By Peter Elman - Copyright Tribute Inspirations Limited
Tony Hollingsworth organised two media conferences for television and music executives in eastern and western Europe to explore possibilities of working together. Both conferences coincided with momentous political events. In the first, the East German communist government collapsed, in the second British prime minister Margaret Thatcher resigned.
The first conference was Looking East, held in East Berlin from November 7 to November-9 1989. The conference, conceived by Hollingsworth, was an attempt to further business opportunities between television and music executives of the West and Eastern Europe. But the minds of delegates might well have been elsewhere. On the first day, the East German government resigned. On the last, the communist party opened the gates in the Berlin Wall for people to cross over to the western sector and demonstrators started hacking chunks out of the wall.
East Germanyhad several weeks earlier tried to call off the conference. Hollingsworth had agreed a deal with Reinhard Heinemann, head of all entertainment in the country, after an introduction by Jack Rieley, former manager and part-time lyricist of the Beach Boys. Each side would invite speakers and 200 executives, with Hollingsworth organising and funding the western end.
Hollingsworth had gone a long way in organising the western end when Heinemann told him that he had been ordered to stop working on the conference, though this would not be announced (and, he told Hollingsworth, he wasn’t allowed to be telling him this). But if East European executives said they were coming, he would have to provide accommodation. Hollingsworth then telexed senior television executives throughout Eastern Europe, asked to meet them, flew out to see them, invited them to the conference and told them to telex their reply slips to Heinemann’s office. About 180 delegates came from each side – forcing the government to accept that the conference was on.
The second media conference was Looking East and West, held in Hungary from November 22 to November 25 1990. With the communist bloc now fractured, the agenda was of a more pragmatic nature than the earlier event in Berlin the previous year. This time, Tony Hollingsworth’s co-producer was Lazlo Hegedus, a Hungarian promoter and producer, who had approached Hollingsworth at the Berlin event. While the opening day of the Berlin conference coincided with the resignation of the East German government; the opening day of the Hungarian event – Thursday November 22 – coincided with the forced resignation of the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.