Core Team

John Wassell

Co-founder and Exec Creative Producer


Walk the Plank started with a ship and as one of the co-founders it’s fair enough to say that I’m very much at the helm of our amazing company with my fellow co-founder Liz Pugh. After 35 years in the outdoor arts business, I have theatrical spectacle coursing through my veins. My job is to ensure that we never tire of losing our thirst for creative risk and that we inspire new generations of artists and production managers to imagine the impossible, and then go and create it.

It started with a bonfire galleon

As one of the co-founders of Walk the Plank I’ve spent the last 35 years creating theatrical and celebratory events all over the world, reaching audiences of millions.

I started my working life as a wooden boat builder and first stepped into the realm of explosive entertainment when I built a galleon bonfire in 1982. After a series of further bonfire builds, I was hooked on the whole outdoor spectacle thing and expanded my scope of interest to fireworks displays and outdoor performance in general.

Working for outdoor arts companies like Emergency Exit Arts, Theatre of Fire and Welfare State International gave me the chance to work on a range of spectacular shows across the UK, USA and Europe, after which I decided, along with Liz Pugh, to set up Walk the Plank.

Walk the Plank was born in 1992 with Britain’s only touring theatre ship which toured Britain’s coast for 16 years. Following its retirement to a quayside in Amsterdam I have worked on some truly incredible projects, including:

  • Creative Producer for Wales Millennium Centre’s tenth anniversary finale Ar Waith Ar Daith, broadcast live across Wales and performed to an audience of 12,000 people in Cardiff Bay.
  • Creative Producer for The Return of Colmcille, for the Derry-Londonderry UK Capital of Culture, a 36 city wide performance with a finale on the River Foyle watched by 25,000 people.
  • Creative Producer for Turku 2011 European Capital of Culture Opening, the largest outdoor performance in Finland, broad live on MTV.
  • Creative Producer for the People’s Opening for Liverpool ’08, European Capital of Culture
  • Leading Walk the Plank’s team for the lantern element of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester
  • Working with director Mike Murphy on The Land of Giants in Belfast 2012

My specialism

I love working on major projects on an epic scale that draw in a wide range of outdoor arts disciplines. I still have a real love for fireworks and pyrotechnics and ways in which we can create something unique or different, and given my nautical interests I’m mad about any project that involves water. I’m also getting really interested in working with festivals on creating adventurous non musical content such as our Lost Eden art in the forest experience for Kendal Calling in 2015. More of the same please.

What inspired you to set up Walk the Plank?

We had a taste for adventure and our combined passions for sailing and theatre made a touring theatre ship a natural synergy of ideas. Bringing art to the people and inspiring artists and communities along the way becomes hugely addictive. It’s amazing to see how our work can change people’s perceptions of themselves and the place in which they live. Creating a company that can do all these things seemed the natural thing to do.

What do I get up to outside work?

When I’m not tinkering about on our boat moored in Salford Quays, we’re relaxing in our remote retreat in north Wales, or messing about in our boatyard. Wherever I am, I’m always thinking about the next Walk the Plank show.

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