STEP into Arts Management: A Round Up!

This week, STEP organised an event at London South Bank University for young people interested in learning about other careers in theatre and the arts, as part of our 'STEP into Drama School' Programme. Here's a round up of the advice our panelists gave to young people!

The event was kindly supported by the Ernest Cook Trust.

1. There are other careers in theatre besides acting

Many people who work in the Arts wanted to be actors when they were at school. However, acting is one of the most challenging, over-subscribed professions out there. Also, the lifestyle of a jobbing actor can be very challenging: most actors who graduate from Drama School struggle to get paid acting work - and most graduates don't ever experience constant employment. Most actors work in a variety of jobs just to sustain an income, so it is worth seriously asking yourself whether it is acting that you want to pursue. Would you be more suited to another career within the industry?

There's such wide variety of careers within the industry: from producing to casting, there are so many roles to suit a variety of talents. Getintotheatre.org has a great list of all the different roles in the industry, which you can find here.

Two of the panelists for our Arts Management event are currently studying the Arts Management undergraduate course at LSBU. Both in a previous life were actors but found that the unpredictable lifestyle of an actor and lack of control made them think about other career paths in the industry. If you have a desire to run and organise projects, then this might be a career worth considering. Arts Management requires a whole range of skills, from entrepreneurship to strategical thinking. After all, every theatre company, gallery, film company and museum is ultimately a business, which needs to balance its books and generate income. 

2. Arts Management can complement, and even enhance, your career as a performer

Even if your main love is performing, it is more than likely that you'll need to have another job in between performing jobs. Many actors work a variety of jobs - from waitressing to working in a call-centre - during these stints, but it is also worth exploring working within Arts Management. Working within the industry alongside being a performer enables you to meet a variety of people in the industry that you wouldn't otherwise meet. It  also enables you to learn how theatre/arts organisations run. This experience is very handy if you ever want to put your own work on, since you will already have a knowledge of how professionals run their organisations.

Craig Jenkins works as professional Storyteller, but he also works to support the office of Vayu Naidu Company. Experiencing working in a whole range of roles in the VNC office enabled Craig to learn the different aspects of running a theatre company, as well as giving him the chance to get more deeply involved in the work of the company. Craig now writes funding applications for his own storytelling projects, and his experience working in a fundraising capacity for the company enabled him to learn how to fundraise to finance his own work.

Rasheeda Nalumoso, a Freelance Producer for outdoor projects and Education Coordinator at the Chelsea Theatre, works in her free time as an artist and theatre-maker. Working alongside the artists she commissions at the Chelsea Theatre, and getting to learn how to run events as a Freelance Producer, has enabled Rasheeda to develop her own work. It's also really useful when trying to network and get her own work on, as she now has a really good understanding of the industry. 

3. Know your strengths

If you want to work in theatre or the arts, have a think about where your strengths lie in order to work out what kind of role you'd be suited to. Are you a great time-keeper and organiser? Then maybe you should think about Stage Management. Do you enjoy researching and thinking about the themes that surround a piece of theatre? Then Dramaturgy may be for you. Take a look at the Get Into Theatre website for a list and definition of jobs!

Beccy Allen, Creative Director of STEP, spoke about her experience acting at University. Beccy explained that a friend noticed that she was an excellent organiser, and that she would therefore be suited to producing. After producing shows at Exeter University, Beccy worked in roles for theatre companies which have required her to use her main strength: organising. Since then, she has developed the STEP year-round programme and annual Festival, coordinating a wide variety of projects and liaising with both teachers and theatre companies.

Mary Jane Edwards trained as a performer specifically in European Theatre at Rose Bruford, but realised that she had a passion for producing. After training and working in different European countries, Mary Jane returned to England where she has since worked at theatres which include the Old Vic and Old Vic Tunnels. 

4. Get as much experience as you can!

The panel were insistent on taking part in as much theatre as you can while you have the time. Rasheeda Nalumoso advised young people to 'not undervalue the experience of taking part in Youth Theatre - it's usually the first step on the ladder and enables you to learn what interests you'. Join a Youth Theatre and make sure that you mention it on personal statements for jobs and university. Even if you're not applying for a course or a job which is related, many tutors and employers are impressed by candidates who are confident and articulate: two skills you can develop from being a part of a Youth Theatre. Attending a Youth Theatre also demonstrates a commitment to theatre and performing, so it is worth seriously considering!

Southwark has a wealth of Youth Theatres. You have to pay a small fee for some of them, while others are free. To find out the Youth Theatre that's near you in the borough, or to find out which one would suit you, check out the following links:

Blue Elephant, Camberwell

Theatre Peckham, Peckham/Camberwell

The Unicorn Youth Theatre, London Bridge

Shakespeare's Globe Youth Theatre, Bankside

London Bubble, Rotherhithe

Real Drama, Walworth

The UK also has a nation-wide Youth Theatre, called National Youth Theatre. Many famous actors have been a part of NYT, so it is worth looking into. The organisation runs all kinds of courses: from acting to technical theatre. To get onto a course, you need to audition. For more information, click here.

It is also a good idea to be signed up to websites which have opportunities for young people to get into theatre. STEP would recommend signing up to Ideastap and subscribing to newsletters from A Younger Theatre

5. Consider other routes into the Arts, such as Apprenticeships

In the current financial climate, it will be harder for many more people to access University and Drama School. But it also means that the way in which young people access the industry is changing: more and more organisations are valuing apprenticeships. It's a great way to train and get paid a small fee on the job. All apprenticeships are advertised online at the Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service site. Click here to apply for any Apprenticeships that are available.

Alternatively, you can encourage an employer to take you on yourself and if they are interested they can contact the Skills Academy. Click here to find out how the Skills Academy can arrange this for you. 

In January 2012, a video of the event will be available to download from the STEP website and a DVD will be available for all those interested in getting into Arts Management. To request a DVD email Beccy (beccy@step-partnership.co.uk)

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