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Steve Hough from local company Zeal chats to Love Basingstoke

Luke Dyson
  • Please do tell us about yourself and your association with Basingstoke

My association with Basingstoke started at Basingstoke Gymnastics Club (BGC) where I started an apprenticeship as a sports coach at 16.  The journey from gymnastics coach to leading Zeal today has been incredibly exciting, albeit a long story.  The short version has two key highlights: the first was a desire to make BGC’s annual show an amazing experience for the kids and parents by adding lots of sound and lighting, which led to meeting Iain Wood who is now one of Zeal’s directors.  The second was my involvement in the 2012 Olympic Ceremonies with the casting and choreography of acrobats, where I also got to experience first-hand the elation of huge live events and see behind the scenes with the production elements that bring them to life.  That was the year I decided live events, experiences, and creative and technical production was what I wanted to do, and as a result, started Zeal.

  • Tell us about your business and why you choose to base yourself in the borough?

Since 2012, we have become creative and technical partners to many artists, attractions and experiences.  We’re usually the ones behind the scenes, supporting clients in bringing their shows and events to life.

When we first started, we were primarily focused on renting out equipment which remains a core and fast-growing part of our business.  Over the last 10 years, we have built a team of creators, visual artists, designers and technicians which allows us to provide 360-degree input and support to our clients, meaning they can create the best experiences for their guests or audiences.

Due to the nature of the entertainment industry and the artists we support, we can quite often be found working across the world.  The UK has a fantastic international reputation for creativity and technical production which has provided us with many opportunities to work abroad.  Even so, the majority of our work is across the UK.

When we first started, I didn’t personally live in Basingstoke (I do now), but it had already become a second home, and the convenience of transport links and local suppliers made it an easy choice to base Zeal here.  London remains an important location for our industry too, both in terms of events and venues, as well as talent.  Basingstoke puts us in a great position to attract that talent, service London shows with quick and easy support, and remain in a central enough location to cover much of the South simultaneously.

Luke Dyson
  • What projects have you worked on in the Basingstoke and Deane borough in the past?

We’ve had the pleasure of supporting an exciting variety of events and experiences in the borough.  We’re proud to regularly support Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s events team with technical production solutions, as well as original ideas and installations.

Previous projects include providing technical support to Basingstoke Festival and the external artists' requirements, creating interactive installations as part of Festival of Sound, and most recently creating two installations for Let’s Glow.

Festival of Sound was a unique project where we collaborated with many local organisations to write, record, and produce audio as part of the Basingstoke Heritage Trail.  We then installed 12 interactive locations which allowed the public to trigger audio recordings and learn more about the area.

The recent Let’s Glow saw us create a light show at the top of town, as well as create and supply another interactive installation in Festival Place, where the public could take control of the lights and sound to create their own disco.

The popularity and enjoyment we witnessed from families who were out dancing and enjoying themselves at these installations were remarkable, and the fact that we had an opportunity to do them on our doorstep made it feel more special.

Luke Dyson
  • Who inspires you out of the people you have worked with and why?

We’re incredibly fortunate to work with a lot of creative and ambitious partners. Artists such as Bicep, The Chainsmokers and Sub Focus are always wanting to push the visual boundaries of their shows, whilst artists such as Tom Grennan, The Streets and HONNE really focus on how we can support the experience of their live shows with the production design.

We also have the pleasure of working with some attractions that share our ambition to create more imaginative experiences, most notably Longleat Safari Park and Wellington Country Park, both of whom we work with year-round to support their events.

  • What are you hoping to create in Basingstoke in the future?

First and foremost, I’d love to support and build the creative and technical community more!  We’ve already started that process, and as a result, we’re able to provide better support to projects within the borough and beyond, using people in the local community.

Seeing the results of Let’s Glow recently has also inspired us to create more interactive, guest-focussed experiences that allow people to explore their imaginations.  We believe these sorts of projects will become more popular in years to come and we’d love to create more of them locally.

  • How do you think up your ideas?

The creative process of coming up with designs or experiences is never a linear one and can often be quite messy, which also means ideas can sprout from anywhere.

We take inspiration from all over and are fortunate to have a team with diverse interests which means we get a lot of input from various experiences.  That could be from other shows, events, stories, film/TV, or architecture, the list is endless; it could be anything that sparks our imaginations.

We’ll quite often take that inspiration, bundle it with our imaginations and develop concepts and designs which are sometimes awful initially, but utilising the strengths of everyone in our team we refine them to be something special.

The key to what we do is more imaginative thinking and always putting the guests or audiences at the heart of every experience.

  • What message would you give to people wanting to work in your industry?

Immerse yourself in it!  It’s one of the most exciting and dynamic industries out there with far more opportunities than most people realise.  I think that can sometimes be a little daunting, but in my experience, most people in our industry are really supportive and encouraging.

We have an open-door policy, and I’m personally always more than happy to offer any form of guidance, advice, or where suitable work experience opportunities.  Whilst we’re usually the ones hidden in the dark working behind the scenes, I believe the best opportunity to support such an exciting industry is to shine a light on what we do and encourage more people into it!

Pictured below, Steve Hough, Managing Director of Zeal

Luke Dyson

Find out more about Zeal via their website or social channels.

March 2023

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