Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities

Anton Woodward

Managing Director, AVW Controls Ltd

No. 45 in a continuing series

Anton Woodward

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Anton Woodward was born in Sussex in 1964 and, like several of our Profile subjects, spent much of his childhood pulling things apart to see how they worked. He went on to build all kinds of electronic gadgets including crystal sets and radio transmitters and on one occasion had the personal satisfaction of saturating the entire medium wave in a sizeable part of his home county with the Boom Town Rats rendition of I Don't Like Mondays. On the side, he designed and built the school disco set-up, complete with all the necessary flashing lights.

He left school at 16 and joined the Royal Air Force to graft away at an avionics apprenticeship and hopefully see the world at the same time. Completing the apprenticeship he rose to the dizzy heights of corporal, servicing Phantom F4 aircraft missile control systems. However, he only ever got to see the Falkland Islands in his seven years of service so he left the RAF to pursue more interesting avenues.

Whilst rather blindly pursuing these other avenues he answered a newspaper advertisement for an electronics engineer, which turned out to involve assisting with the stage automation for Miss Saigon for Stage Drives and Controls Ltd. He was soon hooked! During his time at SDC he designed and built many control systems for productions such as Phantom of the Opera (Holland and Switzerland), Beauty and the Beast (London), Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Starlight Express. He also worked on several major venue projects including the Bayan Palace (Kuwait), EuroDisney and the Edinburgh Festival Theatre as well as a number of rock and roll tours such as Metallica, AC/DC and Elton John.

Eventually the time came to go it alone and AVW Controls was founded in 1996. The company, in effect, was Anton and his toolbox working from the garage at home. However, early top-flight projects included the Barbican Theatre's stage elevator control system and the automation system for the P&O Arcadia cruise ship - both for Glantre Engineering, with whom AVW was now working on a regular basis.

Then the big one came along. AVW was contracted by Glantre for a project that involved the design and manufacture of the stage automation control systems for the newly built Thessalonika Concert Hall in Greece. This included computerised flying, house curtain, orchestra elevators, proscenium machinery, stage elevators, lighting trusses, point hoists and a 40 tonne moving acoustic ceiling. In order to control all these elements Anton designed the Impressario motion control system, which was successfully installed at the venue. The system was then installed in another venue just down the road, at the Thessalonika Royal Theatre, to control a flying system. Since then, Impressario has been installed in London's Royal National Theatre, Disney Studios in Paris, the Monte Carlo Ballet, Phantom of the Opera in Madrid and most recently for ‘Our House', the new Madness musical in London. The Impressario system also won the ABTT Product of the Year award, Engineering Category, in 2002. As a consequence, AVW Controls has grown steadily, moving out of the garage and into a decently-sized Nissen hut!

Across this time, life has been very busy for Anton Woodward, but he has managed to remain married for 12 years and be a reasonably attentive father to Hannah, Luke and Harry. And when he's not designing control systems for theatre, you might find him in the stalls watching instead. Other interests are electric blues guitar (playing and listening), golf and red wine.

And, if you did happen to wonder how the product title Impressario came about, it's a combination of ‘impress' and ‘impresario'.

Look out for the next subject in our Profile series...

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