Formed in late 2007 VMS are a specialist Live Music and Venues Company. We offer bespoke venue development, management, promotional and operational solutions. Current and recent clients include ARC (Arena Racing Company), Manchester Academy, Union of UEA Students (The Nick Rayns LCR & Waterfront), Glyndwr University Wrexham (William Aston Hall & Catrin Finch Centre), Warwick University Students Union (Copper Rooms), Portsmouth Pyramids, Brixton Electric, London and The Ballroom, Birmingham and several local authorities and event organisors.
Steve Forster – Managing Director
Prior to forming VMS in the Autumn of 2007 Steve was a main board director and shareholder at Academy Music Group. Steve was with AMG from the start with just 2 venues (in 1999) up to floatation with 13 venues 6 years ago. At this point Steve sold his shareholding and formed VMS Live as a bespoke Venue and Live Music solutions organisation.
As part of their range of clients, VMS for 3 years (until March 2011) ran the Live Music Division of MAMA plc (owners of Venues as diverse as HMV Hammersmith Apollo, The Jazz Café, The Borderline, Heaven & Barfly). During this period, Steve also accepted the role of MD to MAMA’s Live Music Division taking strategic control of all aspects of the Live Venue estate from Commercial and Operational development though to building and Capital expenditure programmes. While Steve opened several new venues, such as the Relentless Garage (London), HMV Picture House (Edinburgh) and The HMV Institute (Birmingham) and the initial stages of the redevelopment of the new HMV Ritz in Manchester, Steve stood down as the MD of MAMA’s Live Division in March 2011 to focus on VMS and work with a broader range of clients.
Richard Maides – Operations Director
Richard joined VMS in June 2011, previously he worked for the Academy Music Group (AMG) for 8 years originally as the General Manager of Birmingham Academy before taking on a Group role in operations ultimately being appointed the Operations Director for AMG, where he was responsible for all operational aspects of an estate boasting 24 venues across 13 locations across the UK in 2010.
Between the summer of 2007 and late 2010 Richard project managed the development and opening of the Oxford Academy, Sheffield Academy, Leeds Academy, Birmingham Academy, Bournemouth Academy and the integration of the Glasgow ABC into the AMG Estate, he was responsible as a AMGs project manager for £20 million + of capital expenditure. He also oversaw the rebranding of the AMG venue estate with their new name in title partner O2.
Prior to joining AMG, previously known as MKG, Richard was the Theatre Manager of the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool between 1999 and 2002, which produced a cross section of events ranging from Rock & Pop to Opera and Comedy. He promoted across all genres including Brendan O’ Carroll’s first live shows in England producing Mrs Brown Boys in various runs smashing all box office records along the way over a two year period.
Between 1991 and 1999 Richard cut his teeth in 3 vibrant Student Unions, Huddersfield, Hull and Liverpool. Between then and the present day he has managed either directly or indirectly over 30 UK venues gaining extensive experience in venue management, programme development, crowd management, all aspects of health and safety, ticketing, marketing, event production including major installation projects, procurement, HR and all aspects of running a successful business in the live & club sector.
Carl Bathgate – Commercial Director
Carl embarked upon his career in the entertainment industry whilst studying Law at the University of Hull in 1993. During his time as a student he promoted several successful club nights and live events moving on to a full time career with his appointment as Assistant Entertainments Manager at Manchester Academy. Some four years later he moved on to become Promoter and Entertainment Manager of the University of Liverpool Guild of Students. During his six year tenure the venue grew to become one of the busiest venues in the UK combining successful club and comedy activity against the backbone of a strong live music programme, mixing in-house and nationally promoted touring artists. The 1000 plus self promoted shows, established relationships with national promoters and agents ensuring “Liverpool Guild” became one of the must play venues on the UK live music circuit.
In 2005 Carl then moved on to the Academy Music Group (AMG) initially appointed as General Manager of the Carling Academy Birmingham, then moving to open the Carling Academy Oxford, also as General Manager. Remaining with the AMG he was appointed Commercial Development Manager for the group in 2008 overseeing commercial aspects of AMG’s 14 venue estate and also implementing an innovative new business model which was to see AMG operate the first fully branded O2 Academy venue in partnership with the University of Leicester Students’ Union along with several none branded management agreements with Liverpool, Bournemouth, Sheffield and Hertfordshire Universities. In 2010 Carl’s responsibilities within AMG were expanded to include Head of Academy Events (AMG’s in house promotion division) which promoted 700+ live events per year across it’s managed venue estate whilst retaining the role of Commercial Development Manager. For the past 11 years and whilst working at ULGOS and AMG Carl has also operated his own business Risk Promotions Ltd promoting such artists as Alice Cooper, The Human League, Doves, Ed Sheeran, Katherine Jenkins, Snow Patrol, Blondie and Frank Turner to name but a few. 2014 saw Carl move on to pastures new and move to VMS to tie up with former AMG Directors Steve Forster and Richard Maides. Carl has been appointed to the newly created position of ‘Commercial Director’ to VMS. Carl will focus on developing existing and new Commercial arrangements for VMS and its clients as well as overseeing its promotional activity.
Joff Hall – Promoter / Booker
Between May 2008 and September 2010 Joff was the Promoter for Fibbers in York (280 capacity). In house shows promoted included: Two Door Cinema Club, Glasvegas, Asking Alexandria, The Rakes, The Blackout, The King Blues and many more. From September 2010 to September 2012 he was the Promoter and General Manager for The Duchess live music venue in York (400 capacity) and his in house promoted shows included: We Are Scientists, Maximo Park, Ben Howard, Metronomy, Inspiral Carpets, Heaven 17, The Lemonheads, John Cooper Clarke, Martha Reeves and many more.
In 2011 Joff became the lead booker for Galtres Parklands Festival (capacity 10,000). Headline artists have included Maximo Park, Levellers, The Human League, Bellowhead, The Charlatans, The Stranglers, Reef, Adam Ant, Buzzcocks, Ash, Billy Bragg, British Sea Power.
Following his time in York he was appointed the Promoter and Events Manager at position at 53 Degrees Preston (1500 and 400 capacity venues) where he promoted a wide range of artistes which has included: The Cribs, New Model Army, Peace, The 1975, The Wonder Stuff and Don Broco.
In early 2013 Joff launched his own company, HD Concerts, to promote across the region / UK. Highlights include…Johnny Marr in York and Preston, The Stranglers in Preston and Reading, The Cribs in Liverpool and Reading, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip in Preston, Liverpool and Nottingham and shows with The Fratellis, The Ghost Inside and The Devil Wears Prada.
Dan Pike – Events & Operations Consultant
Since 2012 Dan has been specialising in the production of 3,000 – 5,000 capacity outdoor festivals and street parties, producing Event Operating Manuals in partnership with local authorities and in line with SAG requirements. Whilst focussing on these events Dan has led on the varied aspects of outdoor event production including but not limited to health and safety, security liaison and planning, road closures, outdoor loud speaker consents, traffic management plans, risk assessments and third party suppliers.
Recently Dan has event produced the M*A*D*E Festival (Feat. Annie Mac & Chase and Status), 10 Years of The Rainbow Street Party (Gorgon City and many more), Digbeth Diners Club – Regional Street Food Awards (Twice winners of Best Street Food Event – British Street Food Awards) and over the years has held various production roles at Reading and Leeds, Lovebox, Fleadh, NASS, Shambala.
As a national promoter Dan has produced the likes of Killing Joke, Tomahawk, Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, The Dillenger Escape Plan, The Residents, Amon Tobin, Mr Bungle, John Waters, Sparks and In Flames. He has also held the diaries for such venues as The Mean Fiddler (London Astoria 2) The Forum,Kentish Town (Where he was the general business manager for 3 years) The Birmingham Ballroom and The Rainbow Venues (Warehouse, Arena, Textile Factory, Spotlight, Next Door) and The LCR at University of East Anglia and The Waterfront and Waterfront Studio, Norwich.
Chris Slater – Venues Operations Manager (South)
Chris joins VMS Live bringing with him over 20 years’ experience in live music and the licenced trade.
In 2003 he was appointed the youngest General Manager within Academy Music Group when he was took over the responsibility of managing the Islington Academy. During his time managing the venue he was involved in producing a number of high profile shows including The Cure, Eminem and Muse in the intimate 800 capacity venue. He was later appointed General Manager at both the Spitz and The Mean Fiddler. He was regularly employed as a promoters representative for Live Nation, SJM Concerts and Metropolis Music and a regular stage manager at both Wireless and V Festivals.
From 2008 – 2014 Chris was the Managing Director of The Freewheelin’ PubCo, operating four large pubs in West London and an eleven bedroom hotel in the Cotswolds. One pub in particular was famed for its secret charity gigs where Chris persuaded high profile bands such as Starsailor, The Bluetones, Echobelly and the Magic Numbers to perform in the under 50 capacity venue.
For the last year Chris has taken time out to write his first book which will be published next May.
Victoria Smith – Venues Operations Manager (North)
Victoria joined VMS as Venues Operations (North) in May 2015, previously working for Live Nation, Mama Group and Academy Music Group (AMG). Prior to moving over to VMS, Victoria was General Manager for the Arts Club Liverpool from May 2014 to May 2015, a multi venue Gig, Club and Bar & Kitchen in the heart of the city centre. Victoria has a vast array of experience gained over a 10 year career in Live Music and Venue Management.
Between 2009 and 2014 Victoria was Assistant General Manager at O2 Academy Oxford, a 400 and 1000 capacity venue, and 1350 capacity club space. During her time there, she started up and booked their monthly BBC Introducing events, bringing hotly tipped bands to the city, including Catfish and the Bottlemen and Augustine’s.
Victoria started her career with Live Nation in 2004 in their Theatre division, working across 4 of their venues, Sunderland Empire, Liverpool Empire, Edinburgh Playhouse and Hastings White Rock. In the 5 years she worked for the company, she worked her way up from Box Office Assistant to Assistant General Manager, via the company’s Trainee Management program.
During the Summer months, Victoria has also worked Download, Wireless and Hyde Park Calling Festivals in Event Control for Live Nation. Additionally, in the summer of 2013, Victoria volunteered for Oxjam Festival in Oxford, organising a multi venue festival.
Lee Welsh – ULU Venue Manager
Working primarily overseeing our ‘Welsh SU Venues’, as well as our Summer Balls and Outdoor Events. lee will be joining VMS as ‘Venues Manager’ as of Dec 1st 2015. Between 2009 & 2015 Lee was Entertainments & Events Manager at concert & club venue “The Forum Hertfordshire” (2250 cap). During his 6 years running the venues non wet operations Lee has promoted or co promoted gigs with acts such as Florence & The Machine, Enter Shikari, Ed Sheeran & Ellie Goulding to name a few, as well as implementing and operating large scale club nights and multi stage outdoor events. In 2014 Lee and his team picked up a Live UK Music business award for best venue team work, as well the best club night award at the 2014 Ents awards.
Between 2011 & 2015 Lee was also the site manager for the southern leg of the Slam Dunk Music Festival (10,000 cap) Responsible for overseeing the entire site, from planning to build, operation and de rig, events manuals, traffic management, crowd management, health and safety as well as liaison with police, fire, ambulance, railways, highways & environmental health. Slam dunk was voted best festival in 2015 by Kerrang.
Aoifé Niblock – Operations Assistant
Aoifé joined VMS in October 2016 as Venues & Operations Co-ordinator, coming from Liverpool Arts Club.
After graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in 2012, Aoifé joined Mama Group for the reopening of the Arts Club, a multi-room gig venue, 1350 capacity club venue and Bar & Kitchen in Liverpool City Centre. Having taken on several roles during her 4 years at Arts Club and gaining experience in all areas of the business, from May 2015 until August 2016 Aoifé was General Manager of the venue.
Aoifé first started working in music and events management in 2004, when she began running events for The Magnet Young Adults Centre, a 200 capacity music and community arts venue in Northern Ireland. After moving to Liverpool in 2007, Aoifé worked in various positions at festivals and live events including Stage Management and Event Production at Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool Music Week and Threshold Festival. As an Artist Liaison Manager, Aoifé has worked with acts as diverse as Ed Sheeran, Example and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
As part of her studies at LIPA, Aoifé was involved in collating an A&R showcase for Universal Records, worked as Front of House & Marketing Manager for the Third Degree Festival, and worked with Money North & Bold Management, who look after clients ranging from Atomic Kitten to the cast of Geordie Shore.
Aoifé also has considerable Festivlal Experience including Lovebox and Wilderness Festivals as well as working for VMS on the Wrexham stadium show in Summer 16.
Rachael Sant – Office Manager and Admin Assistant
Rachael is the ‘De Facto’ VMS Office Manager and Admin Assistant based in our Manchester offices. Very much the nerve centre of our Northern operation.
Rachael’s path in the music industry started in 2013 when she graduated from Buckinghamshire New University with a First Class Honours Degree in Music and Live Events Management. After a year working as a Rep for a number of Promoters around the North West, she joined VMS Live in 2015.
Since joining the company Rachael’s role has developed considerably, she has participated in many different areas of the business from events work at shows and Racecourses to social media management. Rachael is an essential part of the VMS team and as she would undoubtedly say ‘provides the glue that holds the whole business together.
Mike Cleghorn – Company Secretary
The final member of our Senior Management Team is Mike Cleghorn who is also the Company Secretary. Mike is a fully qualified Solicitor and long term business associate of Steve Forster. Mike also served as legal advisor to AMG and was amongst other roles, senior commercial lawyer at NEI plc during a long and successful career . Mike ensures the Company complies with all relevant statutory legislation as well as advising on all contractual arrangements.
Sarah Louise Jones – Promoters Assistant
Sarah joined VMS Live in Spring in 2017. Achieving a 1st class BA(hons) Degree in Commercial Music in the year of 2013, Sarah has since managed up and coming bands, worked within the press department for One Little Indian Records, written music articles for online magazines such as 7bit & Buzz Magazine, been an artist liaison and front of house manager for among others AMG Live, the Isle of Wight Festival and for Motorpoint arena. Immediately prior to joining VMS Live Sarah was an Events Management Assistant for William Aston Hall (based at Wrexham Glyndwr University) which is a 1,200 capacity venue. Sarah’s job roles at the WAH varied from managing the box office, running the website to repping and marketing the shows. As Promoters Assistant Sarah will be joining our ‘Promotions Department’ responsible for booking and delivering over 600 events per year on behalf of our clients and for VMS.