|With Andy Collier - Francis Reid (R)|
But not only was Francis the 'go to' person to ask about theatre lighting, his theatrical interests were much broader, with experience in many roles within the theatre, including running one. I had joined Strand from Thorn, the UK's largest lighting company, but none of my experience had taken me into Thorn's theatre lighting business. I had however worked closely with Tony Isaacs and the team behind Q File - a landmark product that had stolen a march on Strand the market leaders, in bring electronics to theatre lighting. I was also told that in the sequence of recent Strand marketing managers I was unusual in having an engineering background and expertise in lighting. It was in this appointment I first met Francis.
Some years earlier I had, in an amateur role, attended a series of theatre lighting training sessions run on a Saturday morning in Strand's Covent Garden HQ. I was also aware of Francis' ability to communicate in other ways than the expression of his artistic abilities through his lighting designs. Also through his teaching and writing expertise similarly commanded respect. He taught us too, memorably, hands on' education at the Buxton Opera House in mid winter when the theatre was dark.
Despite his fame, Francis was so easy to talk to. Although our meetings were quite infrequent, we would sit and chat over a cup of coffee like long lost friends. Francis made you feel immediately comfortable and treated you as a valued friend. Unlike some, he did not use his position or reputation to take a superior role. When looking at new products, his questioning of how they worked was gentle and probing. Not the attitude of others who try to undermine your new development. This all made his advice that much more valuable.
Francis had been one of the few editors of Strand's TABS magazine. By the time I had taken over the marketing role at Strand, Richard Harris had taken up the editorial pen.