People With A Passion: Peter Blakey – Senior Contracts Executive.

CDI World

With forty years in carpentry and prestigious exhibition projects, Peter’s seen it all, built it all and has definitely earned the tee-shirt. He also races sailboats, windsurfs and rides a Harley.

How did you get started in the exhibitions industry?

As a young lad, I always enjoyed woodwork at school, engineering drawing too. More gifted in the hands than the head I suppose! When I was thirteen, I inherited a sailing boat from my father and got seriously into racing. Later, I traded that one for a faster, sleeker boat and did quite well. Then a fellow racer, who had his own woodworking business, offered me a job at his shop if I’d crew for him. So, at the tender age of sixteen I got my first job in carpentry! 

What kind of work were you doing?

Initially, we were making desks – really nice, bespoke stuff. I was there for thirteen years as a bench joiner. It was a great gig, but the pay was dreadful. All for the love of the wood, I suppose! When jobs dried up, the crew of joiners I worked with would sometimes subcontract, building stands for a big exhibition company. I was struck by the fact that I could earn three or four times per hour what I’d been doing as a bench joiner.

How often would these exhibition jobs come up?

Only occasionally, and I didn’t have a union card, which you needed at the time. But, later on, I happened to be site-foreman on a job when I noticed a man looking very intently at a door I’d fitted. I thought I’d done something wrong but he asked, “Did you do this?” I told him I had. It turned out he was from Lucas Industries Displays and he’d been admiring how well the hinges had been put in. “Too bad I didn’t meet you earlier,” he said. “I just hired someone and it’s a job for life.”     

So you missed out?

Not quite. A few months later. I got a letter from him inviting me for an interview at Lucas Industries in Birmingham, which I found was no interview at all. More like, “Here’s your bench and off you go!” From there, I worked my way up to Foreman Carpenter and then Works Manager and ended up convincing the company we should start manufacturing our own proprietary exhibition stands. Business boomed until Lucas was eventually bought up by a large corporation, and that eventually led to me joining up with the founders of the CDI team in the UK.

What does your current role involve?

Heading up accounts and estimating. This has involved me with projects all over Europe and the UK and occasionally the States. My responsibilities included the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) account, working very closely with their creative agency. This encompassed major exhibitions and big international auto shows in Paris, Geneva and Frankfurt. We’ve had to produce some really ambitious and imaginative installations and I’ve loved every moment.

What is the single most important factor in creating an exceptional exhibit?

Peter has a dry land hobby as well – riding his Harley Davidson

For me, having sufficient time is one of the most important factors. But I can tell you, in all the years I’ve been doing this job, it’s a luxury we seldom get! Somehow, though, at CDI World we still manage to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Probably most important of all is having good working relationships. What I enjoy most is interacting with thoughtful clients who know what they want, respect your judgement and trust you to create something really special.   

We’ve been told you take your time outside work pretty seriously too!           

Well, I’m still mad about sailing. I have an RS Aero, which is a very light and nimble racing boat made with lots of carbon fibre. I’ve also got a Fireball-class racing dinghy. It’s a classic 1969 design where the crew is out on a trapeze! It’s very fast and the more wind, the more thrilling it becomes. I’ve also been a windsurfer for, gosh, over twenty-five years? I used to do a bit of snowboarding but too many shoulder surgeries compelled me to give that up. I have a dry land hobby as well – riding my Harley Davidson. You can’t beat the thunder of a Harley, as I’m sure my American colleagues would agree.

If CDI World offered to support a ‘passion project’ of yours what would it be and why?  

As I hinted with the Harley, another great passion of mine is motorcycles. Actually, my mother was in labour with me on the back of a BSA! Bikes are in my blood and I’ve been into them since I was fourteen years old, nearly killing myself a couple of times. If the company was up for it, I’d open a bike garage where I could refurbish and sell Japanese classics from the 70s and 80s – Honda CB750s, Kawasaki Z1s, and so on. They’re all appreciating big-time now so there’s some serious margin in that area!

Thanks Peter – we’ll look forward to the official opening!

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