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Backstage stars – Nancy Skipper

Backstage Stars
18 December 2018

Finding accounting in the City far from stimulating, Nancy Skipper set out to fill her life with activity and appears to have succeeded, not least by being a single parent with three kids.  She is administrator for the National Arenas Association, general manager of the European Arenas Association, co-director of Ginger Owl Productions (with Julie Chennells), works as a promoter on tours with artistes such as Jools Holland and is an Honorary Commander for the 100th Force Support Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, helping to bring together people working in the local community with people doing similar roles for the USAF.

What are your first live music memories?

“Music had always been big for me and I have great memories of attending Reading Festival, aged 16 and many nights spent at Cambridge Corn Exchange, when I was growing up in Suffolk.

“I still have a ticket Jarvis Cocker signed me while watching the support act before Pulp headlined at The Junction in Cambridge. He wrote ‘keep this with you at all times, love Jarvis’.

“I haven’t worked out what to do with it, it’s in a box full of tickets and passes collected from over 20 years.”

How did you get into the music industry?

“I moved to London at 17 to work as a bookkeeper for my aunt’s accountancy business. She is an amazing person who taught me so much. We did accounts for advertising businesses in Soho.

“I loved the relaxed and creative atmosphere of those businesses, all owned and run by self-made people who had carved a niche for themselves in their industries. After a couple of years, I moved to an accounts job with a law firm in the City, where it was just banks and offices. Needless to say I absolutely hated it.

“Then, when I was 19, a job as PA to the financial director at Harvey Goldsmith Entertainment [HGE] came up in April 1997, and I jumped at the chance to get back to a more creative environment.

“HGE was also where I first met my business partner Julie Chennells.”

How did your career develop?

“I left HGE for a year and went to work at Virgin Management, the head office of Richard Branson’s Virgin companies.

It was great, but I missed the live entertainment world and returned to Harvey in 2001. By 2003 I had moved into production with a more hands-on role, looking after ticketing for events like Teenage Cancer Trust and Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra’s tour.

“Working the Live 8 event in Hyde Park [2 July 2005], which featured Paul McCartney, U2, Pink Floyd, The Who, Elton John, Coldplay, Madonna, The Killers and more, was amazing. Nothing will ever compare to the intensity and impact of working on an event like that.

“Over the next couple of years, I learned more and worked in marketing and on-site at various events.  The great thing about working in a smaller office was that we all had to get involved and learn all aspects.”

What were your greatest low and high points?

“After Live 8, the office environment changed, my colleagues had all moved on to other things. I took the decision to move to Devon and find a proper job at last. I went for a few interviews and quickly realised life in a nine-to-five job in the countryside was very different.

“Shortly after the move,I received a phone call from Paul Loasby, manager of Jools Holland and David Gilmour. He asked me to work on the Jools‘ autumn tour and David Gilmour’s 2006 Royal Albert Hall shows, from Devon.

“This was the turning point in my career and the pivotal moment from where all that exists now began.

“Paul is still a client and without him none of this would have been possible. Running the David Gilmour shows was definitely a highlight, during one of the shows David Bowie appeared as a guest, the only occasion he ever performed at the venue.

“At this time, I also met David Farrow of DMF Music in Exeter, and I worked on their Beautiful Days festival – still one of my favourite events to have worked on to this day.

Where do you see the industry going?

“The live music business is changing and it’s exciting to see new ideas and technologies coming through.

“Arenas are at the forefront of new technologies in safety and security and some of the products available now for audience scanning are fascinating, I am fortunate to see and hear about them first hand as part of my NAA and EAA roles.

“It’s also great to see events and shows becoming ever more accessible, with people across the industry working with [charity] Attitude is Everything and companies like [sign language translator] Performance Interpreting.”

How do you unwind?

“I am lucky to have worked with so many amazing events and artistes, My roles keep me so busy sometimes it’s hard to focus on the future – I get to travel all over the UK and Europe. I have worked in Nigeria, South Africa and visited the USA.

“I have run the Marathon and jumped out of a plane, both for Teenage Cancer Trust, and am always up for the next challenge.

“Meanwhile, I am a single parent with three lively kids – son Sam [aged 16], Abby [9] and Josh [7] – and we now live in a Suffolk village with our ginger cat who is the most spoiled member of the family.

“Downtime is not something I have very much of, and when I do it’s usually spent with family, friends or on the beautiful Suffolk beaches close by. Just getting a good night’s sleep is an achievement in itself.

“A personal ambition for 2019 is to visit Barcelona, in all my travels for work I have never been there and it’s been top of the list for such a long time.”

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