profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 50 in a continuing series
Joint Managing Director, DHA Lighting
Diane's relationship with theatre and live performance began when she was just 10 years old and entered a talent contest at a Butlins holiday camp. Whilst her singing left a lot to be desired - and still does - her dancing had potential and led to her school years being punctuated with amateur productions, choreography projects and auditions.
That all came to an abrupt end in 1981, however, when she took the moral high ground and refused a place on an educational dance degree course at the Laban Centre because "she was an artist, not a teacher", and had to suffer the indignity of looking for work as a dancer. The audition process did not go well being unqualified, under-experienced and - let's face it - short! A day job became increasingly necessary.
Diane then began her well-known relationship with shops and shopping through management training courses and subsequent positions in many of Oxford Street's department stores. But retail wasn't really her thing and she began spending her days off working for free for a music publisher and recording studio. Her persistence finally paid off when she went to work full time for Atmosphere music. Over the next five years Diane ran the administration, accounts and sales for this budding music library, but managed to leave the company just months before it was sold to a major publisher, making all of the original employees significantly wealthier and more secure.
She left Atmosphere Music and ran off to Hong Kong in search of romance and to run the business side of a new lighting and sound hire company, which was just starting its operation there. After four months she issued a report to the directors telling them where they were going wrong and then ran back to the UK for cover and Christmas. She never returned!
Back in the UK Diane worked as a video production assistant before becoming right hand person to alleged ‘fitness guru' Carole Caplin - now famous for being Cherie Blair's best friend! She then went back to music publishing, had a brief moment in knee replacement manufacture - best not to dwell on this part - spent three days as a city property developer's PA, until he was raided at dawn by the Inland Revenue, and then set up her own fitness company ‘for the more discerning client'.
For a year Diane and two partners worked long and hard until the untimely and sad death of her main investor led to the decision to wind up the company. It was then that light came into her life in the form of Malham Lighting Design. MLD was a local company in need of an organised individual to cover maternity leave and Diane just wanted a little job whilst she got over the stress of a business that had not ended happily. However, she soon embroiled herself in the team, computerising anything she could and learning to live with the idiosyncrasies of lighting designers.
This huge learning curve paid off in 1995 when David Hersey took a leap of faith and decided not to employ the business school graduate who nearly became DHA's business manager, but to take a chance on Diane's energy and diverse experience. Since then his faith has been rewarded and Diane is now joint MD of DHA Lighting, a PLASA committee member and a well-known face in the industry. "It's been a fantastic few years," she says, "both stressful and rewarding. I've never stuck any job for more than two years, but I'm still at DHA seven years on. It's never the same from one year to the next and we are planning some pretty exciting and fundamental changes to the way DHA operates, so I think I'll be here a while yet."
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