Owen McIlreavy, 22

Owen won his Breakthrough Award back in 2019 and has already had an impressive start to his career, which is all down to his attitude and hard work.


How did your passion for the production industry begin?

Classically, like a lot of event industry professionals, I first did school concerts and discos where I first discovered my keen interest, enjoyment, and passion for technical event production.

How did you get into the production industry?

I first started by volunteering to help with the school productions through out the year such as the Christmas Play, Easter services, sporting events and other fundraisers. From this, me and 2 other friends decided to create our own (small) production company, where we put on functions for 3 different schools, and multiple town councils and sporting grounds.

Did you know then how to start your career?

In my final year of secondary school, talk of universities began, where I explored more traditional career paths that had nothing to do with the events industry. However, the advice of “see what you keep coming back to” helped me realise that my real interests lay in event production. So, I started looking between CAO (Ireland) and UCAS (UK) for courses that would help me get into technical event production.

Did you do a course?

Yes, I completed a BSc in Sound, Light and Live Event Technology at the university of Derby.

Was there anyone in particular who influenced you along the way?

Having school friends with the same interests at the time helped, as I could discuss what I was thinking of doing with them. However, the people that really helped me get into the professional industry are all the folks at IPS in Milton Keynes. They were very patient in explaining and showing everything to me, and a lot of the people there I looked (and still look) up to.

How old were you when you won your Breakthrough Talent Award in 2019?

I was 20, which seems like a lifetime ago now!

How have you spent the last two years?

After finishing university remotely from home in May 2020, I got an operative job in a medical logistics warehouse. I was very fortunate to get a “Graduate Technician” role at Anna Valley in December 2020. However, with local lockdowns at home, I was unable to start the position until March 2021. Then in November I moved to Siyan in High Wycombe, where I am currently a Production Technician.

What was your highlight of 2021

While it may not have been a production I was involved with. My highlight of 2021 would have to be the process of coming to the realisation that events would be and were coming back. Finishing a degree intended for an industry that was essentially collapsing at the time of graduation, was quite tough. So getting back into the industry I studied for was really great.

What would be your advice be to yourself 5 years ago?

Don’t let the potential uncertainty of your progression after secondary school stop you from looking into any possible career path. Be open to and try everything, and be aware and take note of what you keep coming back to. While the further education/ career paths for you may not be directly visible to you at the time. Your interests and knowledge are applicable within a professional sector, you just need to find that sector.

What would your advice be to anyone who wants to work in this industry?

Generally, hard work is recognised and rewarded. Starting out in the events industry usually means getting involved with the monotonous physical labour that comes with a production of any size (crewing). However, if you show drive, interest and any sort of  additional knowledge, people will usually pick up on that and you can progress to a more favoured part of production.

If you show drive, interest and any sort of  additional knowledge, people will usually pick up on that and you can progress to a more favoured part of production.

That’s not to say “hard graft” is the only way to get into the industry, many people have progressed through the industry by establishing a base knowledge of a sector. Be it through an apprenticeship, university degree, or a related qualification to a sector within the events industry.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

The thing I’m most looking forward to for the rest of this summer is being a lighting operator on one of the stages at Leeds fest later this year. Reading and Leeds are some of the original festivals that Siyan does so I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.


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