Graham Kentsley is the founder of the RedSquare International group, which comprises various leisure companies in the travel, entertainment and aviation sectors trading mainly in Russia and the former Soviet Union. He founded Flight Plan International, a commercial aviation company specialising in VIP chartering, leasing and insuring of aircraft, which was sold to INAir Aviation Services for a reputed €18 million. Translated into Cyrillic, his name 'Грэм Кентслей' is frequently used interchangeably with the original spelling, in Russian and Eastern European lectures, media and events.
Kentsley left Marshalswick Boys School at 16. Whilst at school he gained a NASA achievement award in recognition of receiving the Apollo 14 manned mission transmissions via a school-built satellite receiver and parabolic antenna. He went on to study radio and telecommunications at Mid Herts College of Further Education, gaining City and Guilds qualifications in microwave and satellite technology. Appointed social secretary, Kentsley was introduced to the entertainment industry, responsible for booking such acts as Vinegar Joe, Al Stewart, Van der Graaf Generator and Chicken Shack during his tenure. In 1972 Kentsley joined the Post Office, later to become British Telecom, as an apprentice specialising in microwave and radio technology.
During this time, Kentsley became the youngest ever licensed entertainment agent in the United Kingdom, booking emerging and established talents including The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, ELO, Argent and also specialising in the booking off top DJ's from the period including Emperor Rosko, Tony Blackburn and DJ's from 208 Radio Luxembourg via his GKE Agency. The GKE agency also looked after Kentsley's own local entertainment brands the iconic "Hello Sailor Discotheque" and the renowned theatrical group of DJ's "The Dirty Dozen". Kentsley achieved regional success as he became a renowned DJ and compère, performing locally and presenting a regular slot on local radio. Subsequent cameos in the role followed in both BBC television series Grange Hill and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As a presenter and performer he is represented by theatrical agent Johnny Mans, who is known for his close work and association with Buddy Greco, Sir Norman Wisdom and Max Bygraves. Kentsley has frequently performed internationally, often as DJ Premier Cru recently appearing in Volgograd and Moscow Russia (presenting both English and Russian), and has featured on 'Soul revival' and 'Best of British' line-ups.
In 1976 Graham enjoyed a Summer season as DJ and compere at the Lido De France in Jersey (Channel Islands UK) performing alongside the comedians Johnny Mans (now entertainment agent) Bernie Clifton and Cannon and Ball. In 1977 Graham completed a Summer Season on board the cruise ships Galaxy and Orion (Kavanidis Shiping Greece) as DJ and compere cruising the Med and Aegean Seas. Kentsley's GKE agency latter went on to be a major booking agency for cruise ships worldwide.
In 1977 he established record shop No.1 Records in St Albans, specialising in the importation of 12" vinyls. Kentsley was responsible for the installation of the first satellite TV system in any licensed UK premises (the Aderlaide wine house St Albans), rebroadcasting Richard Branson's channel MusicBox. He later established one of Europe's first satellite radio stations Supergold, receiving a Satellite Television Technology International award for satellite communication innovation in the process.
In 1981 Kentsley submitted a tender to turn the old Victorian courthouse at the rear of the old town hall in St Albans (soon to open as the New St Albans Museum - 2018) into a Cafe and Bar with Music. The tender was never awarded as the site and the old Victorian court house was granted a grade 1 listed status. The old Victorian court house is one of only 2 remaining Victorian court houses in England that are still intact - the Victorian court house will form the centre piece of the New St Albans Museum project (opening in 2018). Kentsley has become a major supporter and fundraiser of the project.
In 1993 Kentsley tendered for the first commercial radio licence in the St Albans area Kentsley's radio station StAR FM 96.6 (St Albans Radio Ltd) bid together with Verulam radio and Chiltern Radio for the local radio licence (key station personal: Tony Gillham Program director, Steven Kentsley Technical director). Gillham was also the programme director for Kentsley's SuperGold project. The licence was awarded by the Radio Authority to the largest commercial radio operator in the area at the time, Chiltern Radio. Chiltern Radio went on to operate SuperGold (Supergold was owned and operated by the Telstar Satellite Music Network a division of Kentsley's Telstar Satellite TV Company). Kentsley still has radio interests in Volgograd, Russia.
He was an early pioneer of international chartering of flights to and from Russia and Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He established the aviation company Flight Plan International, trading in both the sale and lease of aircraft as well as VIP and commercial chartering. In 1992, he started a successful heliskiing operation into Soviet Georgia. In September 1995, Kentsley chartered flights for travelling fans in the UEFA Cup clash between FC Rotor Volgograd and Manchester United which was the first ever direct commercial flight to Volgograd from the United Kingdom. He was also responsible for the first ever charted flight Moscow-Ibiza, Simon Dunlop founder and CEO of the Russian internet sites Bookmate and Zvooq was on the inaugural flight from Ibiza. In 1996, he supplied aircraft for German rock band Scorpions' Pure Instinct Tour. In 1997, Kentsley was appointed as business development director for British World Airlines, specialising in the oil and mining industries.
Before entering the film business Kentsley became involved in Theatre production both in the UK and Russia. Kentsley produced together with David Babani the Disco Musical The Donkey Show in Londons West End.
Kentsley then entered the film industry as executive producer of award-winning psychological thriller The Paddy Lincoln Gang. Supportively investing in the project, as well as performing ambassadorial roles in the UK and Russian premieres. He serves on expert boards of both the St Albans Film Festival and The Artsloy Festival in Volgograd, Russia, since 2014. Kentsley is an established lecturer speaking at several prominent universities in Russia, including The Volgograd Institute of Business and The Moscow University of Finance and Law, speaking on international business, leisure and entertainment industries, from which he is widely consulted as an expert.
In July 2014, Kentsley met with Ambassador of Mongolia to United Kingdom, Tulga Narkhuu at Gibraltar House in Aldwych, London, further establishing his growing diplomatic relationship and advisory role between the two governments. In June 2015, Kentsley appeared on Radio Verulam's Tracks of my Life in a two-part interview outlining his life, career and several influential songs.
Philanthropy and charity work
1999, Kentsley ran the London Marathon sponsoring Whizz-Kidz.
Kentsley is a sponsor of The Gorbachev Foundation, raising money in Russia for the charity. In March 2011, he was a VIP guest at Mikhail Gorbachev's 80th birthday event at the Royal Albert Hall, from which proceeds went to both his foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support.
On 30 November 2013, Kentsley presented an evening at the Alban Arena alongside Soulfish and 2-Tone, donating his fee to Teenage Cancer Trust. On 7 November 2014, he made a guest appearance on Radio Verulam to promote a charitable event at The Pioneer Club in St Albans.
In October 2016, the annual Volgograd competition "Tsaritsin Muse" announced the creation of a new award to be given for the first time on the 25th Anniversary of Tsaritsin Muse in January 2017 in Volgograd, Russia named The Graham Kentsley "Volgograd in the World" award for outstanding International achievement. To be given annually by Graham Kentsley to the Volgograd citizen who has achieved prominent international success.
In October 2016 Kentsley announced a series of events in aid of the St Albans Museum trust, Graham Kentsley will host (as Dj Premier Cru) at the St Albans Arena The first event in the series took place on the 25th March 2017 - Kentsley hosted the sell out "Ultimate Civic Disco" event. Graham Kentsley also launched a new craft beer at the event the " New Museum" IPA with profits from City sales going to the charity trust.
In early January 2017 Graham Kentsley hosted a series of Christmas charity events in venues throughout the City of Volgograd, Russia with his "Best of British" music sets, supported by Irish Rock guitarist "Curtis Wild" and local artists raising funds for the Volgograd charity "Tsaritsin Muse".
Kentsley also successfully took part of the annual Christmas "Santa Run" mini-marathon in Volgograd on 7 January 2017 - raising awareness and funds for the "Tsaritsin Muse" 25th anniversary televised event held in the Volgograd Hotel on 13 January 2017 where Kentsley presented the first Graham Kentsley "Volgograd in the World" award for significant international achievement by a Volgograd citizen - The 2016 award was presented by Graham Kentsley to Roman Bailov a prominent local opera singer.
Graham gave a number of TV and Radio interviews in Russian supporting the event and "Tsaritsin Muse" and discussing his new film projects ("Marshrutka life", "The English Man in Volgograd") and a forthcoming visit to Volgograd by private yacht.
In March 2017 Kentsley announced a cultural exchange between the City of Volgograd in Russia and St Albans City in the UK the future exchange will involve the City museums (The Stalingrad Battle Museum in Volgograd and the New St Albans museum (opening in mid 2018), The Roman museum at Verulamium St Albans and The de Havilland Aircraft Museum near St Albans) plus an exchange program between the University of Hertfordshire and the Volgograd State University.
Honours and awards
In 1970, Kentsley received a congratulatory NASA achievement award in recognition of receiving Apollo mission transmissions.
In 1979, he was awarded the Regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In 1985, he gained a STTI (Satellite Television Technology International) Award for satellite communication innovation.
In 1990, Kentsley graduated from the 'Firm-start' program for Young Entrepreneurs at Cranfield School of Management MBA faculty. In 1993, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in law from Volgograd State University for services to the City of Volgograd.
In 2012, Kentsley was awarded a medal of merit by the Russian aviation authorities for services to the Russian aviation industry, marking a century of Russian flight.
Kentsley is married to Russian former child actress Veronika Nitselia Kentsley, separated since 2009. He is a near-fluent Russian speaker.
He is a qualified yachtmaster, with a yacht based in Bulgaria. He has announced his intention to be the first skipper of a foreign-flagged private yacht (British) to sail up the Don and Volga Rivers in Russia from the end of the Danube on the Black Sea to the end of the Volga on the Caspian Sea (through the Azov Sea and the Volga–Don Canal via Volgograd to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea). In May 2017 Graham Kentsley gave an interview for Radio Volgograd Fm about his boat trip.
He is an aviation enthusiast and has held a private pilot licence and ham radio license. Due to his involvement with Pro Fitness where he partnered with YMCA and Jarvis Hotels he became a qualified Exercise to Music instructor and personal trainer.
Documentaries, videos and podcasts