LONDON — Edwin Shirley, a co-founder of Edwin Shirley Trucking (EST Trucking) and the driving force for a variety of other businesses supporting stage and screen performers with staging, trucking, crew buses, freight forwarding, rehearsal space and film production — died April 16 after a battle with cancer. He was 64.
Shirley was first drawn into the world of entertainment as a young member of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) of Great Britain, appearing as a messenger in a production of Antony and Cleopatra at London’s Old Vic Theatre that featured a 20-year-old Helen Mirren in 1965.
His ambitions shifted from acting and directing to stage lighting as a young adult, lighting tours (and inevitably driving a truck) for Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Ike and Tina Turner and others.
Shirley and a fellow NYT alumnus Roy Lamb brainstormed with Brian Croft and John Brown of ESP Lighting on ways to steer clear of some of the logistical snags they had experienced with a Rolling Stones tour in 1973. The solution: a trucking company dedicated to the needs of concert touring.
By 1974, Edwin Shirley Trucking Ltd. (later known as EST Trucking) was born. It would grow and become recognized for its distinctive purple-and-yellow graphics and catchy slogan, “You Rock, We Roll.”
Edwin Shirley Staging Ltd. followed, in the 1980s, growing from a partnership between the trucking company and Mike Brown, whom Shirley had met while touring in the U.S. The staging company handled outdoor stadium tours for McCartney, Queen, Madonna, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac among others.
More recently, Shirley’s staging and logistics company had been operating as ES Group. Financial difficulties reportedly ensued from ES Group’s involvement with the Commonwealth Games in Dehli, India in late 2010, and by early 2011, most of ES Group’s assets and employees were acquired and hired by a new entity known as ES Global Solutions (ESG), with trucking assets routed to Transam Trucking Inc.
ES Global (esglobalsolutions.com) continues to play a key role in the U.K. event production industry, including staging projects for the London Olympics in 2012
Along with the transformational mark Shirley left on trucking, staging and logistics for the entertainment industries in the U.K. and Europe, Shirley’s wide scope of interests included other projects. He established Three Mills Island Studios in a facility previously used as a brewery, distillery and warehouse for Bass and Charington products. He also erected a stage on the Three Mills Green for festivals devoted to salsa, reggae and punk rock music. The site was also home to the first few seasons of U.K. TV’s Big Brother. The Sandgate Hotel near Folkestone in Kent became another labor of love.
“It wasn’t all about money with Edwin,” noted longtime business partner Emma Pascoe, daughter of Shirley’s significant other since the early 1990s, Marg Pascoe. “We often gave spaces to theatre companies for rehearsals and shows for free,” including lifetime support for his theatrical alma mater, NYT.
“Edwin’s vision, as well as his risk-taking, was outstanding and unstoppable,” Pascoe continued. “He believed in a gentleman’s handshake, and when he made friends, it was for life — his loyalty to them saw no bounds. He had the biggest heart you could ever imagine and his generosity with his time and his money was incredible, even when we didn’t have much for ourselves. He helped so many people to get into the industry.”
Pascoe contributed these additional details about Shirley’s personal life and surviving family members:
“Edwin has been survived by his wife Diane, daughter Rebecca and his son Raphael. Although Edwin was no longer with Diane, they remained the greatest of friends for the remainder of his life.
“Since the early 1990s, Edwin had shared his life with Marg Pascoe. They lived in Hackney together for many years. Through this relationship, Marg’s children, Emma, Sarah and Daniel, gained an amazing stepfather. In 1994 Emma worked with Edwin for the first time, helping Edwin build a bridge over the Corinth Canal for a Volvo commercial, and has never looked back. They have worked together for nearly 20 years through thick and thin and a lot of laughs.
“The Shirley’s and the Pascoes are intertwined by Edwin’s great love, huge generosity and his wonderful zest for life and, let’s not forget, the next great business deal.
“We are all working closely together to organize the funeral and also a Memorial for Edwin that would be fitting and hopefully do him proud. We will post these details on Edwin’s website (www.edwinshirley.com) the moment they are set in stone.”