On Tuesday night John Trevillian and David Grant were awarded an Australian Event Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
Each were introduced by their long time friend and associate Prue MacSween.
This is the transcript of Prue’s introduction of David Grant
In 1985, when there really wasn’t an events industry to speak of, this man suddenly appeared out of bloody nowhere and took Sydney by storm.
He didn’t leave an established company and steal clients, he didn’t go to a good school with lots of influential mates, his family were of ordinary means with no contacts and he had no track record in an industry no one knew existed. He just worked from the portable office in his shabby electric blue ford laser and talked the talk and walked the walk.
His events were, and remain, one of the creative benchmarks for a very competitive industry and that’s what has made him stand out all this time, from day one, way back in 1985.
His parties on the social calendar were mad, bad, stylish, daring, beautiful and simply like no other – the Cointreau Ball, of which he produced 9 of the 11 years, became legendary in the Australian party world.
He ignored every rule and regulation, or had them rewritten. He disdained authority, avoided the everyday and today continues to create moments of great magic and often poetry, of unrivalled style, fun and glamour.
No challenge was ever too hard (he burnt down a Port Douglas sugarcane field 4 times a year for inbound US incentive winners), and even though the industry at that time didn’t have any of the myriad of suppliers you could call on to help today, he somehow just made things pop out of thin air.
He bought the first truly portable kitchen for the first large-scale offsite event, sewed the first chair cover, ordered the first all-clear marquee, bought the first fairylights, – prosaic and passe now, but revolutionary then – and he convinced one-man-band technical operators, chefs, florists, entertainers, you name it, that perhaps there was a proper living to be made from this seemingly crazy world of events
He was first to illuminate an Australian city when he lit nine buildings including the opera house, harbour bridge and Centrepoint tower blue for a perfume launch in 1990. He was the first to close a public space for a corporate event, and was always the first to put his hand up when someone came up with an idea that probably couldn’t be done
He was the first to put dodgem cars in a ballroom, he created a white water rafting track for an underwater party for me in a 6 storey car park. He was the first to have a party on a floating pontoon, in a sewer, on a beach, in a jail. He did camel polo –another event for me, was the first to use DJs when only a band would do, was the first to dress the waiters in something bespoke, the first to engage with the very best in every field to bring style, substance and a real flair that made events slicker, funnier, and far more aspirational than they ever had been to date – and people noticed! Budgets – for the entire industry – started to climb
And today his exceptional work for the most discerning clients in the arts, media, fashion, luxury, finance, sport, and political world is as fresh as ever
Importantly, he was the first to passionately and tirelessly explain to clients that “party planners” had the skills and ability and the flair that deserved decent recognition and a decent pay
He used his contacts from his previous career in theatre, television and journalism, plus his never-say-die attitude to truly blaze a trail for an industry, that even 30 years later, he still, amazingly, remains at the bruising forefront of – now ably supported by his creative team of 8 lead by his heir apparent, and partner, Katerina Pitsikas
His unflagging, often controversial, sense of humour, even in the scariest adversity is legendary. When he produced a series of events for President Clinton’s official visit to Sydney in 1996, he was ordered to play the official presidential anthem, “Hail to the Chief” on Clinton’s arrival during the worldwide CNN broadcast at the Botanic Gardens Fleet Steps.
But instead, to the horror of the Whitehouse and the Australian Government, he took it upon himself to play Clinton’s favourite song, the big band swing classic, “Sing Sing Sing”. Bill and Hilary laughed, and entered the event on live international TV with a smiling energy lacking til that moment.
At the cursory lightening quick handshake farewell, post the event, Clinton, when introduced to Grant as the producer, quipped “ahh you’re that crazy guy, Thank the Lord, you made my day, I love Australians” – but for some reason, he never worked for the Prime Minister’s Department again !
I remember he bet me $100 to say fuck in my first sentence at a very formal, high-level govt meeting full of stuff-shirt heads of departments…and I won that bet, much to their shock and horror – but at least it broke the ice!
His innate sense of what’s hot and what’s not, and his rare ability to entertain kings and queens plus celebrities and the everyday man and woman in the street keeps him as engaged, as vibrant and as relevant today as he ever was
He’s done over 5000 events, he’s produced the VIP events for 10 summer and winter Olympic Games – more than any other event producer – and has worked constantly throughout the USA.
He’s won over 35 industry awards including MEA’s “Australian Event Organiser of the Year” a record Ten Times and he was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) in 2005 in the Queen’s Birthday Australian Honours List
But through all that, he remains the same down-to-earth, imaginative bloke who never stops striving to do the best events he can, day in day out across 3 amazing decades
He’s my kind of guy….he drinks, he swears, he stays out late, he drives like a demon, parks illegally and even today he still climbs ladders to rig the impossible…. but regardless, he’s still at the top of his game.
He gives back to the industry by constantly taking time to speak at industry events, obscure educational facilities, to the random people who ring for advice weekly – friends, competitors, anyone
Yet, 5 hernias, 1 back rebuild, 1 knee reconstruction and various other war wounds from this “hands on” predilection, and somehow surviving on only 4 hours sleep a night, he’s still, somehow, standing
IOC President Samaranch once famously said of him in the lead-up to the Athens Olympics “call Lord Grant, he’s the only person after Stalin that could possibly fix this mess you’ve got us into”
And as the Creative Director for Sports illustrated in New York once said, “how does that crazy motherfucker think up that undoable shit and then make it 10 times better than we ever thought possible and we’re supposed to be party central”
His work has also taken him to every corner of Australia, and the world, including the most obscure and difficult locations, where he has taken great delight in nurturing the local events communities
He’s a genuine “character” that helped shape and continues to push the boundaries of your industry. And he has made it a bigger and better industry for us all to work in.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to call to the stage my mate and colleague, and the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, David Grant