Andrew Pygott began his life in the theatre with local amateur groups. Today he’s the man who puts events around the world up in lights! He spoke to VAL JAVIN
‘He has worked on tours with Sir Elton John and lit shows for many other high profile artists’
WHEN it comes to turning Castle Hill purple or wowing audiences with special theatre effects on board Cunard’s latest ship the Queen Victoria, then Andrew Pygott is your man.
With the team at his Skelmanthorpe-based business Innovation Productions, he can put any event right there in the spotlight.
And that means everything from a conference to an outdoor concert, from a familiar landmark such as Huddersfield’s Jubilee Tower to the swishest entertainment space on a top notch cruise liner or to the latest tour gig with a man who can sparkle with the best of them, Elton John.
At 33, Andrew Pygott looks like any successful young business executive. He wears a smart suit, has an engaging manner and just the right air of confidence to convince you that he can put your event in lights.
But you suspect that there’s nothing he enjoys more than rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in to any sound or lighting conundrum.
The mysteries of lighting and sound effects are plain sailing to Andrew who has been steeped in both since he was a child. There was really never any doubt where his talents would take him.
His passion for lighting, sound and it seems anything to do with event staging, began thanks to his family’s interest in amateur theatre.
Both his parents, who still live in Waterloo, were involved with Almondbury Players, his mum on stage and dad behind the scenes as the technical wizard.
“I think that the first job I was allowed to do was to nail down the carpet on stage. Then I was allowed to sell sweets at the interval. Mum used to act and dad did the lighting. The Players then let me loose on the lighting helping my dad.”
It didn’t take long before the youngster was immersed in theatre. “I was quite interested in plays by then and would say why don’t we do this one or that. And how would it be lit?”
By the time he was 13, Andrew had also joined the team at Huddersfield Light Opera Company helping with shows staged at Huddersfield Town Hall.
“They had quite good budgets for the town hall show. They used to hire everything in and that was a fantastic background. For most people who work in theatre, the equipment is just there and they take it for granted.
“They don’t always know how it actually works. We used to have to build the system up, test it to make sure it worked and design it to suit the needs of the actual show.”
Walk round the premises of Innovation Productions at Skelmanthorpe and you realise what a dream business this is for Andrew – and quite possibly his dad!
The business can design lighting and sound systems plus video and staging. They offer technical and event management, as well as installing and servicing equipment. Oh and if you want to hire kit or get the right training in how to run sound and lighting, these are your experts.
Andrew and his wife Debbie live in Denby Dale and are expecting their first child any time now.
It’s about to be a whole new lifestyle for a businessman whose family still pitch in to help out.
“Dad was an electrical engineer and mum had the arty side. It came together perfectly and I had a very good background by the time I left school. And yes, they do both still pop in here to help.”
A stint working at Blackpool Pleasure Beach followed by six months in Belgium with a touring ice show soon showed Andrew where his electrical engineering studies were going to be put to use. And when he got a contract working on cruise ships for Airtours, that learning curve escalated.
“We had three ships and then they bought another one. We went to the States to pick up the ship. I was representing the entertainment department.
“They just gave me a big bunch of keys and said, good luck. I think that the captain and the rest got a bit more training on how to drive it away!”
“On the way back we wrote the specification for what we wanted and the ship had a refit in Birkenhead.”
Andrew’s reputation was growing fast. He was barely back on dry land before Cunard came calling.
“They flew me to Los Angeles to join the QE2 as it cruised to Hawaii so that I could see how it operated. They wanted somebody to bring out the Queen Mary 2.”
What he means is that the team from Innovation Productions got to do technical work on GM2 which had more venues than any other ship, a multi-million dollar specification and the sort of facilities many theatres would envy.
“The main theatre has a motorised flying system, a revolving stage with five lift platforms.” The list goes on.
“The technology on ships these days is better even than that in the Royal Opera House. I don’t know any land-based theatre that has the technology that ships have.
“A lot of the new ships have hydraulic scene dock doors so that you can lift things straight in. On the QM2, the sound system in the main theatre had over 100 speakers. The technology on that ship was top of the range.”
Cruise in style and you clearly get the best, even when you settle down to watch a show on board. Big name performers, big technical capabilities.
The latest ship to get a taste of the Andrew Pygott magic is Cunard’s newest baby, the Queen Victoria which launched late last year. It has a state of the art theatre, named the Royal Court, and no prizes for guessing who is currently designing sound and lighting for its shows.
Innovations has eight full-time staff including lighting programmers and designers, an office manager, a project co-ordinator plus staff who work on research and maintenance. Andrew, you suspect, could turn his hand to any of it.
A storage area stacked high with the kind of equipment guaranteed to turn most theatre technicians green with envy, is testament to the company’s flexibility and its ability to provide the right technical gear to light up any event.
Between lighting shows on ships, working with major sites like Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield as well as lighting up landmarks like our own Jubilee Tower, Innovations’ staff are kept busy.
Andrew has worked on tours with Sir Elton John and lit shows for many other high profile artists, including Beyonce, Bon Jovi, Nathan Lane and Glenn Close particularly on the QM2.
“Elton John’s shows are fantastic. He has a permanent lighting designer and the sound system he has just knocks you for six.
“Mainly they tour with a rig that remains the same but when they’ve put on extra shows and toured with a different rig, then I’ve programmed that on a separate lighting desk.”
And if it means the occasional private jet between places, then Andrew’s perfectly happy to take that on board too.