The theatre and special event industries were shocked at the sudden and unexpected death of industry pioneer, Peter Hassall, at just 53. Peter made such an impression on so many. He was an icon and an inspiration.
Peter started dabbling in lights at roller discos back in the early 80s. He became the Technical Director of the Cairns Civic Centre before travelling the world with Tjapukai Aboriginal Dance Theatre from 1988 and starting his own AV company ‘Stageworks’ at just 23 years of age. He went on to partner with national chain Staging Connections and opened offices in not only Cairns but Port Douglas, Townsville and Hamilton Island. He purchased local Cairns businesses Double Up Video and Progear. “Peter would do anything for his team and likewise they for him – he created such and amazing work family and through that, they collectively created one of the most successful and dynamic businesses in Far North Queensland with Stageworks Australia,” said long-time friend and employee Dior Yarwood.
Peter developed relationships with the tourism and convention bureaus to drive business into the region and showcase the best of the far north.
Inspired to live and work in Greater China, Peter sold the empire he’d built to the Staging Connections Group and ventured to Macau to work with Offsite Connections.
Nick Millis recalls “In 2013 Peter was instrumental in the successful merger of Offsite with the MCI group. Within MCI, Peter was like a rock star – always entertaining, and so hospitable. He was known as the ‘talented Aussie’ and was legendary in Macau, both as a sensational creative director and producer of spectacular events. He was a leading expert to global enterprises and brought his authentic generosity, boundless energy and leadership to mentoring a newly formed team, inspiring them with his charisma and sense of fun. You always knew where Pete was – surrounded by a throng of ‘fans’ hearing the tales of a true event supremo.”
In March of 2017, Peter decided to leave the expat life of Macau and return to Aussie soil. COO of MCI Group Asia Pacific Oscar Cerezales recalls “he realised he wanted to prioritise the things that meant the most to him – returning to Cairns, being closer to his family and friends.” Oscar describes Peter as a frank, honest, professional man, who is greatly missed in Macau.
It was in December of 2015 when Peter was seeking a high-end producer to open St Regis in Macau and engaged the services of Patrick Mist. The two hit it off and decided one day they would partner together in a business of their own. That happened in late 2017 in the shape of Corventus. Peter was in a great place, working out of Australia again, motivated and excited to be opening a new office in Singapore this year.
Peter’s ability to visualise a concept and create something so memorable, so unforgettable, and be able to communicate that to people and get them excited about a concept, was nothing short of brilliant. He made lycra chair covers a must-have item at any event, purchased fabric in downtown LA to have costumes made for the Tourism awards and brought floating stages and aerialists to Cairns, well before it was ‘a thing’. He was an absolute legend and, without a doubt, well before his time.
What he dreamed, planned, realised and achieved and the lives in which he shaped and changed in his 53 years, is simply inspiring. He wasn’t afraid to try, even if he failed. Ben Elliott, now the Managing Director of LIVE Events Sydney, came to work for Peter in May of 2000. He recalls “Peter was one of a kind and taught me so much. His leadership style was one that I really enjoyed – employ people you can trust, that know what they’re doing… and let them do it. He taught me to do things properly as you are judged on the process, not just the outcome. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and experience he gave me.”
Peter was a mentor to so many and well respected in the theatre and special event industries. It’s because of Peter that so many have gone on to work internationally, to travel and tour the world, and to manage and build their own businesses and careers in the events industry.
Notably, Paul Whitby (Freelance Lighting Designer), who started volunteering at the Cairns Civic Centre as a 13 year old. His first job for Peter was sorting gel colour, which Paul thought at the time was the worst job in the world. It taught him the lighting colour spectrum and launched his career.
Dior Yarwood (Senior Producer, Kojo) started working for Peter in 1990 became Peter’s Operations Manager, then General Manager and his closest confidant for more than 28 years.
Dior said “Peter was an amazing leader. He had this incredible knack of being able to walk into a ballroom or venue, like a ringmaster. The crew would be absolutely exhausted, nothing seemed to be going right. He would bring everyone together, more often than not feed them, listen to their concerns, make them laugh (or at least smile), give them a quick rub on the back and re-energise them. When doors opened on an event and the client and guests were gobsmacked – it was all worth it”.
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