We caught up with the CEO and founder of Coalition, Guy Robinson, about his drive-in entertainment initiative, Car Park Party. We hope you enjoy the read.
Members contact their Lifestyle Managers globally for any questions or if they would would like to book tickets for upcoming Car Park Party events or any similar events, globally.
Ten: Guy, tell us how it all began.
Guy: Music has been at the heart of everything I’ve done from a very young age. Having set up a school radio station at the age of 14, inspired by TV show Grange Hill of all things, I went on to DJ at school discos, mobile discos and then nightclubs before I was old enough to enter them as a customer. It was while studying economics at Leicester University that my passion for music turned into a career. I worked in the entertainment department at the students’ union, and also set up my agency business, Coalition, originally called Hyper.
While working at the SU I met the then BBC Radio 1 drivetime DJ, Mark. We got on well, I told him what I was doing, and he very kindly said I could represent him for gigs. That was 25 years ago, and Radio 1 talent still forms the basis of our agency today. In fact, we’ve represented several DJs for so long they’ve gone all the way through Radio 1 and are now at Radio 2.
In the last couple of years, we’ve really had to evolve. Nightclubs and students’ unions, two of our key market sectors, are in decline as young people prioritise health and coffee over alcohol and late nights. To combat these changes, we looked at broader audience demographics and started developing our own talent platforms, often partnering with our talent. From our university live music touring circuit called Coffee House Sessions, through to the brilliant Just Can’t Get Enough 80s, which we run with presenter Sara Cox, thinking outside the box has ensured our continued success.
In 2017 we were extremely honoured to form a partnership with Ministry of Sound, the world’s biggest dance music brand. That has been a huge amount of fun, and led us to delivering some of the biggest shows the agency has seen, especially with Ministry of Sound Classical. We’ve been growing that show for 18 months and had sold out two nights at the Royal Albert Hall this past May, a company first, which, because of the pandemic, we sadly had to cancel. It was frustrating for the business, but not ones to dwell on the loss, we brought together Alexandra Burke, the NHS Choir and the London Concert Orchestra, got each of them to record their parts at home while in lockdown, and then pieced together all 65 performers to create this cover of dance hit You’re Not Alone, originally by Olive (‘You’re Not Alone’ feat. Alexandra Burke, London Concert Orchestra & The NHS Choir ). We’re hugely proud of it.
It’s that passion and deduction that’s at the heart of Coalition. A month ago, we were looking down the barrel of a gun; 75% of our shows this year have either been canceled or postponed for at least a year. Refusing to stop, we created carparkparty.com and just 25 days later we’d sold over 1,500 tickets. I couldn’t be prouder of the team.
Ten: Congratulations on being the first entertainment company within the UK to be keeping theatre and comedy ‘live’ for audiences nationwide with the creation of Car Park Party. Tell us about the event and what inspired the concept.
Guy: Thank you. We’re all about live entertainment at Coalition, and despite understanding the romance of an American-style drive-in, haven’t we all watched enough Netflix and movies this year already?! During a creative Zoom meeting with the team, the idea was floated as to whether it would be viable to do parties with the audience in cars. We concluded it was and started looking at how we’d do it.
Then news stories started popping up about drive-in raves across Europe and the US, and that’s when we threw all our resources into it.
We have three fun elements to Car Park Party: Car Park Comedy, a partnership with The Comedy Store presenting some of the UK’s best touring comics live on stage; Car Park Karaoke, mass karaoke performed by a five-piece live band called Massaoke, with all the song lyrics displayed on a huge screen, and everyone in their cars singing along. Finally, for Car Park Theatre, we are proud to be working with the utterly brilliant Horrible Histories. Right now, we offer the only touring live music and theatre shows available to attend this summer.
Ten: What can our members expect from attending Car Park Party?
Guy: The two key elements of every event Coalition runs are putting on a great show, and ensuring customer safety, which given the current situation is more important than ever. We are using a huge 60-square-metre LED screen, the same size you’d find in many cinemas, so no matter where you park you’ll get a great view of all the on-stage action, and the sound is broadcast on FM so drivers can tune in on their car radios. Whether singing at the top of your voice or laughing until you cry at the comics, this really will be a first – enjoying every moment sitting in your car.
All attending vehicles will be socially distanced according to the latest government guidelines, currently two metres, as will be the facilities. We’ll have some fantastic food options to purchase online in advance, which you’ll then collect on arrival, and other drinks and snacks will be delivered straight to your car so that no one needs to get out of their vehicles, unless they need to use the facilities.
“I’m confident everything will bounce back, perhaps even stronger than before.”
Ten: We have heard that the first couple of dates have been so popular that you have now extended the number of events across the country. When and where can our members join the party?
Guy: In light of its cancellation, we replaced Henley Festival’s amazing event with this concept, and we sold out four of the sessions within just two hours – a huge result. Demand has been incredible, and we’re partnering with some brilliant venues across the country, from the stunning Powderham Castle in Exeter to the mighty Trafford Centre in Manchester. We will be visiting towns and cities including Birmingham, Newbury, Northampton, Sunderland, Oxford, Chelmsford and Belfast. All the dates and venues will be on our website.
Ten: With drive-ins currently happening both in the UK and across Europe, do you feel they are here to stay post COVID-19?
Guy: We’re really excited about giving our audience a totally new experience at our sites across the country, making the very best of a challenging situation. That said, as good as the shows will be, I doubt this will be a long-term trend. The heart of entertainment has always been that collective experience – the sound of hundreds laughing, cheering as the DJ drops a great record, crowds singing, oohs and aahs as fireworks explode. As a business, we are excited for those times to return.
Ten: Post COVID-19, what are your expectations for the live entertainment industry?
Guy: First and foremost, I hope all the brilliant people who work in the business get through this. Many are self-employed, don’t earn huge amounts of money, and are unable to benefit from the government’s furlough payments. We are pleased that putting on our Car Park events has helped many of them, but there are thousands who must be really feeling it.
Doomsday predictions abound in the industry at the moment, and it was inevitable that the biggest festivals had to be pushed out by a year, but I believe smaller venues will reopen quicker than expected. You have to look at other markets, from Finland to Italy, where they’re already allowing live venues to operate; this is a positive sign, especially with increasing evidence that second spikes are seemingly unlikely once the virus has gone into decline. Many businesses, including mine, will need financial help to keep operating this year, but while artists want to tour and people want to be entertained, I’m confident everything will bounce back, perhaps even stronger than before.
Ten: Sneak peek – as a business, Coalition represents several brands, artists and presenters such as Alexandra Burke, Dermot O’Leary and Marvin Humes. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you can tease our members with?
Guy: Ministry of Sound Classical will be heading off around Europe and beyond next year, and we’re very much hoping the NHS Choir can become part of that vision. We’ll also be taking BBC Radio 2’s Sounds of the 80s on tour, which may even feature the original Radio 1 Roadshow lorry if I get my way. That’s something else we might fill car parks with in 2021…anyone who attended the Roadshows all those years ago will have very fond memories I’m sure.
Ten: As an entertainment company that has been running for 25 years, you must have experienced and put together some amazing events. What has been your most memorable one to date?
Guy: This is such a fun industry, and I have so many great memories and still love what I do all these years later. I pretended to be one of my DJs, headlining a festival in Moscow some 20 years ago in front of 10,000 people; that’s something I’ll not forget. Amazing what you could get away with before camera phones and the internet existed. But our Ministry of Sound Classical show is the true highlight. I challenged the composer, an amazing talent called Tom Player, to create a show that was so moving it made me cry, and the first time I heard 56 musicians perform a fully orchestrated version of the iconic Children by Robert Miles, well, let’s just say there was a big box of tissues being handed around.
For more ways we are helping our members stay entertained during COVID-19, find out about the launch of our new Book Club.