In October 2003 I met Matt Heason in the Whiskey Creek pub in Bishop, California. On a four month climbing roadtrip, with his wife Sophie, he was just in the planning stages of setting up his event management business, Heason Events.
Matt is 34 and was born in Bangor, North Wales. He didn't start climbing until he left home although he was reluctantly dragged up Lockwood's Chimney in Nant Gwynant at 11pm one night when he was 6. He started climbing whilst at sixth form college in Brecon, then in earnest at Swansea University where he studied Geography and ran the climbing club for a couple of years. He's climbed all over the UK (except the Lakes). He moved to Sheffield after graduating, for the climbing and has been there for nearly 10 years. He admits to getting a bit bored of the grit every now and again, especially when it's warm and midgy, but still loves living there.
Matt Heason of Heason Events
When he got back to Blighty from his US trip he got busy and during the winter of 2003/04 he organized 30 multimedia shows using an integrated mix of digital slides, videos, music and talk that featured Andy Kirkpatrick, Ian Parnell, his brother Ben Heason, Lisa Rands and Steve McClure. This was the first time that Steve McClure and Ben Heason had done slide show presentations and they haven't looked back. From an idea, some good planning and a lot of hard work Heason Events was born. Matt then went on to promote events for the big guns including Chris Bonington, Doug Scott, Al Hinkes, Simon Yates, Colin Prior and Gordon Stainforth. He's still trying to persuade Joe Brown, Ron Fawcett and Joe Simpson. Matt also helps organise the British Youth Climbing Series (BRYCS) for the BMC and does the news and other freelance projects for the planetFear website. Organising film evenings has also been part of the mix including the successful Best of Kendal and one offs like Colorado Daydream.
I asked Matt how it was going? It is not easy setting up a business in the small world of climbing and you aren't going to make millions or retire to the Cayman Isles off the proceeds.
“Seems to be doing really well. It was a mixed bag at the beginning. I was feeling the water, seeing what works and what doesn't. That said I have never made a loss on an event. These days I would say that most are either sold out, or close to sold out. I think I have worked out when to say no!”
What of the future?
“We have a baby due in June - our first. I am working like mad at the moment to give myself some decent time off over the summer to spend with him and Soph. I have a couple of events lined up for the summer / autumn, but not much as yet. My plan is really to carry on in much the same manner, streamlining things so that I stop working on the poorly paid stuff, of which there is plenty in the climbing world! I love doing the lectures at the Lescar beacause there is such a great atmosphere at every one. The last two years I have organised a charity gig each January at the Lescar. These are excellent and very well attended..”
Love's an important return from many jobs in the climbing world it seems.
“At the end of the day my aim was to put on decent quality, good value multimedia shows for the climbing public, using technology that others hadn't appreciated yet. Everything else has just kind of happened! I love my job because I don't see anybody who doesn't benefit from it. Sponsors get increased recognition, audiences are entertained, speakers earn a living and I donate 5% of my profits back into the climbing world that supports me”
Matt's latest event is the Sheffield Adventure Film Forum (SHAFF) to be held at the The Showroom Cinema over the weekend of April 21st to the 23rd. This is a mix of adventure films covering climbing, mountaineering, biking, paragliding, surfing – all the 'extreme' sports that involve going up, down and sideways on all the mediums that the earth offers. There's the Best of Kendal, Best of Telluride and Best of Banff and lots of old favourites.
You can check out the full list of films on the Sheffield Adventure Film Forum website, complete with times and reviews.
Matt is offering UKClimbing.com ten free tickets to SHAFF all you have to do is visit the SHAFF website and answer these questions. The first set of tickets have been won. Matt will announce the next winner on April 10th.
Email your answers to Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. On March 31st two names will be drawn at random from the list, each winning five tickets.