profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 95 in a continuing series
Sales Director, White Light Group
After serving an electrical apprenticeship with a local company in West Byfleet, Surrey, Peter Threadgold went on to train as a service engineer with a television, hi-fi, and video company. In those days, televisions still had valves, the latest video machine was the Philips VCR format, and a new information service was just starting to be transmitted called Teletext!
Having finished studies, on his day off he attended Carshalton College (where he met his wife) and night school at Kingston College. He then decided to go freelance as an engineer, eventually opening a shop in Surbiton. It was here he first met John Lethbridge and Colin Whitaker of Cerebrum Lighting who had premises on the same parade. "I used to see these large trucks coming and going from Cerebrum with names from all over the world on the sides," says Peter. "I remember thinking that it looked like an interesting business to be in!"
Colin lent Peter a copy of the British Theatre Directory, and he went through it, duly writing to various companies to see if they had any work for freelance engineers with an electrical and electronics background. One of the replies was from Cosby Controls, later to become Eurolight, who were just down the road in New Malden. Cosby Controls was run by Nick Mobsby and Derrick Coe, and as the workload from Cosby increased, Peter decided to sell his shop and work for them full time. He travelled around the country servicing dimmers and desks, and installing the new desk from Eurolight called the ‘Microlight', as manufactured by Compulite.
"This took me to some very interesting places," explains Peter. They included the theatre at JCB's main headquarters, where the artistes were really earth moving! Also the Palace Theatre in Manchester, where Barnham was about to open with Michael Crawford. I was working in the control room and Michael was rehearsing his tight-rope walk across the stage."
Cosby Controls became Eurolight, then Eurolight MSL following an amalgamation with Mike Sweetland Lighting. This resulted in a move from New Malden to Mercer Street, Covent Garden, and into the old TP shop. Here he first met industry stalwart Paul DeVille, who used to work in the shop.
When Eurolight MSL closed down, Peter decided to go freelance again, and with the aid of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, started The Lighting Company. He was immediately awarded a contract with the ILEA to be one of their specialist contractors, servicing and installing stage lighting equipment in their schools and colleges. The Lighting Company ran for around nine years, but following the abolition of ILEA, his main client, and a growing recession, he was forced to diversify into other areas to find work to pay the mortgage.
"My mother had always said ‘get yourself a trade and you'll never be out of work', which meant returning to electrical contracting, and running an electrical crew on site through a very cold winter. This was not for me, but needs insisted."
It was at this point that he met up with John Lethbridge again, and by now Cerebrum had moved to New Malden and were looking for a project manager. In true tradition of the industry they met at a Pub in Epsom, where John duly offered Peter a job. He worked at Cerebrum for about five years, eventually joining the board of directors. However, after a difficult business period he resigned and joined Gearhouse for a short time to set up a supplies division.
He joined White Light in February 1999 as sales manager and his first day was very nearly his last, as he explains. "Filmer Road in Fulham, as anyone who visited will know, is almost impossible to park in, and there was a tube strike on. So I thought I'd get a scooter! I took my CBT on the Saturday, and went off to work on the Monday morning. All went fine during the first day, but travelling home that evening on the A3 out of London going around the Robin Hood roundabout the front tyre blew out. The scooter was a write-off, but although I was badly bruised and shaken, I was still in one piece.
"Back at work the following morning, things could only get better! They did. The sales department has grown continuously and is now recognised as one of the industry's best, distributing products all over the world.
Peter has been married for 26 years, and has three children. His hobbies include lots of DIY, Koi-keeping, gardening, supporting West Ewell Wanderers under nine's football team (for obvious reasons), and ferrying the children between football matches for the boys and dance rehearsals for his daughter.
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