was thrown on the table I was in. So, aged 17 or 18, a group of us went to glorious Magaluf in Majorca!
This was the first time I had experienced top-notch DJs and professional production and I took an instant interest. I can vividly remember being stood in a club called Boomerang just watching the DJ perform… a DJ who just happened to be the one and only Pat Sharp! Within the first few days I’d already developed an interest in DJs and production, but then we went to BCM to see Judge Jules, and that was on another level. I literally couldn’t believe how much went into it: the DJs, the sound, the lighting, the pyro, what an amazing experience they had created! I remember looking at the DJ equipment and making a mental note of what he was using and thought, “I’ll buy that when I get home and give this DJing malarkey a go!”.
Once home I punched ‘Pioneer CDJ’ into Google and nearly fell off my chair… how much!? Though keen to not give up at the first hurdle I thought I’d just buy something cheap to learn the ropes first. So, finding myself on the DJKit website, I purchased a dual CD player of some description, I think it was a Gemini product, but really can’t remember!
After a few years of messing around in my bedroom I wanted to upgrade my kit as I was convinced that I couldn’t be a ‘club standard DJ’ unless I had the right gear. So, this time round I drove over to DJKit in Newbury to purchase a pair of Pioneer CDJ-400s. This product was absolutely perfect for me as not only was the price much lower than its bigger brothers, it also had MIDI control. I remember spending ages trying to sync them up with Virtual DJ and was blown away once I got it all working. I now had everything I needed on my laptop rather than wallets and wallets of CDs. This made everything so much easier and I spent a huge amount of time ‘spinning the wheels’ in my bedroom… still just for fun.
In the summer of 2010 I attended a private party at my Golf Club, Castle Royle, and unexpectedly a school friend (James Reading) was stood behind the DJ booth. So, naturally, I went over and had a catch up with him as we hadn’t crossed paths for a while. To cut a long story short, he told me that his brother (Anthony Reading) ran a company called Supreme Entertainments and he was doing some weekend work for him. From there we discussed everything about mobile DJing, including how much he was getting paid! It got me thinking, “I could do this on the side of my current job!”.
I asked James to tell his brother that I would be free to do some DJing if he was ever stuck. From there the ball started rolling and I went out with James on a few gigs as a roadie, often doing a little bit of DJing to build my confidence outside of bedroom mixing. I soon felt that I was ready to go out on my own, but at the time Anthony didn’t have enough spare equipment. Of course I looked into buying my own DJ equipment, a full setup, but just couldn’t warrant the cost at the time (I was saving hard to move into my own place).
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I had a call from Anthony to say that
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 103, Pages 14-22.