profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 22 in a continuing series
Group General Manager - iLight Group
Graham Eales grew up in the sunny city of Durban in South Africa, suffering a life of beaches, surfing, rugby and cricket - with the added diversion of a bunch of J8 Dimmers, Patt 23s and 123s in the school hall. He got into lighting shows at school, as being an all-boy establishment it was the best way to meet girls drafted in for the productions. Duly distracted, he fell out of a lighting rig for the first time and dislocated his shoulder.
At University he got bored studying law and started working backstage in the University Theatre in Durban, and second year in switched to Drama and spent all his spare time in theatres around the campus. The next year he also started some design work in the smaller local pro theatres. Lighting designer was a bold title given the size of the rig and the fact that he was the only one prepared to do the work. He failed university miserably, but enjoyed his lighting work. Staying at University to avoid national service he started working full time for the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC), a heavily subsidised government body. NAPAC soon moved into a new complex that had two pros arch theatres, a studio, a cabaret venue, and several other performing spaces. Adding to this a resident modern dance company, drama company, opera company and symphony orchestra, Graham ended up with one of the best training venues for a lighting tech designer.
He spent the next six years (excluding a two-year detour into the army) developing his lighting skills and having fun touring the backwoods of South Africa trying to fit large opera's into small town halls, one of which mysteriously burnt down shortly after the crew hooked in a temporary dimmer supply. At this point he fell out of a lighting grid for second time, seriously damaging his ego, but nothing else. Along the way he also won a lighting design award.
Finding working for a quasi government theatre company was not providing the best salary in the world he went freelance doing corporate theatre, and led to his involvement with Production Projects, the major South African rental and sales company. He was soon setting up an office in Durban and developing his sales skills. As the dealer for Zero 88 and ADB he soon discovered that it was quite fun to haggle and sell a project. He was also touring shows that ranged from a sold out 67,000 seat concert staring Amitabh Batchan, an elephant, horse, fake hot air balloon in a rugby stadium to the more normal 24 parcan two-podium gig. Highlight was a three-week tour to St. Petersburg in Russia to organise a large corporate show around the palaces in the city.
After falling out of a lighting rig for the third time, and breaking his ankle, Graham decided on a career change and went in search of more agencies and included was a visit to New Zealand to see Selecon. It was timely; they were looking for someone to cover the Asian Market for them and this provided a suitable challenge. In six weeks had returned to SA, packed up, sold up and left for the land of the long white cloud. The next six years at Selecon were a blast, travelling, selling and helping spec product. He developed from being Asia Market Manager to being Mr International with responsibility for all export markets which meant nine months of travel a year. He launched Selecon into the US, set up distribution networks globally, and racked up the air miles. During this time he also picked up his much neglected academic career and got an MBA.
Graham's career at Selecon culminated with a semi-permanent visit to the UK to establish Selecon UK. Having done this he decided to take six months off and resigned. Within a week he was at Zero 88 as Sales and Marketing Director. Zero is now part of iLight Group and launched their Frog desks at the same time. In the past month he has suddenly risen to be Group General Manager with responsibility for all the operations of the iLight Group. This will be something of a challenge as it means running not only the sales operations but a factory and R&D department. The aim is to bring the two brands closer together and offer lighting control users and specifiers a one-stop shop.
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