Friends of Uno: Wendy Lacey

Posted September 11, 2020

Get to know Wendy, event producer and recycling boss

Welcome back to our Team Spotlight – where we have a chat with some of the passionate industry figures we work alongside. 

We regularly partner with “Mumma Wendy” and the TLC Event Co. team as our co-producers when delivering large scale, complex, outdoor concepts such as Fish Lane Festival, James St Food & Wine Trail, and the Sunnybank $2 Food Trail.

Wendy Lacey is an event all-rounder with over 30-years experience in producing and managing large-scale outdoor events such as Eat Street, Paniyiri and Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.

Wendy Lacey ‘aka’

  • Waste Management Mama
  • Director @ TLC Events Co.

Some of the projects we’ve worked with TLC Events Co. on

So, Wendy…

Did you complete any internship or work experience? How did this help you choose your career path? 

Without showing my age too much – when I started off, Event Management and the creative career space didn’t really exist. There definitely wasn’t any university degrees or courses back then.

I grew up in a family that organised lots of parties with lots of people!  This is where I got my taste for being organised.  Initially working in the Brisbane City Council, I was lucky enough to work in what was called the ‘fun department’.  I worked at the sporting complexes, golf course, the child care centre and on the 1982 Commonwealth Games.  Brisbane also hosted the 1991 Lions International Convention and I was the senior Council officer for that, so I was certainly in the right space to learn lots about events.

What does a day in the life of Wendy look like?

Every day is different. Most days start early, I find I get the most work done when there are no distractions around. I know the team ‘loves’ to open their inbox to a series of emails at 9am after I have been up for 3 hours.

We operate out of a home office, so our day to day is less conventional than your typical office. Whenever we have interns or new staff, it doesn’t take them long to realise we are a casual Friday’s kind of team. It’s the perfect mix of work then if I have some friends coming over, the team are called upon for cheese platter duties or a dash to the bottle shop to get supplies.

During our busiest period, client meetings have me away from the office for the bulk of the day (see why I love early mornings on email).  There are definitely moments where I call the office to say I will be back in the next 20 minutes, but only for a moment, so please get your questions ready!

This year of course has been a slower space, so we have been able to allocate time to complete all the things we never would usually have time to do – sorting through our event hardware boxes and an overhaul of the office were the initial tasks, but we have been busy doing lots of COVID planning for businesses.  We are working on a Strategic Business Plan for Sweet Days Hot Nights festival in North Queensland.  We have also provided a range of ‘value added’ tasks such as grant applications for artistic concepts we developed, something we would not normally have time to do.  It has also given me time to catch up with our friends and suppliers in the industry and bounce ideas off each other on how to pivot during these challenging times.

Working with my daughters, I make a conscious decision to limit work talk over family dinners. It’s important to differentiate between work and personal time, when the magic happens all in the same place.

Tell us in your words, what is it that you do? 

Our team specialises in delivering large outdoor celebrations, anything from 200 people to 250,000 people. We are proud to work with award winning clients, who trust us to deliver major events mainly across South East Queensland.  But we equally love working on smaller projects, where clients trust us to deliver unique and boutique experiences.

A normal year for us is around 13 major projects, best described as organised chaos!  We are a small team, so juggling multiple projects at once is something that the team have to be experts at. With the majority of our projects cancelled due to COVID, I often wonder how we managed to pull everything off, as we still seem to be busy!

We offer a full suite event management service, from the original concept creation to event execution and management. Some of our events involve a 10-month lead time, so I think the most rewarding part is when the event is underway and everyone is having such a good time. It makes all the pre-planning and hard work worth it.

The other side of the business is mentoring and consultancy for a variety of events in regional and city centres of Queensland. This is definitely a passion of mine to help regional communities grow their events. I am often impressed at what is delivered on smaller budgets and far fewer resources.

What’s been the most challenging lesson you’ve learnt?

Producing Riverfestival’s Dinner on the bridge saw significant planning to achieve a bump in/out on 2 bridges never seen before, certainly in Queensland.  The important lesson for all was that we had to be 1 army that built the bridges together in 45mins – full of all infrastructure for the restaurants to then roll on and do their bit in 30mins and be ready for service of 3000 people.

The other most challenging event was organising the 2nd Gateway Bridge Opening that saw over 250,000 people walk the bridge on that day.  We had 10 weeks and again the lesson was that if the suppliers, authorities (both State and Local Govt) and our team, didn’t work towards the common goal, we could not have delivered all the people by bus to walk and enjoy the event safely.  Working all nighters is not ideal, but we did to make it happen!

What has been some of your main highlights of working in the creative industries?

Working on the opening of the Pasminco Mine at Lawn Hill and the Port at Karumba, stand out as the most memorable.  Imagine living for a week with a number of indigenous mobs, learning how to get honey out of trees amongst other cultural learnings and creating events together, for the official ceremonies – both in remote locations.  Premier of Qld, Peter Beattie also lived in Wilston, and who I had seen not long before at the Strand Opening in Townsville.  He gets out of a helicopter at Lawn Hill and says ‘bloody hell – Wendy from Wilston’ is here too – we had a big laugh.

Our most recent achievement of converting all of our events to having fully sustainable practices, is also a highlight – to change supplier, vendor and participants mindsets through an education campaign has gained their support.  As an example, you will only see compostable serve ware at all that we do.  I don’t mind being called a Waste Warrior!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone looking to become an event producer/manager?

I don’t think I can give just one…

Get industry experience. Be comfortable in hi-vis or a raincoat with a traffic wand, because you are never too good for the crappy jobs. Volunteering while studying at university and getting some real-life experience on what happens behind closed doors is worth far more than you realise. Be eager to learn, you are not going to get the best job first – those hosting bands backstage, once too had to scan tickets and wristband at the entry gate. You will still after 30 years, find me back of house in the bin compound sorting rubbish. It can be physically demanding and you definitely need to be able to think on your feet.

No amount of detail in a spreadsheet will save you from unexpected challenges during an event. When you think nothing else possibly could go wrong, it will. You need to have the capacity to think quickly on your feet and come up with solutions. Being stressed and flustered onsite doesn’t serve anyone well. Remaining calm and in control in front of the client and your team should be a top priority.

Excellent communication, with your team, your client.

Time management is vital, not only during the planning stage of a project but during bump in and out.

The bulk of our type of work is on weekends, so you have to be comfortable with sometimes missing out on special occasions and social things with friends.

Lastly, I think we have a passionate industry – we do it because we love creating special experiences for people to enjoy. If you aren’t passionate about what you are doing, you aren’t going to survive.

What do you like about working with Uno Momento? 

Uno Momento are part of our family and vice versa.  The various events we work on together are seamless and these collaborations bring out the best in both teams.