How did you start off in dance/theatre?
I studied for a Drama and English degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. I loved acting but had the added advantage of being able to sew costumes. While still a student, it was these skills that led to my first professional job as design assistant for a children’s theatre company and the offer of a full-time job, bringing with it the precious Equity card.
What is your best advice for students today?
Develop a range of skills and interests, be flexible and think creatively about how you can apply your skills to earn a living. Be passionate about all your skills/interests – no one will employ you to do something you approach as ‘second best’.
What would you change about UK training?
It would be great to see real opportunities for people from different backgrounds and a full range of life experiences to pursue a career in the cultural sector so that we have a truly inclusive workforce. We need to explore what a 21st-century ‘portfolio career’ really means. What do cultural sector jobs of the future look like and how are those developments reflected in training programmes?
What is the best part of your job?
Working in a cultural organisation with the most extraordinary people doing the most extraordinary things, such as the ‘leading roles’ sessions we run using actors, coaches, facilitators and staff who apply theatre techniques to help people in education and business manage potential conflict effectively.
And your least favourite?
Who are the practitioners you admire the most/who should students look up to?
Catriona McHugh, for creating groundbreaking and powerfully relevant theatre; Liv Lorent, for her beautiful, inventive contemporary ballet; Emma Rice, for amazing imagination, innovation and sheer joy; Bryony Lavery, an iconic playwright whose work changed the way I thought about theatre; and Miranda Thain, for her pioneering work in theatre for young audiences.
Sharon Paterson, associate director for culture and engagement Teesside University, was talking to John Byrne