Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities

Paul Raymond

Director, Par Opti Projects Ltd

No. 70 in a continuing series

Paul Raymond

Caricatures by

David Lewis

The son of a Polish Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot and later diamond expert, Paul soon realised he had a difficult act to follow. First brain-washed by priests at boarding school he was then thoroughly beaten and hung out to dry by more priests at grammar school in Kensington (together with Tony Kingsley of Avitec and PLASA fame).

For some obscure reason he decided that clerical life was not for him and leaving school expertly qualified at in-toilet-smoking and having gigged from the age of 14 above a pub in Marylebone, he decided to join the opposition and embark on a career of the devil's music, left home and went to live in mainland Europe and toured in an obligatory VW bus.

"My passion for the guitar started at the age of 10 at a Boy Scouts Jamboree," explains Paul, "and when a suave, 18-year-old Canadian scout dressed in a to-die-for fluorescent cagoule and - wow! - blue jeans sang and played, I thought Gorgonzola! Cheese rules! Well, it had to start somewhere, and if it hadn't been for that I would have never gone on to discover the blues and would still be murdering Beethoven on the piano."

The rest of Paul's miss-spent youth consisted of playing guitar in bands (including The Pirates) all over the continent, hopping to and from Blighty studying electronics and being un-philistined and civilised by the love of his life, wife and mother of his three children, Bozi. It was in his twenties that his interest had broadened to theatre and painting and especially his then new discovery of kinetic art.

"My first job was working for an importer and distributor of Japanese audio," Paul continues, "and I learned a lot about building amplifiers the right way as we were frequently mending products from Japanese manufacturers whose equipment wasn't too good in those days. But after a while, with the long hours and poor pay, though my boss would occasionally ply me with superb salt beef sandwiches in lieu of a rise, I decided I needed a real, and not just a McJob. Then lady luck smiled and I landed a beauty, working for Simms Watts alongside the amplifier audio genius Richard Watts and entrepreneur Dave Simms.

"Within a few years we had started the lighting manufacturing company with fellow director Jim St Pier, who became the first Chairman of the organisation that is now PLASA. I had started to experiment with fibre optics and the beginnings of what was to become my future. Lighting had now become my main work interest and I was making equipment and designing lighting schemes all over Europe and North America. The late seventies were tough with sky high interest rates and one day Simbo came to my office saying £**ck this for a game of soldiers - I'm retiring. And he did so, just like that. Jim also left to work at his retail music business, leaving me to get on with my own thing and fibre optics became our main and then sole product."
Together with David Press, a plastics engineer and friend, Paul started designing and manufacturing a considerable range of fibre optic components long before most people had heard of fibre optic lighting.

David's enthusiasm has always been a great encouragement, especially before there was any business out there. People were still coming up to us at shows asking how the fibres worked, and I would explain about TIR and so on and they would listen and then ask ‘but how do you get those tiny lamps into the ends?!'
"Though I love sound very much, it's lighting that gives me a creative buzz each day and brings new challenges for me to solve. It's my opinion that there are still far more possibilities than have so far been created. I also enjoy meeting ABTT and PLASA people where I have made many friends over the years. My only regret is the lack of time for the pleasure of visiting them all!

"At Par Opti it has given us pleasure to support young artists, designers and sculptors and some of
their work can be seen on our website (www.paropti.co.uk). Apart from this I like to beat up the guitar and compose music and record in a small studio - and when I can I like to cook - especially Eastern food and the odd trout or two after I've been fishing."

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