“Who wants to be an artist?” - A question that many of us have at some point answered with an enthusiastic “Me!” (probably followed by our parent’s heavy-hearted sighs). The uncertainty of a career in the arts still haunts aspiring performers. But how many young people are aware of the many fascinating jobs behind the scenes that are just as rewarding and creative as being in the spotlight?
This general lack of information about the multiple professional paths within the creative industries was what inspired UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre (SOLT) to create a wide-reaching initiative to show young people the diverse careers within the arts. Inspiring the Future of Theatre was launched in July 2018 and encourages connections between schools, young people and local theatres.
For this second edition, we have decided to spread the initiative all across our building and get inspired by our very own staff members’ testimonials about how they first caught the theatre bug and what motivated them to be part of an arts organization and how young people can get involved.
Maria (Creative Learning Producer)
I first got inspired to dance when I saw Phoenix Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells. I was already 18 but I really wanted to perform and eventually I did dance for Phoenix Dance a few years later. Then I started teaching and choreographing and realised I really like to work with young people and get them excited about dance. So I did an Arts Management course and started applying for jobs in project management. If I hadn’t been a dancer already I probably I wouldn’t have found this path into my current role. I would like to do something like a careers event here at The Place because we have so many careers that we can show to young people all within this one building and I think secondary schools would really appreciate it.
Kimberly (Human Resources Assistant)
I was in nursery school and every time they put music on I was dancing along to it and my nursery teacher suggested I should take dance classes. I later decided that I didn’t want to dance professionally and did a Master’s Degree in Dance and Politics. You can be a dancer AND an academic! I’ve started looking for arts administration jobs and this is a fabulous place to work so - here I am!
Jessica (Programme Manager)
I was really into gymnastics and dancing as a child and as I got older, I realised it was actually the dancing bits that gave me joy. I also saw Matthew Bourne’s ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and I thought ‘this is so cool’ and ‘this could be me’. I had a teacher who was really inspiring and suggested I audition here at The Place. Unfortunately, I got injured and made the decision to leave and went to university, but I really missed dance so I went and knocked on the doors of South East Dance and asked them what other things I could do and they invited me to do work experience. And it was so great! I enjoyed it so much, putting on events and producing, and I realised that actually more than dancing this is what I’m really good at and what I really love.
As a kid, I had no idea what producing is, I think lots of people still don’t. It’s not a career option I was aware of other than I’m pretty bossy and pretty passionate and those things come together rather well in my job!
Anouska (Ticketing and Spektrix Coordinator)
What made me want to dance… Kate Bush videos [laughs]. I was only 3 years old. My whole career has been defined by Kate Bush.
Frances (Senior Costume Technician)
I was 8 years old when I watched ‘Evita’ and that was the first time I was aware of the fact that someone had designed and chosen those costumes – until then I always thought it just happened like a beautiful coincidence. My parents took me to the theatre a lot when I was growing up and I had adults and teachers suggesting courses to me and I did theatre when I was a teenager, but I was always doing the design side of it. It was always clear to me that’s what I wanted to do.
Rachel (CAT Assistant)
My very first memory is probably a picture of me performing on my first dance show. I am 2 years old and I’m a red butterfly with wings attached to my hands. My mum is a dance teacher and she was always running around during the shows. Another teacher made the costumes and her husband did the lightening. The whole thing felt like a little company.
Adam (Deputy Technical Manager)
For me it was a family thing, my dad was a lighting technician and his dad, so I am the third generation of lighting technicians. I grew up in theatre and caught the bug very early. But it was never about the stage for me, I did panto as a kid but I much preferred being behind the scenes away from the spotlight. Nevertheless, I first got an office job because I thought theatre is not really a serious career - I did that for two years and hated it, quit, and went back to join the circus. The good thing is since then I’ve been in steady work. For performers I know it can be really hard, but as a technician, we are always in demand and once you get your name out there, the work just keeps coming. When I moved to London, within a month or so I was constantly in work. It sure is nice when you’ve got the option to also turn work down!
The thing with theatre is we make it all seem seamless, so most people are really not aware how it all happens and what careers there are. At The Place, we have a trainee and her hours are split between her school and working here with us. It would be nice to have schools coming in as well, but the thing is my job can be quite dangerous, there’s a lot of hazards backstage – you can’t bring a whole class of school kids in here!
Vicky (CAT Programme Manager)
At CAT [Centre for Advanced Training], we talk a lot about the ‘portfolio career’ and we always tell the young people they can be dance artists or dance educators or dance makers rather than just training them to fit into one box.
Hannah (Communications Coordinator)
I used to walk very turned out in my feet and my best friend suggested I should start ballet. I remember my first ballet solo - I was about 12 and afterwards my parents felt really proud and all my friends were there and I just really enjoyed that feeling. In my last year at Laban people were auditioning and I realised didn’t want to. I didn’t think I could take that rejection and that side of being a dancer. A I also realized I like teaching and working with people rather than just being on stage.
I think for many dancers and performing arts students, they don’t necessarily understand what their skills are and how you can use those skills to do any job. When you’re young you just see the stage and you don’t get educated enough about what other things you could do.
Suzanne (Press and PR Manager)
My local ballet school was linked to the opera house, so at 6 years old I made my debut on the big stage. Our ballet mistress also played the witch so she would come to us in her scary witch make up and whisper ‘Break a leg, girls!’… I was just hooked, I thought it was the most magical place on earth! Years later I was a professional dancer and my company did a joint project with Mac cosmetics, so the Mac PR lady came to visit us backstage in her 6-inch Yves Saint Laurent heels – she was the most fabulous boss lady I had ever seen and it sparked an idea. Today, many twists and turns later I am the PR manager at The Place - minus the killer heels but I think that’s what it takes sometimes, to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes and thinking ‘maybe I could do that’.
Irad (CAT assistant Manager)
My gran was a ballet dancer in Jamaica. When we were little I went to watch my sister at her dance class at our local school and simply couldn’t stop dancing, I loved it! When I left school and didn’t really know what to do, I knew I enjoyed dancing and I was very fortunate that I never really had to audition, they always needed guys in dance so I became a dancer. I love performing and creating and expressing myself, regardless of what the art from is. I got bored of dance in my early thirties and struggled to find anything that inspired me, so I decided to go on another journey. I came back to dance now with all these new ideas and now I’m here at The Place. The young students at CAT definitely inspire me, they are so creative and don’t judge themselves the way adults do. What I love about my role is giving them a bit of life advise, I think that helps them with their creativity and resilience. There’s more to life than art, because all of life is art and we are all creative beings.
Inspiring the future of the performing arts is also to believe that everyone can be creative and have the skills to pursue their dreams in many different ways. Our team at The Place highlights how dreams have the power to bring people together and share a common passion: make the arts happen. And this is what truly inspires us to work in dance - on and off the stage.