Businessman, television consultant and former theatrical agent Ian Freeman was born into what was then considered the most powerful dynasty in entertainment. Lew Grade, a former Russian Charleston dancer, secured the rights for Britain’s first commercial television network in 1955 and together with London Palladium manager Val Parnell established Associated Television (ATV). This wasn’t the only Grade family business that was thriving as during the early 1930’s Lew and his brother Leslie had created The Grade Organisation which would become one of the most prolific talent agencies in the world.
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Ian promptly joined the organisation as a junior theatrical agent in 1968 working under the formidable entertainment agent Cyril Berlin who was specifically responsible for such stars as Des O’Connor, Lonnie Donnagan and Ted Rogers. This was a true powerhouse of entertainment and anyone who was anyone wanted to be associated with the Grade’s. It was a great grounding for Ian and there’s not a day that goes by where he doesn’t use a piece of knowledge that he learned during these four glorious years. Surrounded by significant figures within the development of British Light Entertainment who are somewhat sadly forgotten about today including Billy Marsh, Kenneth Earle and Peter Prichard, Ian was in the perfect environment to learn about the fine workings of theatrical representation.
After four years at the Grade Organisation, Ian made a significant move into the Leisure industry with his cousin Michael Grade. To Ian, Leisure and entertainment go hand in hand as you’re essentially providing a service and everyone is constantly on show. Their company First Leisure was founded in 1986 and quickly expanded to music bars and seaside attractions. As Ian explains, running a nightclub can be compared with being the director of a big budget variety show for the simple reason that the aim is for everyone to have the best possible time and every member of the production company knows their role. Providing entertainment is what the Grade’s have been bred on so Ian found it easy to adapt and customise the execution of the entertainment performance to cater for different audiences. Such a formula proved lucrative and for over a decade First Leisure was one of the most popular entertainment outlets in Britain. Yet the stars kept calling him back into the spotlight…
Having enjoyed a long association with the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund ever since his uncle; Bernard Delfont was made life president in 1962, Ian has always felt close to the charity. In 2007 he was honoured when he was asked to become the honorary treasurer of the EABF, now the Royal Variety Charity, raising money for unfortunate people throughout the UK. Primarily established to help and support entertainers who had fallen on hard times, the Royal Variety Charity has a responsibility to look after those who might be down on their luck and in need of a helping hand. The theatrical residential home; Brinsworth House in Twickenham is funded through profits from the Royal Variety Performance and other charity events throughout the year. This is something that Ian remains extremely proud of and the emotional attachment to the charity makes it so much more than a job.
A lover of all things entertainment, Ian continues to work on the conception of a variety of television ideas for the main broadcasters both here and around the world. It’s clear that his love and enthusiasm for entertainment is still as active and he’s definitely not ready to hang up his showbiz boots just yet. It was great to catch up with Ian Freeman and can’t wait to see what’s next for the man of so many talents!
If you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets for this years Royal Variety Performance but would still like to support this amazing charity, follow the link below to donate via their justgiving page; https://donate.justgiving.com/donation-amount?uri=aHR0cHM6Ly9kb25hdGUtYXBpLmp1c3RnaXZpbmcuY29tL2FwaS9kb25hdGlvbnMvZWQzNjBiNGE4MzZjNDFlZjgyNzBiOTY4ZDk2OGMzYWM=
To find out more about what the charity does and to get regular updates go to the Royal Variety Charity’s website; http://www.royalvarietycharity.org/