A life of spectacles and extraordinary experiences
It’s hard to quantify the contribution James Avery has made to the events industry.
For more than four decades, the passionate Southbanker has been captivating audiences with his behind-the-scenes work on a wide range of projects as an entertainment and production specialist.
From festivals and family events to Olympic Torch Relay celebrations, to most recently setting up The LUME Melbourne, the world’s largest digital art gallery, James is constantly pushing the boundaries to create innovative experiences.
“It was an amazing achievement,” he said of The LUME, the venue at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre where the inaugural multi-sensory shows brought the works of world famous artists Van Gogh, and then Monet and friends, to life. Now The LUME is featuring First Nations’ art in Connections.
James was contracted by Grande Experiences to complete the show’s entire fit-out and build, which he conceded was an “incredible challenge to do it through lockdowns and COVID”.
“When we got [Van Gogh Live] opened at the end of 2021, it was just stunning and nothing like Melbourne has seen before and the biggest of its genre in the world, which is a great achievement for everybody,” he said.
But he quips he wouldn’t be in the career today had he not deferred his photography and fine arts degree and turned up to work at the Moomba Festival as an 18-year-old in mid- ‘80s.
Expecting to help at what used to be a community breakfast, James suddenly found himself “being handed the key to a three-tonne truck, and a handful of cash” to buy thousands of eggs wherever he could after organisers realised they only had 500 eggs instead of 5000.
James managed to pull off the feat by “driving around to every 7-Eleven store in Melbourne”, which led him to being offered a full-time gig.
“I never went back to uni; I suddenly discovered this events industry was amazing. I have worked it in ever since.”
James joined his brother to create Avery Events, which has seen the pair jet across the globe taking on mammoth shows, while back home they were behind the first Christmas parades in Melbourne and Sydney in the early ‘90s.
Another highlight was producing entertainment and community activities for the 2000 Olympics Torch Relay – proving it is “possible to live on Mars bars and coffee.”
Asked what continued to drive him, he said, “Whether it’s a public event outdoors or a theatre or an arena show … it’s when people laugh at the right moment, when they gasp at the right moment, when the smiles appear, and you know you got it right – that’s the best reward.”
Speaking of his passion for Southbank, where he has lived for the past 14 years, he said, “It’s beyond convenient”.
“I’ve lived and travelled in many, many countries around the world and they’re stunning, but I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. It’s an incredibly diverse city.” •