ABTT announce four new Fellows of the Association!

4 December 2020

This year the ABTT was pleased to follow the trend and hold its  Christmas Party online. The traditional annual social event which has settled on the first Friday in December took place on 4th December providing some sorely needed seasonal cheer. Throughout the afternoon Members,  Associates, Affiliates, Supporters and friends of the ABTT made time to take a break, catch up and celebrate those who have truly excelled in their Industry.

Online it may have been but the ABTT continued in its tradition of presenting individual honours in the virtual presence of peers and friends.

At the start of the event Richard Bunn, Chairman of the ABTT Council, welcomed everyone who had joined and provided a brief summary of the ABTT’s year. He acknowledged the exceptional challenges that the industry’s individuals, companies and organisations had faced. He thanked the ABTT staff (Elysia Moore, Association Co-ordinator, Stuart Roberts, Financial Controller and Robin Townley, CEO), the Trustees, ABTT Committees and members for their tireless efforts guiding the Association and expressed his pride in the way they have all risen to the challenge of supporting the sector.

Richard highlighted how responsive ABTT communications had been, not only sharing its own information but by linking with others to become a trusted channel for the best advice and resources available.

He noted how the ABTT Safety Committee had worked with organisations across the sector to provide guidance on Covid-19 Risk Assessments, support and safe working practice and that only last week it had been shortlisted as a finalist for a most influential health and safety team award.

Richard acknowledge the collaboration and depth of experience and knowledge that had been involved with online seminars to engage with the membership and wider sector and that it had include themes around Diversity, Mental Health, Re-opening, training and Sustainability.

He celebrated the resumption of ABTT Training with Bronze and Silver Award courses and the support provided by venues that were able to host these programmes following postponements due to government regulations.

Richard concluded by thanking everyone for their active involvement noting that now more than ever the Association needs the support of its membership and Industry supporters to continue its work.

Following this, Robin Townley, ABTT CEO, introduced  an industry figure and colleague to introduce each new Fellow. In 2020  the ABTT appointed four individuals as Fellows of the Association. Fellowships are awarded to persons who have rendered signal service to the technical aspects of the art of the theatre.

David Evans, Head of Production for National Theatre of Wales introduced the first Fellow to be appointed,  Michael Anderson.
David Evans commended Michael to the gathered company as an extremely experienced Health and Safety  professional who has worked on a number of large international projects and over the last 13 years has been an integral part of implementing a good safety culture within the exhibition, entertainment, live performance and theatre industries. He has been at the forefront of numerous industry safety committees, having liaised closely with the HSE on behalf of the sector about a number of safety reviews and policy changes. Safety is his passion: he is always willing to help with advice or guidance to achieve a positive solution. Michael is fondly acknowledged throughout the theatre industry as a  loquacious and enthusiastic individual who is fun to work with. Michael is the Chairman of the ABTT Safety Committee.

David Blyth, previously Property Director for Ambassador Theatre Group, Chairman of the Marina Theatre Trust Lowestoft and ABTT Fellow introduced the second Fellow to be appointed, Phill Brown.
David Blyth commended Phill to the gathered company as a highly accredited Risk and Safety Manager who has developed a sector wide approach to risk, Health and Safety and Technical Management. Phill commenced his career with the Ministry of Defence in a variety of positions including UK and International security management. On leaving the MoD he re-trained and qualified in safety and risk management first working within the NHS in safety, risk and security management positions.  He then  became Risk Management Director for the Ambassador Theatre Group.  During his time at ATG he created and nurtured a proactive approach to safety management and developed positive changes in theatre working practices throughout the Group portfolio developing invaluable risk management experience both in the UK and internationally. Now, as Head of Risk & Safety at the Society of London Theatre he provides industry wide support for safety and security advice, training requirements, emerging industry risks and the development of sector best practice. Phill manages the Theatre Safety Committee and is a member of the Standing Committee for Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment and the ABTT Safety Committee.

Lisa Burger, Executive Director at National Theatre introduced the third Fellow to be appointed,  Mark Dakin.
Lisa commended Mark to the gathered company as a highly experienced Technical and Production leader. Mark worked at the Royal Opera House as a design assistant and draughtsman in the 1980’s and is remembered as a smiley face with an engaging personality. He also gained a reputation for being something of a taskmaster and for getting everyone organized. In 1991 Mark went to English National Opera at the Coliseum as an Assistant Production Manager, and three years later to the National Theatre as a Production Manager in the Lyttelton. At the same time he organised a Drafting Summer School with Colin Maxwell which ran for 4 years. His engagement with education in the industry started early and has been present ever since. In 2001 he became Head of Production at the National Theatre and in 2011 Technical Director, leading the Technical Department through a £70m “NT-Future” capital project and Dorfman Theatre refurbishment. Mark became Technical Director at the Royal Opera House in 2015 starting with the £40m “Open Up” capital project which included refurbishment of the Linbury Theatre. Now Director of Technical and Production he has just completed a full restructure of the Technical and Production department. Mark is a Trustee at the Bush Theatre and at The Yard and a Committee member for Stage Sight.

Bruno Poet, Olivier Award winning Lighting Designer, introduced the fourth Fellow to be appointed,  Prema Mehta.
Bruno commended Prema to the gathered company as a highly experience Lighting Designer. Prema’s journey began with a school trip to Blood Brothers; Drama at GCSE and them Theatre Studies at A-Level led to Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  While there Prema had placements with Stage Designer Es Devlin and Lighting Designer Neil Austin. Returning to Guildhall, Prema went on to light a couple of shows and the more she lit the more she realised she wanted to be a lighting designer.  After graduating she lit for pub theatres and fringe shows but also worked for the NHS developing her non-lighting career to become a Project Manager for Saracens Rugby Club.  She left to concentrate on her theatre career. A turning point came when she met Watford Palace Theatre’s Artistic Director Brigid Larmour who gave her the opportunity to light a diverse range of productions and so on to a hugely busy and comprehensive portfolio. In addition and at the same time Prema has been a leading  advocate and force for greater diversity in the backstage workforce. She has had a hugely influential effect by  founding Stage Sight which exists to create an off stage workforce that is more reflective of our society today, inclusive of ethnicity, class and disability.

The ABTT wishes to congratulate all the newly appointed Fellows for their amazing achievements and for their significant contribution to the Industry.

The event was a success with people dropping in throughout the afternoon with a peak of more than 100 mingling between some twenty different breakout rooms.  Although guests had to supply their own refreshments, the conversations that can only happen at the ABTT Christmas Party were in full swing and as entertaining as ever.