Dedicated to the Business of Contemporary Live Music

Backstage Star – Sarah Phillips

14 February 2020

As CEO of the 4,000-capacity Plymouth Pavilions – the south-west’s largest concert hall – since 2018 Sarah Phillips’ responsibilities range from programming to overseeing the venue’s expanding ticketing operation The Ticket Store. Having a career in marketing across Europe and the Far East before joining the Pavilions 16 years ago, helps in making the best of concerts with artistes such as Elbow, Beth Hart, Michael Kiwanuka, Becky Hill, Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and Deacon Blue.

What are your first live music memories?

“I was a real girl of the ‘80s, living the dream at Radio One Roadshows – with acts such as Kylie, Black Box and Gabrielle – and screaming myself horse for the latest Stock, Aitken and Waterman offering when the Hitman Roadshow rolled into town with Kylie, Sinitta and Sonia. Oh, how times have changed.

“But the first gig that had a real impact on me was Michael Jackson’s HIStory Tour at Wembley Stadium in 1997. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer spectacle of a gig of that size and I completely soaked up the atmosphere.

“Over the years my musical tastes have certainly matured, but my love for the live experience is just as strong.”

How did you get into the entertainment industry?

“I did Business Studies at University and started my career by specialising in marketing. Many years in the field facilitated some amazing experiences, living and working in the Far East and organising events as far flung as South Africa, the States and Europe.

“Through marketing I experienced many industries before landing a role as

marketing manager here at the Pavilions in the early 2000s. Over the years my role developed, firstly accumulating sales and ticketing, not just at the venue, but partnering with established city-wide enterprises to ticket high profile events including several years of MTV Crashes.

“Developing the ticketing side of our business eventually grew into its own breakaway venture, The Ticket Store, which has evolved into a service provider for events across the south-west.

“Never one to stand still, in 2016 I handed over the sales and marketing mantle to a fab team with fresh ideas and embarked on my next Pavilions’ chapter as I swapped creativity for number-crunching and assumed the role of director of operations, heading up our customer and visitor services divisions, as well as our onsite Ice Rink.

“In late 2017 our [then] CEO broke the news that he was heading for pastures new and I was approached to head-up the venue, which I feel truly privileged to do alongside our director of facilities, Richard Findlay, and our talented team.

“The Pavilions has hosted some fantastic shows, with my personal favourite being P!nk, along with Radiohead, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Van Morrison, Paul Weller, Coldplay, Oasis, Michael Bublé, Alice Cooper, The Prodigy, Biffy Clyro, Ben Howard, Kasabian, Bastille and One Direction.”

What were your high and low points?

“Every event we do comes with its own set of unique circumstances and the solutions that my teams find to overcome even the seemingly impossible complications never cease to amaze me. We all know that, in this industry, no two days or problems are ever the same.

“My career has afforded me so many wonderful and diverse live experiences – often when I have least expected them! We’re in the business of connecting acts with their audiences and seeing the enjoyment of our patrons will, for me, always be hugely rewarding.”

“As for setbacks, outside of a couple of redundancies and of course, the odd cancelled performance or event at short notice, I’ve been very fortunate. The worst that’s come my way is a day stuck in a limo with a couple of Posh and Becks look-alikes, a few days on tour with a 6ft walking-talking pint of beer and an event reception desk, a huge fish tank, full of dead goldfish.

Where do you see the industry going?

“There are exciting times ahead for our venue, an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves within the entertainment business and continue supporting our local community.

“The industry may suffer setbacks during uncertain times, but there’s nothing like live entertainment and we feel privileged to be custodians of making these experiences happen for our customers.”

How do you unwind?

“I am hugely fortunate to live in Cornwall, a truly beautiful part of the country, with my extremely supportive husband Mark and our two crazy young children Matilda, age 7, and Sebastian, 5.

“Family life certainly keeps me busy when I’m not at my desk and I’m never happier than when I’m spending time with them and friends, enjoying the local beaches, countryside and of course the local gin.

“Mark and I have always loved to travel, with the children in tow our globetrotting wings are clipped a little for now, but we’re making the most of some amazing family holidays, chilling and spending quality time in the sun.”

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