From a Royal Variety Show to a Mobo Award, John Bridge, director at Travelbeat, recalls the star turns in his career to Katherine Lawrey.
Family holidays helped inspire John Bridge with a love of travel and a school trip to New York in 2001 sparked a lifelong passion for that city in particular. “9/11 happened not long after, “ he recalls. “I was in an IT class and I remember the whole day suddenly stopping.”
While studying business and PR at Liverpool John Moores, he worked in the box office at the Liverpool Empire. This rapidly evolved into a marketing role, which coincided with Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. “My course became secondary to my work at the theatre,” he says. “It was great to experience the celebration from the venue’s perspective and to be there for the Royal Variety Performance in December 2007, when the Queen attended.”
By the end of his 18-month stint, John was driving marketing campaigns for one-night shows. “It was a great grounding for me,” he admits.
His first role after graduating was at the Unity Theatre, where he was influential in helping the Snow Queen to become the theatre’s first Christmas show in a decade to make a surplus. “The Unity allowed me to be creative and bring some commercial thinking to a non-profit,” he says. “But being a smaller studio theatre, there wasn’t enough tourism in the job for me.”
Bill Elms, a mentor from John’s Empire days, gave him an opening to join his arts and entertainment-focused marketing and PR agency.
“We looked after the PR & marketing for the reopening of Scarborough Open Air Theatre,” he says. “Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa sang at the opening gala. I also worked on Liverpool’s first Pride and we launched the Brazilica Festival, with 60,000 visitors in its first year.
But the biggest highlight was turning around a tricky client relationship, when he wrote the winning entry for Merseyside Dance Initiative’s BeMobo Award.
“Early on, I messed up a photo shoot so the client and I were not always on best terms. So it was super exciting to see her walk on stage on live TV. I still remember how loudly she screamed down the microphone!”
A personal referral led John to London and into a head of marketing role at Made, thrusting him into the heart of West End representation. His four years there saw the company’s client list diversify into museums and exhibitions and a print advertising focus shift into the social and digital realm. He also cemented Made’s trade partnerships with the likes of Attraction World and helped expand the West End’s inbound markets. “It was inspiring to work with clients whose commitment to tourism continued to grow,” he says. “The biggest shows were willing to take a punt on new markets, such as China and Brazil, and lay the foundations for when they started to come in their droves.”
John left Made in April this year when the opportunity arose to represent the Warner Bros Studio Tour on a year-long contract. He joined forces with his partner, Symeon Vasiliadis, to share the business resources of his company Travelbeat and set about growing the client list. Some clients, such as New York’s One World Observatory, have followed him across, while others such as Madison Square Garden are new.
It’s no coincidence that his first love is such a fertile ground for clients. “Despite 9/11, the magic of New York has remained and grown, and I love being a part of that.”
With Symeon’s digital focus and his marketing skills, John feels they can corner both the inbound and outbound markets with their personal boutique style service: “I have no intention of taking on 30-40 clients,” he says. “I’d rather do great work for a limited number, than have them feel neglected.”
“But I do need to figure out a direction for the business, and that’s where I know 30 Under 30 will help.”