SSE Audio Group at 40

SSE MT System Birmingham NEC

2016 is the 40th Anniversary of SSE Audio Group

SSE Audio Group logosSSE was founded as Sigma Sound Enterprises in 1976 in Nottingham by newly-married couple, John and Heather Penn. Speaker cabinets were built in John's garage and transported in a purple Ford Transit van, affectionately called the Purple Princess.

The first ever SSE gig was actually held on 12th December 1975 at Formby High School on Merseyside. 40 years to the day, and SSE were working once again with 70s/80s band Darts at Hammersmith Apollo - a relationship that dates back almost 40 years. The venue is also notable because SSE Hire has supplied the PA to touring acts at the former Hammersmith Odeon across the last four decades and in 2015 installed the new house system.

The first premises for the fledgling rental company was a former stables building formerly belonging to Players Cigarettes at the Rear of Hartley Road, Nottingham. SSE soon grew out of their original premises, as the company continued to manufacture cabinets and flight cases, in addition to its rental operations, moving in 1980 to Faraday Road in Nottingham.

In 1984 SSE relocated to Birmingham and expanded further. In 1988, SSE took over TexServ and move to a former bus garage on Coventry Road, Birmingham, next door to Light & Sound Design.

By the 1990s SSE was providing PA systems for the largest arenas and stadia and were serving some of the major touring artists of the decade, including Simply Red and Wet Wet Wet. In 2001 the company acquired the French PA company Melpomen, and so SSE Audio Group was born.

In 2003 SSE Audio Group moved out of the centre of Birmingham and purchased 35,000 sq ft of warehousing and offices in Redditch, which remains the Group's headquarters. The additonal space in Redditch was soon filled with a larger hire inventory, a large manufacturing facility and an expansion into equipment sales, becoming a major dealer for many major pro audio brands.

In 2006 SSE acquired Tarsin Entertainment, a contract rentals audio installation company. Although SSE had carried out fixed audio installations for a number of years, the acquisition of Tarsin brought a portfolio of London installations. Two years later, the London operation was consolidated by a merger with established London PA rental company, Canegreen and SSE Audio Group's London operation moved into premises in Park Royal in 2010.

In 2011, SSE established a base in northern England and then Wigwam Acoustics - another well-established audio rental, sales and installations company based near Manchester - joined the Group.

In 2016 SSE Audio Group employs 160 full time staff in Redditch, London, Manchester and three sites in France.

SSE held a party to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Group on 21st January 2017 at the Fly by Nite Rehearsal studio in Redditch (Full story below).

The images, right, show the development of SSE's logos from 1976 to today.

40th Anniversary stories

Below are a selection of stories, reflecting SSE Audio Group's development over the last four decades, including reproduced articles from trade journals that provide a snapshot of SSE's history.

Party Time: 40 years with SSE Audio

In a 17 hour window SSE managed to turn Fly by Nite’s cavernous 18,000 square foot rehearsal studio into the ultimate party venue, complete with two stages, two bars, seven food outlets and a raised guest area. SSE Director and party Produ...

John and Heather Penn - Entrepreneurs of the Year

Heather and John Penn took home an award in the Business Products and Services category at the UK finals of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016.  The judges described SSE Audio Group as “one of the most respected companies in the fie...

SSE at 40: How SSE became a Go-To for Festival Sound

By Steve Harvey (Prosound Network July 2016) SSE Audio Group won for Best Sound at the UK’s Festival Supplier Awards for the second consecutive year at the end of January 2016, almost exactly four decades after the company officially...

SSE at 40: From a Garage to International Markets

From a Garage to International Markets  published in International Musician, March 1978 About the same time as Brian Clough began transforming the local Nottingham Forest football team into the best in the land, so John Penn decided to...

SSE at Forty: Back Where It All Began

On the weekend that SSE supplied both Lovebox and Lattitude, a relatively small dry hire system was rented to a local festival in Formby, Merseyside. SSE regularly supplies similar dry hires to events up and down the country yet these rarely fea...

SSE Founders receive Entrepreneur Award

Now in its 30th year globally and 18th in the UK, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates the spirit and contribution of exceptional entrepreneurs who can see the future and, through their entrepreneurial businesses, are helping to reshape it. ...

SSE Audio Group - Inspiring Britain!

Dubbed a ‘landmark report identifying the UK’s most exciting and dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s)’, the companies included needed to show consistent revenue growth over a minimum of three years, signific...

It Was Forty Years Ago Today...

Inside the purple Ford Transit was 21 year old, John Penn and his girlfriend Heather. The two met at college in Nottingham, married in 1976 and 40 years later remain at the helm of the good ship SSE.   SSE Logo in 1976 WEM...

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