I’ll always remember picking up the first book I really engaged with. It was called ‘Batteries and Magnets’ and it was from the Usborne series for kids. Aged around seven and still at primary school, something about the joy of wiring things together to make lights illuminate, motors spin and buzzers buzz excited me like nothing else on earth. Over the next few years, I then proceeded to spend all of my pocket money on torch bulbs and 6 volt ‘Ever Ready’ power packs (you know, the big square ones with the springy terminals) from the local DIY shop. My best friend ended up with a full set of lights on his go-kart – brakes, indicators, the works – that he didn’t really want. I built a torch from 6 ‘D’ cells arranged in series, which was bright enough to signal the moon. I discovered that the spark from shorting a Hornby train-set transformer was capable of igniting a gentle splash of aftershave, stolen from the bathroom. That last one – so called ‘indoor fireworks’ by my way of it, was probably the closest I ever came to disaster, destroying part of the carpet in my bedroom and narrowly avoiding a fire. Witnessing the effects of my various electrical creations, my parents began to worry. My pocket money was stopped, and I was banned from touching any 13 amp sockets in the house.
By the time I had reached 14, I had developed a deep-seated fascination with all things electrical. A second book discovery, ‘Get Into Electrics’ (Roy Day, 1984) had been purchased from WHSmith for just 99p, and carelessly left lying around the house. In no time at all, my teenage ‘hangout’ – a brick built shed in my parents’ garden – had a fully functioning ring main and lighting circuit before they even knew it. I think the fact that the shed was relatively far away from the house lulled them into a false sense of security. Only the unexpected overnight appearance of some garden spotlights (which they hadn’t paid anyone to install), and a rapidly-increasing electricity bill blew my cover. When my parents bought a new Hoover 800 washing machine in the late 1980s, I was allowed to ‘inherit’ their old one, on the firm understanding that – under no circumstances – was it ever to be connected to the mains. One day my father came into my shed without warning, to find that not only was their old machine fixed, but it was also going flat out on full spin.
Meanwhile, now at secondary school, I had developed a keen interest in physics, and was studying hard in the labs for my impending GCSEs. My physics teacher – a funky guy who I looked up to (not least because he also played bass guitar) saw my interest, but wrote in my school report that he “wished Alan would restrict his experiments to those that he recommends”. The cheek! Still, I knew when it was better to steer clear of trouble. One of my schoolmates, egged on by my enthusiasm for all things electrical, later proceeded to connect a low voltage lab DC bench supply directly to the nearest 13 amp socket using only a pair of banana cables. I wasn’t there at the time, but apparently the foot-long flash and ensuing short circuit took out one-third of the school’s three-phase power supply, which unfortunately included a floodlit tennis court. I denied all involvement.
A couple of years later, I joined my local theatre – the Romsey Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (or ‘RAODS’ for short) – in the capacity of a volunteer AV Technician. My services included helping the theatre with lighting and follow-spot for various shows and stage productions, including their legendary Christmas Panto. The theatre was kind (or foolish) enough to lend me a selection of lights and sound equipment for a few days, which I used to DJ my own 18th birthday party. Due to the over-zealous distribution of invitations on my part (and possibly a complete lack of door security) over 200 people turned up on the night. Crazy For You and the Lambada thumped from the speakers. Inevitably, a fight broke out and the police were called. One reveller spoke of how he could see “a fist coming towards his face in slow motion” as the strobe flashed to the music. Others remarked how the incredible clarity of the sound meant it could be heard from the other side of Romsey. The next day, I had to apologise to the neighbours who were kept awake for most of the night, and also to those friends who had suffered facial injuries the previous evening. But by now, the monster was unleashed, and I had plans for the future.
A successful career in IT and Audio-Visual Product Launch followed, working for major household names including Sony, Canon, Optoma and Epson, spanning some 20 years. During this time, I became an expert in all things Projector and Display, and developed an unhealthy passion for the unforgiving career that is the Events Industry.
With my acquired knowledge in events and AV, Dempster Audio Visual was founded in 2014. Starting with a basic technician service for small conferences, the company expanded to offer a complete range of engineering and support services for Corporate Events, Production Houses and the Film Industry.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Dempster AV remains as enthusiastic as ever about sound and vision, and we would like to share that passion with your business. Our mission is to do everything we can to make your event, conference or exhibition to be as memorable as possible, and – perhaps unlike my electrical ‘hobby’ during my youth – for all the right reasons!
Alan Dempster, March 2021