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Backstage Stars – Dan Harris

Backstage Stars
18 November 2019

As general manager at ASM Global, Dan Harris is responsible for Hull’s Bonus Arena (cap. 3,500), and The Baths Hall (1,800) and The Plowright Theatre (354) in Scunthorpe. With a new multi-functional hybrid design, the Bonus Arena has hosted concerts with  The Courteeners, Stereophonics and Catfish & The Bottlemen since opening in August 2018.

What are your first live music memories?

“I grew up in Plymouth and in the mid-to-late ‘80s there was a relatively healthy local music scene, with several pubs promoting live music seven nights a week.

“My brother and his mates put a band together and I helped lug boxes around and pretended I knew what I was doing behind a mixing desk. I saw a lot of bands around that time – some good and some less so. But there was nothing better at that time than standing in a hot, smoke-filled pub listening and dancing to tunes being belted out.

“Later, in ‘93, I went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time and I was totally and completely blown away by the whole experience – the bands, the theatre, the size of the site – everything.

“It was at that festival that I knew for sure I wanted to work in the live music industry.”

How did you get into the music industry?

“Within my first week at Buckinghamshire College in 1991, I joined the ents crew and ended-up running the nights. I did everything; advancing the shows, sorting out the riders, booking production, promoting the shows, doing the box office and DJ-ing.

“After I graduated I worked as ents manager for the Students Union for a couple of years organising everything from gigs to comedy nights, club nights, awards dinners and an annual black tie ball.

“I continued in the Students’ Union sector and worked at Brunel University between 1998 and 2000, organising and delivering their events programme, which included HedKandi nights and a regular drum ‘n’ and bass night featuring LTJ Bukem.

“After Brunel I worked for an internet company in London in their broadcast section and we filmed and broadcast events such as the Q Awards, MTV Awards and archived hours and hours of footage for MTV’s new on-demand service.

“It was really exciting work, but the internet bubble burst, the money dried-up and we were all made redundant.

“I hit the freelance world and worked on various events and music tours (2001 – 2003) before taking a job as events manager with the National Trust in the South East of England. After that I went to work as general manager at The Hexagon [1,970] in Reading between 2005 and 2011.”

What were your high and low points?

“While working for the National Trust I promoted a series of open-air gigs including the only open-air show that year by Ian Brown [July 2004] at Claremont Garden in Esher. The gig was extraordinary – 5,000 rampant Brown/Roses fans in a sleepy Surrey village. Noel Gallagher turned up to play a couple of numbers with Ian.

“I remember during the sound check sitting on the hill in front of the stage, radio off, with the rest of the crew enjoying our own private gig. A clear memorable moment.   

“Opening the Bonus Arena has been a high point. It is tough opening a new venue in a traditionally challenging region against the Brexit backdrop, but the programme has really taken-off and there is huge momentum right now with lots of support from all the major promoters and the city stakeholders.

“The Arena is one of the legacy projects of City of Culture 2017 and I am really proud to be leading the work there, with a great team of people.”

Where do you see the industry going?

“I’m intrigued how the technology for the front-of-house customer experience will develop. There has been a multitude of ideas over the last few years, some of which work reasonably well and others that have been poorly thought through and are actually pointless.

“Nothing will ever replace the live experience, so talk of virtual reality, remote access and such like really irritates me. Live is live and you can only ever get the full live experience by being in the room at that moment. Nothing replicates it or replaces it.”

How do you unwind?

“My wife Sacha is the best and has been supportive of my work from day one, putting up with all the weird nuances that come with the live music and entertainment industry. And I have two brilliant children, Maia [14] and a son, Zayd [11].

“My son plays football and I manage his team, so my Sunday mornings are spent on a wet, muddy touchline encouraging the next crop of football superstars. Quite a challenge after a late-night Saturday show, but a great way to switch-off from work.

“I spend as much time in the garden as I can – nothing too adventurous just looking after it. I listen to as much music as possible. old and new, and I keep discovering some really interesting and fun podcasts too.

“Netflix and I have become good friends and I love watching a good movie or box set when I can.”

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