Dominic Reid OBE
Chief Executive of the Invictus Games Foundation, Pageantmaster of the Lord Mayor’s Show, Co-founder of John & Sylvia Reid and Sequitur.
By JOHN WALSH
There are event organisers and sports impresarios. There are party planners and arrangers of scientific debates. There are gentlemen who run literary festivals and ladies who stage circus performances in Home Counties marquees. And then, easily eclipsing them all, there’s Dominic Reid.
For a quarter-century, under the mild rubric of ‘Ceremonial and Event Consultants’, his company Reid & Reid has masterminded crazily ambitious national and international shows, games, processions, celebrations and festivals. His speciality has been to oversee head-spinningly important public events, broadcast live on television, synchronised around the world, attended by royalty and seen by millions. These are events in which absolutely nothing can be allowed to go wrong.
Dominic Reid is the person called in to make sure nothing does go wrong. When, in 2014, Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games, the international sporting competition for wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women, Reid was signed up at the outset as Event Director and given nine months to plan and deliver the Games, fully formed. He’s now CEO of the Invictus Games Foundation and has travelled the world with Prince Harry, finding new cities and venues in which to hold the event, from Orlando to Toronto to Sydney, preparing competitors and negotiating with sponsors and broadcasters.
He’s also a whizz at anniversaries. In 2007 he oversaw the wreath-laying ceremony in the Falkland Islands on the 25th anniversary of the war, broadcast via satellite to link with events on Horse Guards Parade, 8,000 miles away. Three years later, despite having an arts background, he was brought in to develop and oversee 1,500 science events worldwide to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. His beady-eyed organisational skill at The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations earned him an OBE. Now, he has drawn on his vast experience to co-found a new company.
The company, Sequitur, will help corporate clients to use an anniversary as a chance to take stock of their present strengths and shape their future. ‘It’s a perfect opportunity to change and grow,’ he says. ‘In the case of the Royal Society, not only was there a huge increase in public interest in science, but millions of pounds of government funding for science became available: all as a direct result of the anniversary campaign, which gave the Society the chance to dramatically re-state its purpose and vision.’
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Dominic Reid likes to attribute his organisational flair – and his vivid creative streak – to his parents, John and Sylvia Reid, who were successful architects and designers in Fifties and Sixties London. Dominic was a music scholar, who once played backing cello for the punk-folk activist Billy Bragg. He studied architecture at Cambridge and University College London, before briefly going into practice. Then, in 1992, his father died. John Reid had been Pageantmaster of the City of London’s Lord Mayor’s Show for 20 years and Dominic, who had witnessed his father’s starring role at close quarters, was instantly offered the job and established Reid & Reid upon accepting it.
It wasn’t an easy role to take on. The Pageantmaster has both executive and curatorial responsibility for running the Show – the world’s largest unrehearsed procession – in which 7,000 military, corporate and charitable participants mill through the streets along with ornate carriages, marching bands and troupes of animals, not to mention an RAF fly-past and a climactic firework display. Reid has masterminded this logistical challenge for 26 years, presiding over the march in a fine Ruritanian uniform and black-plumed Duke of Wellington hat, keeping bands out of each other’s earshot, and animals from getting wind of each other’s scent, orchestrating a mass of humanity while maintaining an unflappable calm.
Had his father offered him any advice? ‘I spent a year shadowing him. There was one point when some carriages had to appear in a particular order. Someone made a mistake and I stepped forward – but my father’s arm came out and stopped me. He said, “If you interfere now, it’s just going to get worse. If you leave it, it’ll be fine.” The best piece of advice he ever gave me.’
Reid also has a fine record in directing and overseeing major sporting events. For five years his company acted as consultants to the London Marathon, organising entertainment and charity initiatives along the route. He was also the first Executive Director of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, arranging broadcasting contracts and launching the Race’s first website.
In his stellar career, Reid has learned an operational shorthand through handling scores of rich, grand and powerful organisations. He knows how to secure the cooperation of royalty, the Army, the Royal Navy and the RAF, the BBC, the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, livery companies and major-league corporate sponsors. His contacts book is colossal. And his major skill lies in getting people from such eminent walks of life to work together.
‘It took a really long time before I clocked what exactly I do,’ he says. ‘I was nearly 50, and working on the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. At a reception, the Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, Professor Lorna Cassleton, turned to me and said, “You know, Dominic, none of this would be happening if you weren’t such a diplomat. You make it happen because you bring people together, you iron it all out and you make it all smooth.” I mean really,’ says the Phineas T Barnum of the modern three-ring circus, ‘You could have knocked me down with a feather.’