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Gorleston firm Yusuf’s (Cat Steven’s) choice for new tour

PUBLISHED: 14:37 29 October 2014 | UPDATED: 14:37 29 October 2014

3D Creations has been commissioned build a set for the Cat Stevens world tour.
Set designer Ian Westbrook. 

Picture: James Bass

3D Creations has been commissioned build a set for the Cat Stevens world tour. Set designer Ian Westbrook. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Music legend Yusuf Islam (AKA Cat Stevens) will be showcasing the creative talents of a small Norfolk company right across Europe and America.

For the singer, who shot to global stardom and famously converted to Islam in the 1970s, has commissioned Gorleston-based 3D Creations to build the set for his Peace Train...Late Again tour which begins at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre, London, on November 4.

The firm’s studio, tucked away among offshore companies in Malthouse Lane, has been a hive of activity seven days a week since owner Ian Westbrook, 50, received an email out of the blue, less than eight weeks ago, from the star’s production manager, Roger Searle.

He recalled: “It said, ‘Yusuf has seen your work and he would like you to design and build the set for his next world tour, are you interested?’.

“I remember the stress of being involved in other rock tours in the past, including those of Robbie Williams and Iron Maiden, but I did not have to think about it for very long - Cat Stevens’ album Tea for the Tillerman was one of the first records I ever bought.

“Yusuf telephoned me from Dubai where he lives and said it was great to have me on board. He said he wanted the set to be designed around a very old Louisiana railway station out of the wild west and sent me some images of blues musicians sitting at a station in the 1800s jamming with their guitars, banjos and piano. I came up with some drawings and everything was emailed back and forth from Dubai; it took about a week and a half to design it.”

The challenge facing Mr Westbrook’s 14-strong team was to design the station so it can be broken down into 250 pieces small enough to fit into steel flight boxes. Creaky old gates looking as if they have just come out of the wild west have also been built to screen keyboards and speakers.

The hectic schedule has been complicated by an array of other projects that have turned the riverside warehouse into a mini Universal Studios. “We are building the set for the Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime, the world’s most expensive pantomime, for an eighth year and we have been working on Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus’s Halloween show,” said Mr Westbrook.

His team had also been building the set for a forthcoming London play about the late Princess of Wales called Truth Lies Diana and would shortly be launching into work for the Cromer Pier Christmas show.

Mr Westbrook launched his business in 1985 but it is in recent years that it has really taken off as a “one-stop shop for design, building and installation”.

“Our turnover has more than doubled in the past seven years. This year alone we have taken on three extra staff, a scenic painter, a scenic carpenter and a props maker,” he said.

“We are so busy we are having to turn work down.”

Projects sometimes take his workforce overseas and in February Mr Westbrook will be leading a 10-strong team to Venice to build theatre sets on board a new luxury cruise liner; in the past they built a pirate town on the Caribbean island of St Thomas for the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, as well as sets for the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome’s Easter pirate water show, and the David Essex ‘All the fun of the fair’ tour.

Is your firm attracting international attention? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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