This week, our Graduate Spotlight showcases Joe Callister, a Derby graduate who transitioned from casual tech work at a local venue to a Technical Consultant at Auditoria in London. Fueled by a passion for event technology, Joe honed his skills at Derby, embarking on a career in installations before transitioning back to live events. His work on pioneering projects like ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’ and the captivating ABBA Voyage show highlights the real-world readiness instilled by a University of Derby education, showcasing the many opportunities in the ever-evolving fields of live events and installations.
Joe Callister, Class of 2016
Laxey, Isle of Man
Current job + employer:
Technical Consultant, Auditoria
What did you do/study prior to coming to Derby?
Casual tech work at my local venue (Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man).
Why did you choose to go to the University of Derby?
The emphasis on engineering and understanding the technology and systems used in events. It’s extremely important in this industry to have an understanding of what’s happening ‘inside the box’ as it’s invaluable knowledge when troubleshooting in the field.
Did you start the course with a specific focus or were you undecided?
Initially, I wanted to go into freelance production work or work for a production or installations company.
Did that focus change on the course? If so, how?
I don’t recall it changing!
Has that focus changed on graduating? If so, how?
Yes. I initially went into installations, and as much as I enjoyed the work.
What was the most useful thing you learned on the course?
That the entertainment industry is built on people. Knowing people and building good relationships is the key to progressing within the entertainment industry. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without the people I met on the course.
What did you learn on the course that you thought you’d never use, but that has come in handy during your career?
To be honest, everything has come in handy at some point!
What did you do on the course that you never thought you would enjoy?
Nothing! I knew what I’d signed up for!
What was your favourite establishment in Derby (pub, bar, club, restaurant, etc.)?
Probably The Fat Cat. We used to frequent there on Wednesdays as they did a great student discount!
What is your most memorable moment from Derby?
Buxton [Devonshire] Dome gigs! No, I’m kidding. But I would have to say the show control assignment starring Adam and Simon! As much as it was hard work to pull off, I had a great bunch of people to work with and it was a good laugh.
What/who at Derby most influenced your life, and how/why?
To be honest it would be difficult to pin down a particular person or event that influenced my life other than saying that the entire faculty at Derby were great. The lectures from Adam, Kit and Simon were well-structured and informed. Peter was great for our ambisonics lectures (which I still carry some of the learning we did during our project of creating a train station within Markeaton Street) and Bruce, who carries a legendary reputation within the ambisonics community.
What would you say to a Derby first year student, knowing what you know now?
Give install work a go! Installations is a specific niche of the industry that I’m seeing more and more work in, especially involving more complex multi-channel audio systems and video systems. It’s a skill set that’s very different from live work, and there is definitely a deficit of good installers, technicians, and programmers in the UK.
What have you done professionally since graduating?
Since graduating, I initially went back to freelancing, before working for Media Powerhouse which was looking after the video systems on a production called ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’. At the time, Dinosaurs was probably the first attempt at a large-scale touring immersive theatrical attraction within the UK. It featured CGI content displayed on 4K 3D screens, which was really pushing the boundaries of video playback back in 2017. I was part of the video installations team and maintenance team for the show. The show closed in 2018, a little over a year after opening, having toured 3 venues.
I moved into a full-time position with Media Powerhouse, looking after projects for commercial clients including Sky, Vodafone, Cisco, and Global Radio. In addition to museum exhibitions for the Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, British Museum, and Royal Horticultural Society, amongst others.
Having worked almost exclusively in installations for 4 years, I really wanted to transition back towards live events. Luckily I’d met Auditoria on a previous job, and having worked on a casino show project in Macau (remotely during COVID) with Luis, I joined the Auditoria family in early 2022, starting immediately on ABBA Voyage.
Have any Derby alumni or staff opened any doors for you? If so, who?
It’s quite a connected story actually. I wouldn’t have ended up in my current position if Simon Lewis hadn’t introduced Sam Williams to a consultancy company called Harmonia. At the time they were doing work for Media Powerhouse. Sam recommended Callum Phenix to Media Powerhouse and Callum asked me to work freelance on a show called ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’, where I met Scott and Luis who I currently work with.
What is your most memorable moment from your career so far?
There have really been so many great moments, but from recently I would have to say the first preview of ABBA Voyage. We’d worked for quite a few weeks onsite for rehearsals, reviewing the same content over and over to perfect every little detail of audio mix, object placement, movement and the ambience room engine, but seeing an audience enjoying the show for the first time was a really amazing experience. Without spoiling too much, when the first kick drum of ‘Visitors’ (the opening number) hit and the crowd surged forward, it was a very powerful moment that really hit home and made the job really worth it.
What are your future career plans/ambitions?
Keep doing more cool shows and projects! Pushing the boundaries of what is possible and bringing an amazing experience for people is always a top priority for me. I really love walking around the installations and projects I have worked on and seeing people enjoying it, it brings me great satisfaction that we can bring visceral experiences to people, especially in an age where online and digital content is becoming increasingly dominating.