Brian’s theatre career began when he took the role of assistant stage manager at Perth Repertory Theatre in 1959: this led him to take on several other roles in theatre, before joining, in 1965, the National Youth Theatre. In 1968 he was invited by Michael Kustow to join the Institute of Contemporary Arts as technical director and helped launch its new London premises on The Mall.

Whilst at the ICA, he took three months off to join Chip Monck’s lighting crew on the Rolling Stones tour of Europe. In 1970, the Stones were keen to source a lighting desk and dimmers, so Brian approached Electrosonic: it was an enquiry that led to the prototype of the Rockboard. Several switches between his theatre and touring hats later, he formed ESP Lighting, together with John Brown. In the years that followed, the company provided lighting services to a host of emerging artists, including The Who, David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Deep Purple, the Moody Blues, Abba and Joni Mitchell. In 1977, Brian sold ESP to Rikki Farr’s Electrosound, which had also acquired Tom Fields Associates of Boston, creating an international group – TFA Electrosound – of which Brian became MD. The client roster expanded to include Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Chicago, The Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, Ian Dury, The Pretenders and Madness.

In 1982, the TFA group broke up and the London operation was acquired by Theatre Projects, with Brian subsequently becoming administration director of the newly-formed Theatre Projects Services. In 1984 TPS was acquired by Samuelsons and Brian was appointed head of Samuelson Concert Productions. Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley and Tina Turner all joined the client roster, and in 1985 Brian was one of four stage managers working on Live Aid at Wembley.

In 1989, all the lighting entities within Samuelsons were combined together at Greenford with Brian overseeing operations as general manager. When Vari-Lite Inc bought the lighting divisions of the company in 1994, he became managing director of Vari-Lite Europe. In 1999, having successfully survived a heart operation and cancer, he moved to the role of chairman of the company we now know as VLPS.

Retired in 2003

2002 Parnelli Award

On Friday, January 11, 2002, Brian Croft, Chairman of Vari-Lite Europe, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Created by Pro Production 2002, the award is dubbed the ‘Parnelli’, in memory of respected tour manager Rick ‘Parnelli’ O’Brien, who passed away in October 2000. The Parnelli recognizes outstanding individuals in the live event production industry and their contributions to the field.

Terry Lowe, executive director of Pro Production 2002. “We’re very pleased to establish the Parnelli here at Pro Production 2002. And there is no more fitting recipient for a lifetime achievement award than Brian Croft.” Croft, whose production career spans 40 years, was a founding member of Britain’s National Youth Theatre, and studied at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol. He broke into the business as a theatrical stage manager, and in 1970, segued into rock ‘n’ roll, joining the legendary Chip Monck’s lighting crew on a Rolling Stones tour.

Croft combined both theatrical and concert work for several years, then, with John Brown, formed ESP Lighting Ltd and went on to provide lighting services for such acts as The Who, Queen, and The Moody Blues, while continuing to production manage Rolling Stones tours. Since 1977 he has run the subsequent ventures that grew out of ESP, including Samuelson’s and eventually Vari-lite Europe Ltd.

The award will be presented at the industry reception, a highlight of Pro Production 2002, the trade show being held from January 11-13, 2002 at the San Diego Convention Center.