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INTERVIEW

‘WE HAVE NO SUPPORT’ A TOURING FAMILY FACING CAREER EXILE Five months into the lockdown of touring productions, an engaged couple of freelance sound engineers now out of pocket with a young family to feed face an uncertain future with no government support. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…

Before the lockdown of live events following the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer Grace Rhodes was a fresh-faced freelancer specialising in live sound. Her fiancé, Rob Priddle, a veteran of the touring industry having spent 20 years as a freelance audio engineer, was working full-time as a Project Manager until he was made redundant. Together for almost five years, the couple now face their biggest challenge to date – financial uncertainty with a young family to feed and no government support. Rhodes shared her story with TPi: “Rob ignited my passion for live events,” she began. “You can’t help but get dragged into this industry when you have a partner who works away for the majority of the year… and the more I got involved, the more I fell in love with its idiosyncrasies.”

A couple of years ago, the couple sat down and decided to brainstorm a pathway for Rhodes to gain professional qualifications in audio engineering. “I enrolled on an intensive course at SSR (now Spirit Studios), specialising in audio and PA for the live events industry, which I passed with a distinction in March last year.” Previously an accomplished Kitchen Planner for John Lewis, following her graduation, Rhodes handed in her notice to embark on her first year as a freelancer. “I did a lot of free work for around eight months, doing anything in audio. With Rob working in the industry, I was able to get directly involved with stadium tours,” she said, sharing her experience, which includes dual roles as PA Tech with Krept and Konan at Ally Pally 62