Wearing an ill-fitting blue coat with pockets stuffed with dirty rags and carrying a toolbox full of oily spanners and other essential equipment, with the stub of a thick pencil stuck behind his ear. The traditional stereotype of a technician has fast disappeared. Stage lights which used to be moved manually are now controlled by sophisticated computer equipment, performances by pop singers whose technology was once only microphones and electric guitars, now have speaker systems the size of houses with the sound enhanced by skilled and computerised mixing. Though the traditional technical skills are still in demand, new roles are continually developing and evolving in the modern world of fast-moving technological change
It is estimated that there are over 1.5 million technicians supporting UK companies and the UK economy, working in a wide variety of roles including stage productions, medical testing and hospital procedures, university teaching and research, space exploration, computer, telecoms and IT development and horticulture and enabling special events. Over 50,000 of these technicians will soon retire and 70,000 are needed both to replace them and to take on new roles.
Through photographs by Paul Warpole and paintings by Tomothy Gatenby, supplemented by video and technical objects, “Technicians Make it Happen” in the Mall Galleries in London celebrates the important role of technicians, often hidden behind the scenes and only recognised when something goes wrong and their skills become obvious.
Supported by The Gatsby Foundation, this project recognises the crucial and wide-ranging activities which technicians undertake with great pride and is a reminder of the skills that universities and colleges need to provide and evolve for the future.