Since taking her first step into the events industry with English Heritage at 21, Sodexo Live! UK&I CEO Rebecca Kane Burton has navigated an impressive career path including roles at The O2 and Alexandra Palace.
What attracted you to the events industry?
I’d always been an amateur performer, for as long as I can remember. There is nothing more exciting than the hushed anticipation of a live performance about to start. For me, it doesn’t matter if there are five or 50,000 people; the magic of the event itself is always what keeps the audience coming back for more.
You’ve had an impressive career in venue management, give us an example of a landmark moment.
One that springs to mind was during the recession, when I took on the role of MD at Alexandra Palace. It was one of those “what have I got myself into” moments, as the venue needed a full transformation and due to the economic climate at the time it was a real challenge. However, we did attract new business, and it still fills me with pride to see it continue to be such a success today.
You were involved in the Olympics at The O2, how challenging was that?
I was extremely lucky to have an incredible team at The O2, who had been prepping for more than three years before I joined. I have always been the sort of manager that invests in people and helps them to shine and play to their strengths.
At LW Theatres both you and Andrew Lloyd Webber were heavily involved in lobbying the Government for support during the pandemic. What is your most abiding memory of that period?
The pandemic was an awful time for us all and many industries were severely impacted. However, I really feel theatre was treated incredibly unfairly. What happens when you stop the theatre industry, is you also stop all the things it enables – hotels, restaurants – and all that secondary spend adds up and has an impact on towns and cities across the UK. Not to mention impacting the livelihoods of the million plus people employed by the live industry.
What led you to join Sodexo Live!, and what are your priorities there?
The Sodexo Live! offering is the perfect blend of my previous roles. It has the heritage aspect I cherished at English Heritage and Alexandra Palace, combined with the live events, music, and performance side.
The pandemic left the live events industry a shell of its former self, so making way for these events to flourish will draw people back into towns and cities and support economic growth throughout the country. A vibrant events calendar supports local communities, promotes world-leading creativity, and has a tangible economic impact. That’s why I was so excited to become Sodexo Live!’s CEO. It is an opportunity to effect real change and highlight why live events and venues are crucial as the beating heart of cities and towns.
Who has influenced you most in your career?
This would have to be Ronan Dunne, who was CEO of O2 Telefonica when I ran The O2. His vision, passion, and way of getting the best out of people, while keeping the customer at the forefront, still underpins much of my work philosophy and really inspired how I like to do business.
If you could change one thing about the events industry, what would it be?
At Sodexo Live! it’s all about doing things differently and working with our venue partners to allow them to reach their full potential. Looking across the entire industry it would be to make it pandemic proof, should we ever see a repeat of the last few years.
What’s your favourite way to unwind?
I really enjoy escaping to Ireland with my partner, holidaying in Italy or doing anything with my young daughter.