Virgin: A family business that spans the generations

Sometimes the links within the Virgin family can span several generations, as Ken Townsend and his granddaughter Amy explain…

Ken, Virgin Records

I worked at Abbey Road Studios, the world famous recording venue, part of Virgin Records, for 41 years. I started out as an apprentice design and development engineer in 1954, and I retired in 1995. In between, I was the studio’s General Manager for 20 years. I worked with many musical legends, including the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black.

I worked on hundreds of Beatles sessions – when all four of them were present, the atmosphere was electric. In the 1960s, I invented a process called Artificial Double Tracking (ADT). John Lennon called it ‘Ken’s flanger’. It was a brilliant invention but it didn’t make me a penny!

In 1980, I realised that recording was going to get much tougher so I brought in film work, which has been very successful. We recorded music for all the Harry Potter movies, Lord of the Rings and Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

I loved the people I worked with at Abbey Road Studios. It felt like one big family. Paul McCartney always used to say, ‘Keep it in the family’. It’s nice to know that Virgin continues that tradition across the Group today. When I started in 1954, no one had tape recorders; no one could record their voice at home. Now, Amy and my other grandchildren can do all sorts of things just on their phones!

Amy, Virgin Experience Days

I visited Abbey Road a lot when I was younger but was unaware of the connection with my grandad (we used to go to the Christmas parties and my grandad dressed up as Father Christmas, and I had no idea!) It was when myself and my cousin were 14 that we were given an ‘official’ tour.

It was a complete coincidence that I ended up at a Virgin company like my grandad. I started out as an events junior for an experiences company, then I moved to work as a transport and concierge team leader for the duration of the 2012 Olympics. From there, I joined Virgin Experience Days.

I’ve been here for two years now, and I’ve recently been promoted to Partnerships Executive in the Corporate Sales Team. I’m a key contact within the Virgin Group for other Virgin companies, I look after the Affinity corporate discount programme and I manage all of our corporate events – from smaller department incentives to full company family fun days.

I love the fact that I can Google my grandad and he comes up as the inventor of ADT. It’s also wonderful to know that, thanks to his job at Abbey Road, he got an MBE and he met members of the royal family, like the Queen and Princess Diana.

Virgin started as a family business and it’s nice that it still feels like that.

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