Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities

Phill Capstick

Sales Director, AC Lighting Ltd

No. 96 in a continuing series

Phill Capstick

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Phill Capstick left Grammar School at the earliest opportunity after failing all bar one of his ‘O Levels'. The one he passed was metalwork, which he was determined to succeed in as his school advised him that he should concentrate on languages as opposed to anything practical. "In retrospect, they may well have been right," says Phill, "as I still can't do metalwork or speak any languages!"

Upon leaving he was given a placement on a six-month ‘YOP' scheme (Youth Opportunity Programme) as an apprentice carpenter at the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield with a salary of £25.00 per week. He was told that after a month there would be a permanent position but only after the six months was up. At the School he was involved in carpentry for both film sets and general maintenance. After staying for four-and-a-half years and qualifying as a carpenter the all-important question of proper remuneration was raised and following an altercation with his director it was agreed that Phill should leave the very same day. And that was the end of his involvement with the film industry.

"During this time I had been involved with local semi-pro (alright am-dram) productions and a few tours working with the likes of Chris Kempton," explains Phill. "So when I found myself without a job I set up a lighting and sound company with a sleeping partner - unfortunately the partner was not supposed to be sleeping! - working with bands such as UK Subs, The Trogs, John Ottway, Crass and numerous other top acts of the day."

The year was 1986, the company was not a success, and ended up in debt to local lighting supply Co. AC Lighting Ltd, owned by David Leggett and Richard Floyd. After discussing the debt with David and Richard it was decided that they would take Phill on full time to pay off the debt ("great guys!"). So now Phill was back working full time for a real company again doing whatever was required e.g. cleaning, general warehouse duties, delivering and sometimes, if he was lucky, lighting!

Phill duly worked his way through the company and ended up in sales in the late 80's, taking over responsibility for the UK, and supplying most of the rental companies of the day including Tasco, See Factor, LSD, Theatre Projects, Vari-Lite, Zenith, Chameleon, The Spot Co, Midnight Design, Neg Earth, etc.
He became UK sales director in 1993, and since then, by building up a great team, has increased AC's share in the home market considerably.

Phill's philosophy has been to give the best possible service at the keenest of prices, but still making a good operating profit along the way so as to enable the company to be around for the long-term future. When Phill joined AC there were about eight full time employees; at the last count there were 94.

Phill says: "During my time at AC I have worked with and supplied some great characters. My last 18 years have been hard work but thoroughly enjoyable. I've seen the industry grow up from the early days of "do what ever you need to do to make it happen" to "do what you have to do to make it happen, but watch out for Health & Safety, Working Time Directives and all the other painful (but admittedly necessary) red tape."

The development of new technology over the years has been very exciting and I look forward to see what the future brings. I would also like to thank David and Richard for letting me repay my debt to AC, but could one of them tell me when I've finished?"

Phill lives in a village in Oxfordshire with his wife, his Austin A30 and his ducks. He enjoys travelling and good food..

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