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Meet the man bringing light to outback Queensland
Source: ABC

After two decades of lighting stages for international celebrities such as Pink Floyd, Bryan Adams and Metallica, Shane Riddington has moved on to a new challenge.

As the newly-appointed head of technical and production for Mount Isa Entertainment and Tourism Venues, Mr Riddington hopes to shine the light on outback stage shows.

"Mount Isa had a reputation for being backwater culture-less — and we want to show that it isn't," he said.

"There's so much potential, and I feel I'm leading the way in the renaissance [and] pulling Mount Isa, kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with technology for stage and theatre."

Long-held passion

Mr Riddington has been working as a technical engineer since he was in high school.

"In high school back in Brisbane, I was walking past the local school and heard the school rock band playing," he said.

"I popped my head in and saw all of these people crawling around stage on scaffolding, moving stuff, and I thought 'wow, this is interesting' — and I've been doing it ever since."

While he had no trouble identifying a career he was passionate about, Mr Riddington said it was not an easy start.

"Back in those days, somebody basically had to die so that you could get a break in this, so I put it on the backburner," he said.

After a university degree and a move to Sweden, Mr Riddington said he was given his opportunity.

"A friend of a friend knew somebody in the industry there and I just started doing concerts, pushing boxing, hanging cables, rolling cables," he said.

The crewing company job enabled Mr Riddington to quickly move up the ranks.

"They put you on follow spot, and then you show some inspiration that you want to learn how to design lights or control lights," he said.

"The ultimate is designing a show — that's the apex for our industry — lighting, video and sound.

"Designing a big show and then having it go on tour."

Working for Michael Jackson

Mr Riddington toured Europe and American with lighting shows for big name celebrities, but said one of his most remarkable memories was working for Michael Jackson.

"There's always a few crazy rules that you get occasionally on your contract, [and] Michael Jackson was a bit of a weird one," he said.
"Part of the contract is you couldn't talk to him directly.

"If Michael asked you a question, you couldn't speak to Michael directly; you'd have to speak to The Parrot, and The Parrot would then turn and say verbatim what you said to Michael.

"Michael would take it in, and then Michael would answer you personally, but you couldn't respond."

Mr Riddington said while it sounds comical in hindsight, the repercussions were severe.

"As far as I know two people I know were fired, and they were pretty high up in the group too," he said.

Bringing light to Mount Isa

Just weeks ago, a world class lighting system was donated to Mount Isa Entertainment and Tourism Venues.

As part of his new role, Mr Riddington will use this technology to vastly improve the arts and entertainment on offer in the town.

And while he has worked on productions on some of the biggest stages in the world, Mr Riddington said his job in Mount Isa was just an important.

"It is important that every town has a regional theatre," he said.
"It might not be much, it might not be little more than a hall, but people need a place to go to have acts, to have a social life.

"It's very important that we help that go along that's what we're here for."


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