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Royal Opera House stage technician Henry Desmond: ‘There’s pride in helping to make memories’

Henry Desmond. Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke Henry Desmond. Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke
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How did you start off in theatre?

I applied for the technical theatre apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House. I had looked at universities and drama schools, but found the apprenticeship suited me better. It was brilliant and finished with a placement at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Afterwards, I became first automation technician for the RSC’s Winter Season at the Barbican.

What advice do you have for somebody aiming to build a career today?

I approached my working days with the attitude: “This is the first day of the rest of my career… not the first day of my training.”

What would you change about training in the UK?

It’s important that qualifications fit the world of work and that there are good links between industry and education. I was pleased to help with the development of the Cultural Venue Technician Apprenticeship Standard.

What is the best part of your job?

The joy of putting on shows. There’s a real feeling of pride in knowing you are helping to make memories for the people out front.

And your least favourite?

The hours mean I don’t see my old friends as much. At the same time, I have gained lots of new friends.

Who are the practitioners you admire the most/who should students look up to?

Every person you work with has something valuable you can learn, but I particularly look up to my manager Andy Collett. I’ve learned so much from watching how he uses his knowledge and experience running the team.

What is the one skill every successful theatre professional should have?

No two days are the same and you should always be open to new ways of doing things.

What would you say to somebody thinking about applying for an apprenticeship?

Go for it. The Royal Opera House is looking for eight apprentices to start in September 2018. Take the opportunity.

Henry Desmond was talking to John Byrne

Look for training opportunities on The Stage website

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