Treat people with respect and you'll be respected back: Tom Sabin on a changing industry and the allure of outdoor events.

We spoke to Tom Sabin, Managing Director at Diagon, a senior construction business with a giant workshop that makes all sorts of things for a whole range of different sectors about the events industry, podcasts and good advice.

What makes you feel proud when it comes to your work?


There's a huge sense of satisfaction in seeing projects come to fruition, especially ones that took a long time to complete. This might be a festival with 50,000 people enjoying a band on stage or a beautiful installation built in a workshop. Seeing other people get satisfaction from it — whether it's the public, a happy client, or a proud team — gives me a great sense of satisfaction.


How has your role changed over the years? And how would you like to see it evolve?


Over 20 years, I progressed from small community events and festivals in Manchester to major event production worldwide — so there’s that.


What book, movie, series, or podcast has inspired you recently?


One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is the Blind Boy podcast, which covers a fascinating range of subjects, including art history which I know nothing about. Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford is also great. 

Can you think of a project that went totally awry? And if so, what did you learn from that?


Yes, I've had major festivals cancelled due to weather and lost a significant amount of work when the pandemic hit. However, you learn the most from things going wrong. When the pandemic wiped out the events and scenic industry, we were able to diversify quickly and recover, picking up work in new areas.


What is the hardest part of your job?


The hardest part about doing my job is the need to wear so many different hats. We're a relatively small business. So as MD I've got to cover a lot of different bases and constantly prioritise the changing needs of the business, the people and the projects. That's the hardest part. But it's also the most rewarding part because it makes it constantly challenging which is what makes it interesting.

DIAGON SET CONSTRUCTION: Es Devlin Mirror Maze for i-D Magazine and Chanel

How has the creative industry changed since you started working in it?


I think the creative industries in general have changed a lot. It’s changed in how people expect other people to work — particularly in the events industry — there was and still is a culture of working all hours and, and people's home lives suffering because of it — but it would be wrong to say it hasn’t improved dramatically.

Have you ever had to work on a job that conflicted with your ethics?


There have definitely been circumstances within projects where I felt I had to speak up because a commercial decision was maybe overriding a safety decision. So there's definitely been ethical conflicts within projects and there are probably clients that we would certainly think twice about working for.


What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?


Treat people with respect and you'll be respected back. Don't burn any bridges.


What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?


I would advise my younger self not to take things too personally and to try and separate work from personal life better.


What piece of advice would you give to your future self?


To be open to learning and new experiences. Staying fresh and on top of things requires being open to knowing that you don't know everything and that every day should be a school day.


What's your future dream client or project?


My future dream client or project would be a major touring art installation. Working directly with artists and creators in their studios is one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of project management and technical fabrication. A public-facing installation that can tour multiple sites around the world would be great.


And finally what's the best advice you've ever received?


Bruce Mitchell (Manchester event production legend and drummer for The Durutti Column) told me once: when things get hectic, take a walk to clear your head and regain focus. I find now my best ideas come when outdoors, running or cycling. 


Cheers Tom!




Tom Sabin

This website uses cookies. By using this website and its content you accept these cookies.
Learn more