From private parties to a stadium tour with Take That, tour managing The Pogues and working on stages at some of the UK’s biggest festivals including Boomtown and Glastonbury, production manager, tour manager and educator Zoe Hodge has enjoyed a rich and diverse career path. Here she reflects on the journey.
When were you first interested in festivals and what was your first experience of attending one?
Festivals, particularly the more alternative variety, have been a lifestyle choice for me from a young age. I first went to Glastonbury at 14. Not long after that I hitched from my home in Colchester to Womad in Reading. Those were the days when you could squeeze through the perimeter fence as it was heras. Not that I condone that behaviour of course. I was involved in the free party scene in the 1990s and that was very much what my teens were about. Festivals were an extension of that. I loved them. It was about music and expression and fun.
Did that spark an interest in seeking a career in production?
Not consciously no, my career in production was accidental really. I spent a long time attending, volunteering for and getting involved in festivals. Whether it was helping to build the Lost Vagueness Church at Glastonbury or running a festival swag shop at Robodock in Amsterdam, I was often ‘working’. Seldom paid; usually a ticket and if you were lucky catering. From my early 20s I began working in event production in a more legitimate capacity.
What’s the first career highlight that comes to mind?
My first tour was a stadium tour with Take That (The Circus). It was a baptism of fire. I had been brought in by the PM Chris Vaughan to help with props during the rehearsals and they decided to take me along for the ride. Those first big stadium shows were unbelievable.
What led to you working at Glastonbury and has the role changes much since?
My role as technical coordinator for The Park Stage started in 2015. I have worked at Glastonbury many times prior in various guises, but this was the first on a purely music stage. I had had my daughter Billie just over a year before and was not sure how to get back into the game. I was thrilled when the role was offered to me. As a team on Park we have refined things over the years but that stage has a particular identity at the festival so it is very much about keeping that in mind when planning and communicating with incoming artists.
In between working on festivals such as Boomtown you have tour managed artists including The Darkness and The Pogues – how does the work compare?
Tour managing The Pogues and being the stage PM for Sector 6 /Nucleus at Boomtown are contrasting roles –essentially you are people managing and organising but the application is different. For the Boomtown stages I looked after, and the festival generally, there is such a huge focus on custom builds. The creativity at that festival is second to none, which makes it so much fun to work on but equally a massive challenge. My time with The Pogues was some of the best years of my life. I had to stop touring after becoming a mum as it’s not possible to take your kid with you. No regrets, the different path brought me back to festivals and into education.
What led you to become a lecturer in stage and production management?
As a family we moved up to Yorkshire for my husband’s work. Backstage Academy asked me if I would be interested in getting involved with the Stage Management BA there as they needed some help with developing the course and industry lecturers for it. I changed the focus to stage and production management, ensuring it was more relevant to show management more generally.
If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?
Equality, diversity and overtime? Oh that’s three.