Jump to content
  • Guest

    London: Former manager Estelle Wilkinson to speak about working with Coldplay (22 March)

    Coldplay's former manager Estelle Wilkinson is due to speak at the London Welsh Centre this Friday (22nd March), as part of the "Creative Cardiff - An evening looking at the Cardiff music scene", during which she will talk about how she came to manage one of the biggest bands in the world for over 6 years. Tickets are only £5 and the night includes live music and other special guests. More details are here at the We Get Tickets website. If you don't know who Estelle is, read on...


    Estelle Wilkinson recoils in mock horror when Wales Online asked her in a recent interview to recall some of the highs and lows of managing one of the biggest bands in the world.


    As you would imagine, from someone who was at the helm of the musical juggernaut called Coldplay for six years, she has stories and plenty of them. "Oh god, I could tell you about some of my biggest faux pas, there’s been a few of them," she laughs, before launching into an anecdote that has me falling about. "Very early on we played Los Angeles, and while we were there it had just gone crazy for the band," she recalls. "One minute we were playing normal shows the next we were having A list Hollywood stars trying to get backstage. That night in LA I ended up doing the door and I am rubbish at recognising anyone. I don’t read celebrity magazines or anything like that.



    "Anyway we had all the Arquettes come through and I thought ‘yes I know who you are’. And then I had three people coming to the door claiming to be Cameron Diaz. With the first one I was like ‘I don’t think so you are plainly not Cameron Diaz’. By the time the fourth person tried to get in claiming to be Cameron Diaz, I was seriously thinking ‘is word getting out or something? Look I’m not letting any Cameron Diazs in. You’re the fourth one you could at least try and pretend to be someone who no one else has tried already’. After sending them on their way someone tapped me on the shoulder and said – "No no no no no that WAS Cameron Diaz!" I was shouting for someone to go get her but it was too late she had already gone."


    Estelle’s earliest memories however were forged in more homespun surroundings, a world away from the rarified air of LA’s bright lights. Born in Bristol to a Cornish dad and a Welsh-speaking North Walian mum, she moved to Cardiff aged three. "Music was becoming n a huge part of my life, it was an escape I guess from every that had happened," she muses. "It just fitted and I got it. In Bristol I thought I wanted to be a tour manager. So I would go and talk to tour managers and of course they would talk to me. They weren’t used to that I guess, so they’d say do you want to come back with me and I’d go, well not really I just want to ask you about how it all works, which obviously threw them! Then I met Macca manager of (Madchester hopefuls) Northside, who said you don’t want to be a tour manager you want to get into promotion and plugging. I thought that sounds good – I get to go around the country with bands and get them on radio and TV that sounds like it can’t be that hard."


    EstelleWilkinson1.jpgEstelle (pictured, right) reckons her career has been built on being able to seize opportunity and run with it. This was evident from the off, as she secured a job in Manchester with TMP run legendary music industry PR Tony Michaeledes, who had handled press for the likes of U2 and David Bowie. "I approached Tony and offered to work for free during the summer if I could shadow him and learn everything I could," remembers Estelle. "I went to Manchester at the end of my first year in university, around 1989 and never went back. After three weeks with Tony he offered me a job. Apparently when I left to go to university I said to my mum ‘I’m going to be alright’. I was very confident that I would be okay."


    For five years Estelle's career blossomed, thriving at the heart of the equally vibrant music scene that was the epicentre of Madchester and acid house. "I worked on an incredible roster, we represented such amazing independent labels as Factory, Mute and 4AD. In our building in 48 Princes Street – there was (legendary Manchester DJ) Dave Haslam, Caroline Elleray who managed (should have been massive Manchester bands) World Of Twist and Intastella – they were 10 years before their time they were. Below us was So What management who looked after Simply Red, they had the biggest office because they were making all the money. On the first floor was Nathan McGough who was managing The Happy Mondays. Within months I basically got to know everyone," says Wilkinson. "I was 19 and from Wales, I was just like a sponge I was absorbing everything. I was very lucky to be there when I was, and I made the most of it."


    And that included the infamous nightlife the city had to offer – chiefly the iconic Hacienda nightclub – the beating heart of the ecstasy-fuelled acid house scene that was sweeping the nation. "Everyone hung out there," she recalls. "It was great. It was the time of my life. I had the best of times. I even took my mum to the Hacienda twice. I took her just for a bit to have a look around and show her where I went. She came out saying I can’t believe all your friends are so friendly, everyone is giving me hugs and smiling and they’re not even drinking alcohol they’re all drinking water," laughs Estelle. "She had no clue, which was brilliant. She will now though!"


    Throwing herself into work she encountered pre Mark and Lard DJs, Mark Riley – also a plugger at TMP, and Mark Radcliffe then an aspiring DJ on Radio’s 5’s Hit The North show. She even had an eventful stint working for Nathan McGough and The Happy Mondays, just when the band were imploding in a drug-fuelled haze on the Caribbean island of Barbados where they were attempting to complete their ill-fated Yes Please album.


    "Nathan’s company was called Gorgeous," explains Estelle, "and I was in the office answering the phone. I used to have men ringing up purposefully just to hear me say ‘Hello Gorgeous’. I’m sure Nathan did it on purpose."


    After nine months with McGough, she went to work with Caroline Elleray, getting her first taste of management duties looking after World of Twist and Intastella. However, after six years in Manchester, she wanted out and in a complete career departure ended up working for a travel agent in Edinburgh. "The Manchester scene was dying off and had become a lot more violent," she explains. "I’d always wanted to travel and my rationale was if I work in a travel agent it was a springboard to doing that."


    Wilkinson got her wish and ended up taking time out to satisfy her wanderlust, however she quickly tired off the travel industry itself. "I wanted out," she recalls. "I rang Caroline Elleray, who was now working for BMG Records, and I said, ‘Caz I’ve got to get back into this. Tell me who are about to come through’. And she told me ‘there’s this little band I signed who I think are very cool, they’re called Coldplay’. This was beginning of 2000. They’d only had a couple of EPs out by this point."




    Seizing her moment she phoned Coldplay’s manager Phil Harvey (pictured, left) – the fifth member of Coldplay as he is more commonly known. "I told him I think you’re about to get really busy and you should really hire me."


    After meeting Estelle and taken by her dynamism, he readily agreed. Her timing was impeccable. "It was the first day of the first week of their first number one album (Parachutes). I do believe in fate. I’m not religious, but I do believe you make your own luck by being in the right place at the right time – seeing an opportunity and grabbing it with both hands. That’s probably what I’m quite good at. My first day at work was at Radio 1 where they were doing a session for Jo Whiley’s daytime show. And that’s the first time I met the band. My first impressions from the first day to the last were that they were just lovely, brilliant guys. And (guitarist) Jonny Buckland is from Mold, where I had spent loads of summer holidays so we bonded over Mold stories!"


    However, things were to taken unexpected twist, when manager Phil Harvey got sick. "He rang the office and said doctors had told him to get complete rest and he didn’t know when he would be able to come back in. I said don’t worry about a thing the boys will be fine, just get better. I just took over while he got better. The he got better, came back and then at the end of the recording sessions for the A Rush Of Blood To The Head album on the very last day, he announced he didn’t want to do it anymore and he was going to go. I didn’t want him to because he was brilliant. The band phoned me and asked will you look after us?"


    "I was both thrilled and overawed. I have to be honest I don’t think it ever sank in," she collapses into laughter. "It’s just how it happened. This was 2002."


    So what was it like managing Coldplay at their height of their early success? "I’m not the sort of person to get carried away," says Estelle. "I’m quite practical and a realist, so I didn’t make full use of the position with regards to ‘oh my god I’m managing Coldplay!’ That thought never really occurred to me. What occurred to me was as things were happening I was six months ahead of that.


    "So for instance the band played Madison Square Gardens in New York, and I was in a little room at the back, in a cupboard basically emailing people on the other side of the world organising a tour six months down the line. I wasn’t in Madison Square Gardens going ‘this is amazing’. That said I did actually think to myself I better go out and see them. I went out into the crowd and someone puked on my feet. It’s a valuable lesson, stay backstage!"


    "The dealing with the band there was never any problem, I never had to bribe them to do an interview like I did with The Happy Mondays. Frankly no one could have had more of a driving force than Chris Martin and the rest of the band. It’s phenomenal. So it was almost keeping up with them and trying to fulfil their dreams. And their dreams were massive. And they’ve achieved them."


    After six years of zig-zagging the globe, rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll – even taking the future Mrs Chris Martin, Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow backstage at a gig in London for the first time to meet her future husband – Coldplay’s manager stepped down from her position. And with good reason – she was seven months pregnant with her son Casley. "I was with them until 2006 until the end of the campaign for the X&Y album," she explains.


    "I was 35 and Phil Harvey came back. He now works with them again. So it’s lovely how it’s turned full circle."

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    This is now closed for further comments

  • Create New...