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JL Live: From pitchside to production

by Joe Gallop

Less than 18 months on from launching JL Live mid pandemic after finding himself out of work, Phil McMichael has led the company to be shortlisted for two EN Awards following its work on several high-profile events. McMichael tells EN about the remarkable story of its inception 

Phil McMichael

It all started with a children’s football game in September 2020 for technical production company JL Live.

A month after GES-owned event technical production specialist Blitz went into liquidation, where Phil McMichael was sales director, he was introduced to his current business partner Jack Linekar while watching his child kick a ball around on a Saturday morning. 

During a half time cup of tea between McMichael’s wife and Linekar’s mother, who also happens to be the mother of McMichael’s son’s teammate, plans began to brew. 

Linekar, who has been managing director of television production company JL Lighting since 2008, was looking for someone to take on events full time and drive the event production side of the business – and that is where McMichael came in. 

Since then, JL Live, which rents AV lighting, set/stage kit and crew to the trade show, television, film and retail industries, has won business from big suppliers and delivered on shows such as Global Offshore Wind, COP26 and DSEi.

“After a couple of pub lunches, visits to the warehouse and a presentation or two by me, we decided the best thing to do was to set up a new business,” says McMichael. “We took on my background, experience and knowledge for all things events and married that with Jack’s love for lighting, AV, television and film – and then formed a business that was set up perfectly for the return of the events industry.” 

When McMichael found himself out of work, he questioned his career options but after several interviews for other industry jobs, he decided to stick to his passion for live events.

“Once you pick yourself up off the floor, which took me a couple of weeks, you seriously look at life and what you want to do,” he says. “From my perspective having worked in the events industry for 10 years, it gets in your blood – It’s a love, it’s a passion and ultimately it’s my life.

“Sometimes you just have to take advantage of the opportunities thrown at you in life. I could have easily left the industry and sunk further into despair, but I’m a glass half full person and I knew I had a role to play in the industry. I’m passionate about it and improving it and doing things in the right way.”

McMichael describes the company as a modern version of the likes of Aztec, Encore and PRG: “We’re taking on the best of the virtual understanding of TV, conferencing and live events and then mashing it together to create a proposition that is technically modern, is sustainable and is set up to serve the new world.” 

He adds, “I’m pleased with the way the industry has accepted us, taken us on board and wants to learn new tricks and try something different. 

“I’d love to say everybody is but there’s a lot of people that have just copy and pasted from 2019.

“But ultimately people won’t get away with just talking about sustainability moving forwards and they will actually have to put their money where their mouth is and prove it.”

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