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Marking 50 years of The P.A. People’s growth from a suburban garage to the world stage

Marking 50 years of The P.A. People’s growth from a suburban garage to the world stage
July 5, 2021

Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary of The P.A. People's, growing from a garage in the Sydney suburb of Enfield.

What started back then in the early 1960s then as Christian Sound (incorporated as CS Services) was first incorporated on 2nd July 1971, growing to be one of the most well respected and diverse professional Audio and AV solution providers in the industry.

Born to meet the needs of the local church, schools, government and community events, the company was created at a time when professional audio was in its infancy and had to manufacture many of the products it needed, ranging from multichannel mixing consoles and amplifiers, though to the now iconic range of PEM self-powered portable loudspeakers. 

Installations in Sydney churches and schools numbered in their thousands through those times, and it is still not uncommon to find an installed speaker cabinet in a church with the CS trumpet logo attached.

Thriving and continuing to develop unique solutions to sound reinforcement challenges well before commercial solutions were available, large scale three-way loudspeaker cabinets were designed to provide sound reinforcement for a crusade at Randwick Racecourse, and the original ‘Bose Trees’ were created to provide a novel rigging solution for indoor and outdoor spaces. 

After some time, the company adopted ‘the p.a. people’ as a by line under the CS Services brand, which around 1981 evolved into the adoption of The P.A. People as the company’s trading name. 

Concert Production
In 1985, The P.A. People secured the contract to provide the sound systems for Carols in the Domain and the Sydney Festival Concert Series including the Australian Opera and the Symphony under the Stars, a contract it held for the next 10 years.

With a unique approach based on a larger version of its Bose trees (building on the concept originally developed years earlier), the company's Concert Production arm was born and thrived for the next 10 years.

In 1990, The P.A. People ventured into the world of Concert Touring systems with the purchase of a significant Turbosound TMS3 system powered with custom designed Australian Monitor amplifiers. The system was selected for their Australian Tours by the world’s elite artists including Gloria Estefan, Diana Ross and James Taylor.

However, the company eventually chose to exit the touring space and the Concert Production arena more generally in 1995.

Product Development
The late 1980s saw the product manufacturing arm of the business develop into a separate but wholly owned entity named Creative Audio.

Based in Brisbane, the business initially continued the production of mixer amplifiers and portable loudspeakers and then moved into the development of digital message storage and the ConcertCom range of intercom products.

Creative Audio also became adept at creating custom audio solutions for significant clients, two examples being the development of audio teaching systems for the Schools of Distance Education (Schools of the Air) in Queensland, and the replacement of the Stage Management Systems for the Sydney Opera House.

The Company went on to create the Control Matrix audio paging system which achieved significant international success in the early 2000s. Control Matrix was the predecessor of the paging product now known as Vocia with the Creative Audio business eventually sold to Biamp Systems in 2008.

Systems Integration
The 1990s also saw The P.A. People move into larger scale systems integration activities with the securing of contracts to deliver loose equipment and control room infrastructure for the new Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and the expansion of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

And then the Sydney 2000 Olympics came.

In 1997, The P.A. People successfully tendered for the supply and installation of the sound system for the new Olympic Stadium in Homebush. Under that The P.A. People Managing Director, Chris Dodds called "the watchful eye of the US consultants", the company developed the design to suit Australian conditions and commissioned the system prior to the opening of the venue in 1999.

Dodds recalls "we are extremely proud of the fact that since that time we have operated the system for every event at the Stadium, upgraded the system on three major occasions, and serviced and maintained the systems throughout their life".

Event Communications 
The P.A People’s involvement in the Sydney 2000 Olympics - the ‘best games ever’ - also included sound systems installations for the Aquatic Centre, the Sydney Showgrounds and the Velodrome; the site wide PA systems across Sydney Olympic Park; the contract to deliver the entire temporary AV package for the ‘non-competition’ Venues; along with the Communication Systems for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and the majority of the Sports Venues. 

Dodds advises "what we had expected would be a once off event has now become a very significant part of our business.

"Out of the remnants of our Concert Productions business quickly rose what is now known as our Event Communications department. With five Olympic Games and countless other national and international events behind us, The P.A. People’s Event Comms team are known as one of the significant providers of large-scale Production Communications systems on the world stage.

The Company continues to be an innovator in the provision of venue infrastructure across Australia having worked in over 15 of the country’s major sports venues and countless theatres and performing arts spaces, designing and installing audio systems, production communications, stage lighting, IPTV systems, LED screens and video production equipment.

In many of these venues, The P.A. People’s tenure incorporates repeat engagements over periods spanning almost four decades.

Recently The P.A. People re-entered the audio production market with the acquisition of a significant inventory of Bose ShowMatch cabinets and Linea Research amplification. The systems have been deployed for corporate events in the International Convention Centre and for the opening of the Woman’s T20 Cricket World Cup, as well as regular support of the Sydney Kings basketball and Sydney FC football teams.  

There have been many other significant projects along the way – the Communications Package for the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks, the Audio and Radio systems for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, and the design and fabrication of the 3m high ‘AO’ LED logo for Tennis Australia.

Dodds goes on to say that throughout its history, "a trademark of The P.A. People has been our people.

"Many of the folk who grace our industry today cut their teeth with or at The P.A. People and we are proud of the legacy these folk have created - and there are some 200 of them that have worked for us in a full time capacity, not to mention hundreds more in a casual capacity.  

"A big thankyou to all who have worked with and for us - the Company is clearly better for your contribution. 

"And lastly thankyou to our sustomers and suppliers - we literally would not be still here after 50 years without you.

"It is our intent to continue our celebrations of this significant milestone throughout the second half of this year, and we look forward to engaging with each of you throughout that period.

"Meanwhile, stay safe in these uncertain times, and on behalf of the team, thanks for being part of our journey."

Images (from top): The P.A. People audio installation at Stadium Australia; for the 1988 Bicentenial Concert in Sydney's Domain; for the Sydney Olympics and the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix.

Related Articles

5th March 2021 - The P.A. People provides upgraded stage management system for Sydney’s City Recital Hall

2nd October 2020 - The P.A. People looks back on the legacy of Australia’s greatest sporting event

1st October 2020 - The P.A. People deliver sound system solution for Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

20th August 2020 - The P.A. People delivers systems for Lake Macquarie Council’s Rathmines Theatre

27th March 2020 - The P.A. People share recent project upgrades and installations

28th February 2020 - The P.A. People support ICC Women’s T20 opening at Sydney Showground

6th August 2019 - The P.A. People deliver full communications support for 6,000 seat conference in Sydney

8th April 2019 - Bose and The P.A. People back 2019 Queensland Music Awards

28th January 2019 - The P.A. People boost audio experience for Sydney FC

6th December 2018 - The P.A. People deliver ground-breaking BOSE loudspeaker system for Sydney Kings

1st November 2018 - The P.A. People supplies Invictus Games venues

10th October 2018 - The P.A. People looks back on ceremonies role at 18th Asian Games

9th April 2018 - The P.A. People share details of UNSW Roundhouse refurbishment

27th February 2018 - The P.A. People team support venue intercom operations at PyeongChang Winter Olympics

9th February 2017 - The P.A. People creates audio visual logo device for the Australian Open

6th February 2017 - The P.A. People back Qantas Assure International Beach Festival with infrastructure support

21st December 2016 - The P.A. People deliver sound to Bankstown Sports Club microbrewery

15th December 2014 - 2014 a busy sporting year for the P.A. People

26th September 2013 - The P.A. People provide the ‘pre-eminent Audio Visual system in the world’

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