Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities

David Manners

Joint Managing Director CCT Theatre Lighting

No. 20 in a continuing series

David Manners

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Influenced by his mother, a keen amateur theatre producer in Hampstead in the thirties, David remembers playing the part of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the age of six. Ever since, he has always hated performing (in front of audiences) and preferred hiding behind the pros arch playing with technical apparatus whilst casting a magisterial eye over female members of the cast. He started ‘work' as a followspot operator in local rep at age of 15 and was asked to leave school when 17 as his attendance record was so bad. When he did finally attend, staff were confused, assuming he had already left the year before.

He immediately found a ‘proper' job as chief electrician at the newly-formed Pembroke theatre-in-the-round in Croydon where he was paid the princely sum of £5 per 7 day week. The theatre was owned by a wonderful patron to the arts, Clement Scott-Gilbert, with whom David is still good friends. With Scott-Gilbert's American connections the theatre flourished for many years with World or European premieres of productions by leading writers - many transferring to the West End. He stayed with the company for three years, during the summer turning his hand to stage managing seaside variety shows. Here, the well-known producer/performer Cyril Fletcher (the ‘odd ode' gent), asked if he would like to stage manage a Royal Command Performance (now the Royal Variety Show). David, with a degree of sadness, now looks upon this event as the only high spot career in theatre.

In 1962 the Pembroke Theatre Company moved to the newly-built Ashcroft Theatre within the Fairfield Halls complex where David stayed for five years. During this period his boss, production manager Terry Fitzgerald, started CCT Lighting with two local amateurs. Terry was the ‘T' in CCT, the others being a local advertising agent Colin Philips and Colin Turner, a telecommunications engineer and a crew member of Ted Heath's yacht, Morning Cloud.

In 1967, David was surprised to learn that 10% of the houses in Croydon were still lit by gas and with friend Euan Felton decided it was time to bring these premises into the twentieth century and proceeded, under the guise of snappily named firm Manners-Felton, to become electrical contractors.

In 1969 he was asked by Don Hindle, who was by then the new managing director of CCT, to become one of three members of staff responsible for looking after the hire stock which was located in the garden shed of 241 Carshalton Road, the premises of Colin Philips' advertising agency. Being May of that year it was an attractive proposition - with the summer ahead - but when winter came enthusiasm waned somewhat. However, he stuck it out, and as the company moved from strength to strength they were eventually able to afford a convector heater. CCT then took on a young and enthusiastic team of design graduates from Sussex University and almost before they knew what they were at, were making the first batch of their now famous Silhouette profile spotlights - from the garden of 241.

As fame hit CCT they soon had to move to larger premises where production facilities were improved dramatically. A full range of spotlights followed and David was elevated to director in charge of hire and presentations. In the eighties it was decided to wind down the hire department and he took on a sales role.

In 1982 he married Judy, the daughter of well known theatre impresario Emile Littler, and between them they produced two wonderful children. As is the way of some marriages, this ended in divorce and some time later John Offord (esteemed editor of this mag) asked him to chaperone three young ladies from the PLASA office whilst they were in Berlin for Showtech. About this time the wall came down, and one of the ladies, Chris Sogno, no doubt surprised by all the related action, became his present partner. Together they have created two more adorable children.

David's loves are theatre, luminaires and La Coupole. The latter involves an annual birthday soirée at the famous, and mildly decadent, Parisian restaurant. Happily this almost always falls during the SIEL show, and the most-times resolute John Offord is often taken in tow, without any noticeable complaint.

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