Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities
Managing Director, Avolites Ltd
No. 31 in a continuing series
As with other leading industry lights profiled in ET, at an early age Richard Salzedo had a particular penchant for taking things apart. Only occasionally however, did he put them back together, more often than not without the odd spring or two. He moved into higher-level assembly at the time he completed his A-levels when his brother wanted a harpsichord and they built one from a kit. This proved very successful and led them to make a number for eager customers. Things began to move in a different direction when Ric drifted into technical management for a small dance company performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and other venues during the year.
He decided a technical theatre course was the way to go and went to LAMDA to study stage management, finalising with an attachment to Ballet Rambert, where he operated the temp board, encouraged by John Anderton. Parents, as they so often are, were anxious that a 'proper' job was found and so when an ASM sound position came up on a pre- West End tour it was gratefully accepted.
Autograph supplied the sound equipment for this, and as the tour came to London at the same time as A Chorus Line was being installed at Drury Lane, there were opportunities to help with the show's installation. This was particularly interesting since it was one of the first shows to use a digital delay. Six months into the run Ric took over as sound operator and started a career of operating shows - some of which were successful - including Bubbling Brown Sugar, Evita and Cats. Others were less memorable including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Barnardo!
Ever keen to try something new, with friend and sound engineer Peter Key, Ric set up 'Electronic Props' making costumes such as the Elektra Train for Starlight Express. Electronic Props gained a new title - Wardrobe Electrics - on a video shoot for a car advert, and other notable credits are the size DD bra which flashed in green for a TV Play, fed by a Herculean battery pack of rechargeable D size batteries, and illuminated gloves for a heavy metal band.
Working in the West End has its advantages, and having been introduced to Eric Pressley at the Opera House, Ric spent several summers installing new pieces of equipment during the annual shutdowns. "The Opera House is certainly a place of technical excellence and expertise and a brilliant place to see how things should be done," he said.
Operating shows left daytime free and a chance encounter provided the opportunity to start teaching electronics, on a course for hearing impaired young adults. The idea of the course was that the students should build projects from magazines. "Obviously they rarely worked first time, and aside from the administration of the course the teacher's job was to make them work. Spend a couple of years doing this you get pretty good at fault-finding," says Ric.
After 10 years of operating shows two things became noticeable. "Suddenly you are the oldest operator, and secondly you wonder if there is anyone at 40 operating shows, let alone 60!" said Ric. A career change was called for, and given that microcomputers were all the rage something to do with these seemed the answer. The government kindly paid for a retraining course, intentionally to become a computer maintenance engineer, but there was a good electronics grounding, and this led to a job offer from Avolites.
Involved in Rolacue manufacturing assembly at Avolites, his fault finding skills became incredibly useful since there was tremendous demand for this newly launched console. Soon Ric found himself working with the design team, and introduced the QM500TD range of consoles. Avolites was offered for sale by its owners three years later and Ric, Steve (you know who), Meena, Shad and some great outsiders decided that if the choice was getting a 'proper job' or buying Avolites they had to buy the company. Eleven years on, Ric and his fantastic design team have brought out at least one new product each year, with a raft of new products due to come in 2002.
"There is no better place to work than 184 Park Avenue in London's Park Royal," says Ric, who states that his biggest fear is having to get the 'proper job'.
Asked for a few favourite quotes, he said: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing", "To every complex problem there is a simple solution...but it's wrong," and finally: "Q: what do you want to be when you grow up? A: young."
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