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Producer Dawinder Bansal: ‘My first job showed me the arts is a place where you ‘stand out’ to fit in’

Dawinder Bansal. Photo: GS Visuals Dawinder Bansal. Photo: GS Visuals
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Part of the way through my computer science degree I knew it wasn’t a career I wanted to follow after graduation. I landed a place on the ITC fast track programme, which gave theatre development opportunities and placements to people who had a passion for the arts, but no formal training or experience.

My first taste of theatre work was in the marketing department at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I turned up on the first day wearing a grey business suit and someone said: “Aye aye, you here to sell us insurance?” The following day I dressed as I normally would. It was so refreshing to be accepted for being me.

I loved that the arts was a place where you ‘stand out to fit in’. When I started out, I was convinced that I wanted to become marketing director at an arts organisation, but soon realised I was more interested in how productions came to life on stage.

Trina Jones – who still works at the Rep as general manager – took me under her wing and gave me advice about work and life that I still draw on today. I also learned a lot from other team members. It was like joining a huge, welcoming family who had a purpose: to fill people’s lives with joy and curiosity.

While I didn’t stay at the Rep as an employee, I later joined as a trustee on the board of directors. The creative world offers hard, yet rewarding, careers if you can bear the highs and lows. Lots of people start with enthusiasm, but become disillusioned and leave.

For success and longevity in the sector you need thick skin, brushing off rejections to keep coming back. Commercial theatre and the subsidised funded sector both have their own opportunities and challenges. If you don’t yet know what you want to do, then volunteer and gain experience in as many areas of the theatre as possible. Once you get on that train, figure out what gives you that buzz and dedicate yourself to learning the craft and skills needed to be exceptional.

And never ever turn up to your first day at an arts organisation wearing a grey business suit.

CV Dawinder Bansal

Age: Undisclosed
Training: Computer Science, De Montfort University
Theatre includes: Mother Tongues from Farther Lands (Southbank Centre); producer of Alchemy Festival (Southbank Centre); site-specific shows, exhibitions, installations and festivals for clients including National Festival of Making, BBC, Channel 4 and Oldham Coliseum.

Dawinder Bansal was talking to John Byrne

My first job: performer Danny Rogers – ‘Always have smart, polished shoes’

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