Home-grown success for firmthat shunned Olympic glory

A GATESHEAD company which turned its back on bidding for Olympic work is reaping the rewards of remaining in the North East.

A GATESHEAD company which turned its back on bidding for Olympic work is reaping the rewards of remaining in the North East.

Hi-Lights has been supplying lighting, sound, staging and audio visual equipment for events for two decades. In 2012, it worked behind the scenes on high-profile projects including Stockton International Riverside Festival, Great North Run, Children in Need and the NewcastleGateshead Winter Carnival and New Year fireworks at the River Tyne, which it sponsored.

The business was set up from home by managing director Martin Warden and now has a £850,000 turnover.

He said: “I outgrew my house and decided I needed to take it into premises. There are 13 of us now and we have moved a couple of times – we now have 8,500sq ft of offices, warehousing and production facilities.

“This was probably one of our best financial years.”

Although Hi-Lights benefited from Diamond Jubilee-related events in the North East, Warden changed his mind after initial plans to get involved in the 2012 Olympics.

He said: “I had always wanted to take the company to London to be part of the Olympics but in the end, we chose not to.

“We picked up a lot of business as a result of smaller companies that went to London. From a business stand point, it was better for us to stay here because we picked up business.”

Hi-Lights was the lead contractor at the 2011 Luminere festival of lights in Durham and has been re-appointed for the event’s return in November this year.

“I was the technical director there. I had four pieces of art there and built 15 pieces for other artists,” said Warden.

“There is a feeling that you have to go to London and that’s not true – the North East is actually very strong creatively.

“We do a lot of events locally – 85-90% of our work is in the North East. The main reason for that is we have a big outdoor music stage but transporting it costs a fortune.”

The company has been asked to take the stage to Cornwall, but he said the cost of moving the equipment would price Hi-Lights out of the job. In addition to large outdoor events, the business also works behind the scenes on the likes of awards dinners, university balls, fashions shows, and amateur theatre.

“We also do work with schools as well as helping with school productions,” said Warden.

“We support other production companies in the region with equipment hire.”

He said the company supported the Winter Carnival to say thanks to the region for its support of the company.

“The reason we did was because as a local company, you feel a responsibility to your customers,” said Warden.

“You get to know people. It’s almost a way of saying thank you to the region.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
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