David Comer presented the Lifetime Achievement to Meri Took – this is what he had to say about his friend and colleague…
Meri was born in England and came to Australia with his family in 1965, settling in South Australia with his two younger siblings.
From an early age Meri showed a strong aptitude for mathematics which lead to him winning a scholarship to Adelaide Uni at the age of 16. But rather than maths it was politics and music that took his interest.
He helped organise his first event in 1971, the Third Vietnam Moratorium which closed the centre of Adelaide and helped change public opinion against conscription.
It was also at this time that he became the music editor for Adelaide Uni’s Jazz, Rock and Blues Club Review, who also staged weekly concerts in the University’s Union Hall. He had been bitten by the music bug and packed his bags for the big smoke of Melbourne.
In ‘74 he got his big break playing percussion with Skyhooks on their Heat of the Night Tour. He then joined the funk reggae band Pantha which lead to his move to Sydney. In order to make some extra cash he combined the roles of musician and roadie… the beginning of his journey from on stage to back stage.
Working on the 1978 Bob Dylan Tour in Australia was the clincher and our man was hooked. Fascination with all facets of full technical production fuelled his passion. But frustrated by the levels of service provided he decided to take matters into his own hands and started his own business – Sydney Crewing Service. Hard work and a strong commitment to providing promotors with the best possible crew saw the business flourish.
This lead to him touring with international acts as the lighting director. He toured with Elton John, The Police, Dire Straits, Cher, Kiss, David Bowie to name but a few. A major career highlight was to take the position of Lighting Director for Cold Chisel of who he was a huge fan.
Then in 1983 his career once again took another major twist. The opportunity arose to work on the launch of a new type of computer – to his surprise he won the job and found himself in Hawaii producing the launch of this new computer – the Apple Macintosh.
After two years on the road, he came home exhausted and started Production Techniques – the first ever Australian company to offer full production services to the fledgling event industry.
Soon after he met Peter Rix and became the Production Manager for the ARL grand final spectaculars – and to this day Peter Rix remains a lifetime friend and colleague.
Production Techniques ran its course and Meri went back to Production Managing rock and roll tours until his old mate Rixy convinced him to become Production Director of the launch of the new Toyota Land Cruiser. It was then that it dawned on him that there was a potential market in Australia for staging and drapes and so Staging Rentals was born.
Meri rented a leaky shed in Leichhardt and threw every penny he had into the business. As the events business grew so did Staging Rentals and in the 90’s construction capability was added providing new opportunities to work on bigger events such as Motor Show, ARIA Awards and Fashion Week
The business continued to grow and became known for its can-do attitude. When Simon Locke was attempting to get Australian Fashion Week off the ground, Meri was one to the first people he approached to become a supply partner to the event. 19 years later Staging Rentals continue to supply catwalks to Fashion week.
Production Director of the Paralympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 2000 was both the most challenging and rewarding of roles, whilst Production Director for the NSW Schools Spectacular saw him work with some of the most talented performers in the country for over 15 years.
The motto he has lived his life by is that “ you are only as good as your last gig” which I think succinctly sums up his character, a man who is always looking ahead, embraces change and is constantly seeking new and creative ways of doing things.
This man and his peers are the trailblazers who built the Events Industry from the ground up, who through perseverance, innovation, and extraordinary hard work created the industry we all work in.
The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to my friend and business partner, the founder of Staging Rentals & Construction, Meri Took.