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News > OBs Remembered > RIP - Gareth W A James (DHB, 63-67)

RIP - Gareth W A James (DHB, 63-67)

...his zealous appetite for learning, history and literature and wider horizons
18 Nov 2023
Written by Huw Richards
OBs Remembered
Gareth A W James (DHB, 63-67)
Gareth A W James (DHB, 63-67)

Gareth William Anthony James: Donaldsons, 1963 - 1967

Born 3rd May 1949 - Died 18th November 2023

Early years

Gareth was the son of RAF pilot Hugh Glanffrywd James and Elizabeth James (nee Jones) and had three siblings Robert, Jennifer & Jeffrey and two half siblings Sarah and Huw. His dad’s official log book records the birth at 11.35 Zulu and he beat up the tower to celebrate the occasion. That note explains Gareth’s later attention to detail!

Brother Jeff describes his and Gareth’s siblings’ childhood as peripatetic moving every two years around RAF bases in southern England including a two year stint in Alaska during the 1950’s. During his school years he moved from Kesgrave Prep in Woodbridge Suffolk to boarding with Jeff, at Christ College Brecon some 65kms north of Penarth in Wales where the family had settled in 1962. This movement according to Jeff disrupted his education much to Gareth’s chagrin but it also inspired his zealous appetite for learning, history and literature and wider horizons

Whist not a sporting hero at school he excelled outside of school hours in yachting, fly fishing, hill walking and cadet training in the Brecon Beacons landscape. He was a recipient, along with a small team of boys, of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Gold medal in his final year as an A level student which was presented to him at Buckingham Palace.

1968 he started his first job as a trainee clerk with Lloyds Bank in Cardiff and after two years moved to head office in London and stayed there until early 1971.

Finding Australia

Gareth was always interested in travel and was inspired by the round the world sailors Francis Chichester and Robert Knox-Johnson and so when he left the bank he hitchhiked to Spain and worked as a barman for close to a year in Lloret de Mar. Returning to the UK in 1972 he worked in a variety of jobs in and around London and Cardiff, he decided to try his luck in Australia not as a 10 pound Pom but on a self- financed 100 pound fly/sail excursion ticket to Perth via Singapore (where he was subject to a compulsory haircut under the entrance rules of Premier Lee Kwan Yu). After landing in Perth he hitchhiked across the Nullarbor to Sydney and on to Melbourne and so began his career in show business.

After a time in the finance department of JC Williamson Theatres he was transferred to the position of Assistant Manager of the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne.

In 1974 he worked as a Tour Manager (treasurer) for a number of Michael Edgley shows including Shirley Bassey and the Georgian Dancers which was followed by positions as Manager of His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth and then working his way up the chain from a front of house role to House Manager, and eventually he became

 Manager of the Perth Entertainment Centre and from then on his work focus shifted to venue management.

It was during those years in Perth that he formed a long term friendship with Stacy Mitchell which endured with her and her four boys up until his death.

After completing his internship with Edgley he moved to Sydney where in the mid 1980’s he was manager of the Sydney Entertainment Centre following which he came back to Melbourne take on the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Olympic Park Melbourne sports and entertainment complex.

It was during the 80’s, based on his Australia wide experience in management of venues that Gareth envisaged that an Association of those involved in the venue management industry, particularly sports stadiums and entertainment centres. This eventually led to the first formal conference of venue industry leaders at Olympic Park Melbourne in November 1989 and what was to become the Venue Management Association. Today, The VMA has 900 +members, and it is to Gareth James whose vision and commitment brought it about, that credit is due.

The leading role he played in the establishment and early management of the VMA was one of Gareth’s three outstanding and significant contributions to the industry. His second contribution was the implementation of his plan for the establishment in 1994 of the VMS ( Venue Management School ) assisted by the Business Faculty of the Queensland University of Technology and was modelled on the successful IAVM’s successful school in the USA.

Gareth’s third contribution was the lasting connection he made with the International Association of Venue managers ( the US/Canada venue mangers organisation)

Subsequently Gareth was invited to join its Board as the first non American mainland Director. Gareth put the International into the IAVM which had a number of overseas members but tended to focus on its USA and Canadian membership and activities.

The Later Years

There was a short period in the mid 1990’s Gareth joined Ogden International to look after Stadium Australia in the lead up to the Olympics but when the opportunity presented itself to him to manage the amalgamated Olympic Park Trust and Flinders Park – the Melbourne and Olympic Park Trust he returned to Melbourne until his retirement in 2004 . The foundations of the extraordinary sporting and entertainment complex that it is today was laid by Gareth and his team.

In early 2004 Gareth had been diagnosed with throat cancer and for nearly 20 years courageously battled the ongoing limitations and afflictions that beset him.

He was the patron of a small group of retired Melbourne based VMA, the writer and Gareth. The group met two or three times a year for lunch and Gareth despite his inability to consume anything other than some warm soup and a cup of tea always contributed to the conversation if his raspy vocal chords allowed. He never once looked for pity or sympathy and remained a keen attendee at all times.

Apart from family, one’s best friends tend to be those you see on a regular basis where you live, work, or relax. But then there are those keep in touch with after you have gone your separate ways and yet always pick up the conversation where you left off the last time you met. Gareth James was one of those. The VMA and all of us, have lost one of our best friends.

Vale Gareth and thanks for the work and the memories.

Mae'n amser i orffwys nawr.

(It’s time to rest now)

D Jeff E James (DHB, 62-70)



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