The man responsible for Sir Paul McCartney’s monitor mix since 2007, John ‘Grubby’ Callis is no stranger to working on some of the biggest stages in the world. However, since the late ’00s, Grubby has also been the mastermind of one of the best-kept secrets on the UK live music scene. Since 2012, The Kings Arms pub in Wiltshire has seen the likes of Brian May, Roger Taylor, Jeff Beck, Bob Geldof and Billy Ocean descend on this quaint setting for an annual show that aims to raise money for the NHS and Cancer Research.
Despite the size of the venue, the events crew and suppliers read like a who’s who of the live events industry. This year, the suppliers included Clair Global, Neg Earth, NoNonsense Group, Stagetruck, Power Logistics, and Eat to the Beat. Not only that, but personnel including FOH Engineer, Pab Boothroyd and Stage Manager, Mike Grove assumed key roles in powering the production.
Winding the clocks back, Grubby discussed the origins of the event. “Back in 2008, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” he began. “Once I recovered, I was keen to do something to raise some money to give back to the NHS and Cancer Research.”
Having worked in the industry for decades, the natural solution to raise some money was to put on a charity concert, so he made a few phone calls to some of his fellow engineers and crew members to lend a hand.
“In the first year in 2012, it was just a little trailer stage, but it’s continued to grow from there. It’s only a 4,000-cap event, but with top-notch suppliers and crew member, it’s probably the most professional gig there is for a pub venue of this size,” he explained. Due to the level of technical ability, Grubby joked how the show was never much of a challenge, but it was a fantastic opportunity to meet up with industry colleagues, which was even more important this year after 18 months of no shows.
“The original goal was to have a show in 2020, which obviously got cancelled and pushed forward to this year. Thankfully, all the artists agreed to move their fee over to 2021 – as did most of the ticket holders, which saved the event and ensured we could still make money for charity. Many of them have been very gracious over the years, giving us a 50% cut on their fee,” he reported.
All good things must come to an end and, according to Grubby, now is the right time to close out Concert at the Kings. “Just this year alone, we have raised £300,000, which is £50,000 more than our initial target,” he enthused. “It’s hard now that it’s over, but I think we achieved what we set out to do in 2010.”
As well as the punters who have made Concert at the Kings a highlight of their calendar, this also marks the end of one of the industry’s favourite get-togethers.
NoNonsense Group’s Liz Madden commented: “We have provided the stages at Concert at the Kings since 2013 and it has been a privilege to work alongside such an incredible team – all of whom give their time and support to raise funds for cancer charities. Richard Baulu, Grubby and Andy Scott put so much time into organising the event each year – their enthusiasm is catching and this year was the best one ever.”
This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.