#EventProf of the week: Harry Feigen, Proud Events

Each week we will focus on a StandOut individual who has been extraordinary within the events industry. This week it is Harry Feigen, managing director of Proud Events.

How did you get into the events industry? Where has your career taken you and what roles have you enjoyed?

My first events job was in 2009 at The Warehouse Project working on the merchandise team. I was studying for a degree in psychology, I had no idea if I wanted to pursue a career in events, and I needed extra money to support my student lifestyle. In my first year at Warehouse Project, I realised events were what I wanted to do. I loved everything about it – working with the artists, putting on events that people loved and the adrenaline and fast-paced nature of event management. I made it very clear to the general manager and directors that I wanted to progress within the company and did everything I could to get on their radar. As their portfolio grew with Parklife, Kendal Calling, and Hideout Festival, they eventually created a full-time position for me running all their merchandise operations across their events and festivals.

I left Warehouse Project at the end of 2013 to move back to London where I worked at Peppermint Events as a senior account manager and at Pride in London as the deputy volunteer manager, managing up to 600 volunteers, before I set up Proud Events at the end of 2014. Throughout the years with Proud, aside from my role as MD, I have worn many hats including festival manager at Wychwood Festival, site director for the Summer House Sounds Tour for Cuffe and Taylor and head of access control for the Afro Nation series. My career has taken me not only across the UK, but I have delivered events in Portugal, Croatia, Malta, Puerto Rico and even Ghana in West Africa.

What is it about your job that you love doing?

My favourite part of my job is building teams for our clients to ensure that the best people take on the roles that are most suited for them and watching as they work together to deliver the project. I also enjoy seeing people I’ve worked with over the years progress on their personal professional journeys. We have built a great team of “Proud People” in the business who are a mixture of full-time, part-time and freelance, to work on our projects and I get great satisfaction helping them fulfil their potential. Aisha Francis joined our business in 2018 as our full-time live events coordinator and has progressed to senior event manager and now delivers projects such as The Cambridge Club, Strawberries and Creem Festival and UK Black Pride. Being able to be part of her success makes me very happy.

 

 

What’s been the standout moment of your career so far?

I have had so many standout moments in my career that choosing one is hard. However, I would have to say delivering Afro Nation in Puerto Rico in 2022 will always hold a special place in my heart. We first set out to bring Afro Nation to Puerto Rico in the spring of 2020 and we were actually on-site when the world started to shut down due to the pandemic. This resulted in a very panicked team trying to get home before the UK locked down on March 26. We went back to Puerto Rico two years later and opened the first Afro Nation show. The moment we called “green” for doors I remember Rachel Berry, one of our festival managers, coming up to me and crying with happiness. It felt like we had completed what we set out to do two years ago. It was a very full-circle moment and one I treasure. It is always very exciting when we deliver an event for the first time in a new country, and I felt a personal connection to Puerto Rico which contributed to the overall feeling.

What’s been your biggest achievement? Equally, what have you done that you can now look back on and cringe and don’t mind admitting it?

My biggest achievement without a doubt has to be setting up Proud Events in 2014 with my business partner Ben [Whur] and running that business successfully for the last nine years. Prior to setting up Proud, all the events roles I had worked on were in concessions. I had run merchandising and bar operations and whilst I really enjoyed it, I knew that I wanted to move into event production. When I met Ben at Pride in London it very much was a meeting of the minds and we both recognised that we might be able to help each other progress to the next level. Proud Events was born. Running Proud has been the most stressful and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It’s had ups and downs. However, it really was the making of me as an event professional.

I do have some embarrassing moments too. When I ran merchandise operations for The Warehouse Project I spelled merchandise’ wrong three times on public-facing banners and in printed event programmes! That moment when you realise what you have done and that everyone will see it was one of those swallow-me-up moments. People I worked with back then still rib me about it. I think Sacha Lord (WHP founder) even mentioned it to Manchester City Council at a site walkaround once. Cringe.

What key pieces of advice would you give to someone starting out in events?

Go the extra mile. Get noticed. Put your ideas across.

If you are the one who stayed that little bit longer in the office or on-site to be useful to your boss, offering to take on jobs that perhaps sit outside of your R&R then that is what is going to get you noticed and make people want to employ you again. When it’s time to promote they will think of you because they trust you and know you will go the extra mile to get the job done.

Secondly, if you have a good idea, share it. Even if it’s above your pay grade, a good idea is a good idea, and this is an industry built on ideas and creativity. If you can think of ways to make something better, or someone’s life easier, speak up. People will appreciate it. On the other hand, knowing when to not push something is also an invaluable skill. It’s all about balance.

What career goals do you have and where do you see yourself heading? For example, is there an event that you would love to work on but haven’t?

The last few years for the event industry have been really challenging with the pandemic, and all the repercussions of that, followed by rising inflation and the cost of living crisis. I am not ashamed to say that 2023 was a tough year for Proud with events not returning and one client going into administration mid-project. We are looking forward to putting that behind us and continuing to diversify and grow our client base, which is looking very positive. At Proud, we definitely want to continue making our existing events better and better, whilst working on exciting new projects – a few of which we’ve signed up in the past six months. We really value our client relationships and work hard to be partners and I think that is felt on all sites we deliver, and I am personally excited to watch these events grow which benefits us all in the long run.

On a personal note I am looking forward to being a bit more visible in the events industry, putting myself out there a bit more and continuing with my charity work, supporting our LGBTQIA+ communities.

If you would like to nominate someone for #EventProf of the week, please email marketing@standoutmagazine.co.uk