Here is an extract from John's next book
"Life after Nemesis"


        I am often introduced to people at parties as “the guy who builds rollercoasters”. This annoys me intensely. Although rollercoasters are one of the tools of my trade, that is a gross over-simplification of what I do. And anyone can build a rollercoaster. All you have to do is research the companies that manufacture them, and say to them “I’ve got £x million, and an area on my park where I want to put a ride, what do you suggest?”. They then come back with some ideas. You select one of them, and sign a contract. All you have to do is work out what colour you’re going to paint it, and what silly name you’re going to give it. Simple!

But it’s not that simple.

So you’re an engineer” people say.

No, I’m not an engineer. I know enough about engineering so that others can’t pull the wool over my eyes and baffle me with technicalities, and I have a thorough grasp of the basic laws of physics so I know what will and will not work. But I leave the engineering details to others.

Well, you must be a designer” they say.

If by that they mean someone who can draw pretty pictures, or create detailed images of structures or object, then no, I’m not a designer.

What exactly are you then?” they think.

I am hesitant to give them my truthful reply, because it will sound very pretentious. But I’ll let you into the secret and tell you. I’m an ENTERTAINER.

People think of an entertainer as a performer. Someone who stands on a stage and tells jokes, or sings songs, or pulls rabbits out of hats. But an entertainer doesn’t necessarily have to be in the public eye. The conductor of an orchestra creates music. He doesn’t play any of the instruments himself, but he coordinates the musicians and helps them make wonderful music. And that’s entertainment. The producer of a film isn’t the cameraman, or an actor, or a scriptwriter, or a set designer or even a director. But he knows just about enough of all these crafts to assemble a team of talented people to make his film. And that’s entertainment. The impresario of a West End musical doesn’t appear onstage, he is not a singer or dancer, he cannot design the costumes, or arrange the music, but he is the guy who puts on the show. And that’s entertainment.

The secret of all these people is that they have a basic understanding of the talents of all those they assemble around them to do the entertaining. But there is one other important thing they all have in common ….. they have a very thorough understanding of their audience. Without this there is no magic, no enchantment, no thrill, no humour. This is perhaps the most important ability of them all. A few lucky people have this innate ability, but I had to learn it through hard work and experience.

So what did I do to gain this experience? (The following paragraph is a long boring list of jobs and tasks which I don’t expect you to read, so feel free to skip over it.)

I was a ticket seller in a bingo hall, operated a travelling ghost train, performed my own magic and puppet show, was a stage manager in the theatre, invented a mechanism for animating Madame Tussauds waxworks, became a circus ring boy, worked as a cashier in an amusement arcade change desk, built illusions and props for conjurors, operated the lighting switchboard in a theatre, was a pantomime horse in a pantomime, manufactured dummy rubber skeletons, invented a gun for spraying artificial cobwebs on film sets, built and operated a logflume and haunted house walk-through ….. the list goes on and on.

A Jack of all trades (and master of none)? Perhaps. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I would contest that. Provided one knows one’s limitations, a little knowledge can be a very useful thing, particularly if it helps you get inside the mind of your audience. And that’s the trick. I might not have wanted to actually play the mundane game of bingo myself, but as a sixteen-year-old lad I gained an understanding of the way the minds work of all those punters in the Windmill Theatre bingo hall in Great Yarmouth. I could see it was a profitable business, and something could be learned from this. You can’t necessarily make a success out of what you find entertaining. I put aside my own likes and dislikes, and worked out what others might enjoy.

 All these experiences helped me understand what intrigues, amuses, thrills, mystifies, scares, and enchants the British population. And then when I was involved in the development of Port Aventura in Spain, I learnt that there were subtle differences in the psyche of the Spanish audience which had to be taken on board. Similarly, with Heide Park in Germany and Gardaland in Italy. The mindset of a typical American is different to that of the British or European, which is why the big American companies haven’t managed to make major in-roads into our theme park market (perhaps with the exception of Disney?). As a consequence, if I were to work out the basic secret of my success as an entertainer, I would say that I have the ability to get inside the mind of my target audience, and exploit that. Sinister? No. Positively entertaining? Yes. That’s showbusiness!

I get hundreds of emails and messages from young people asking advice as to how they can follow in my footsteps. When I was young I got much encouragement from those more experienced in the areas in which I wanted to make a career. So I do my best to be encouraging and positive. It is not easy to make them understand what I have described in the preceding paragraphs. Most have their minds set on designing the world’s most outrageous stomach-churning rollercoasters, and it is difficult to get them to take a step back and analyse a few basic principles. (Perhaps I should tell them to read this book, and take note of these pages!)

So now I’ve blown it! I’ve let you in on the secret of my success, and there’s nothing stopping you now from making a successful career in the theme park business. Over to you.

(This was an extract from "Life after Nemesis" to be published in the future. In the meantime, his current book "Creating my own Nemesis" is available on Amazon.)