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Dominic Stokes, of City Hall Sheffield, SIV Conferencing & Business Events, talks amateur dramatics, Alex Turner and the Great North Run
My background is in community theatre – but always backstage, doing the lighting, the organising. Nowadays, you’ll only catch me in the spotlight when we’re evacuating the building.
My first job in the industry was as a trainee theatre manager at Apollo Leisure. I spent three years at Liverpool Empire Theatre – with a break of nine months when I worked at The Oxford Apollo.
I first became a GM at the Felixstowe Spa Pavilion theatre and restaurant in 2001. I like to say I was the youngest theatre manager to retire to the seaside!
The job at Sheffield City Hall came up when I was at Sunderland Empire. I was looking for a new challenge. The gig history of the venue really appealed to me – I wanted to be part of it; I wanted to book major pop and rock acts.
A real highlight here was having Morrissey on stage, but my all-time favourite gig was The Last Shadow Puppets. The sound was such a great fit for the venue and the fact that Alex Turner is a local boy made it really special.
I’m looking forward to the next Lib Dem conference, which is being held at City Hall in 2011. It will really put us on the map in terms of events – it shows how far we’ve come. People thought we were just a gig venue but we’ve proven we’re a bona fide events space.
The best part of my job is the diversity. We hold over 700 events each year, ranging from meetings for 12-15 people in the VIP suites, to major gigs for 2,000 fans.
My dream event would be The MTV Awards – if they scaled it down for us in terms of numbers! It’s a unique mix of history and spectacle. I’d also like to get the other major political parties to have their conferences here.
My tip for event organisers is to talk to venue managers more, demand more from them. Don’t assume it will cost too much, or be too difficult. Sometimes I feel people don’t always ask for what they really want.
To get away from it all, I spend time with my children – I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son and an eight-week-old daughter. I’m also in training for the Great North Run – I’m not a natural sportsman so it’s a real challenge. I’m up to nine or ten miles three or four times a week and I find it really clears the mind.
My favourite venue in the world has to be Treetops in Kenya, where I spent my honeymoon. It overlooks a watering hole, where lions and elephants gather. It’s the place where Princess Elizabeth went to sleep and woke up a queen.
City Hall Sheffield, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA
Tel: 0114 223 3734,
SIV Conferencing & Business Events
Tel: 0870 121 3690
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, summer 2010