What were you doing prior to the Lighting Programme?
From a young age, I loved theatre and did a lot of performing. I was really interested in how the teams behind the scenes played a huge role in piecing the production together, and this was a significant factor in starting my career.
Prior to joining the Lighting Programme, I was a student at Guilford School of Acting, pursuing a BA in Theatre Production. When I first started, I was really interested in set design. However, because my course covered so many aspects of the industry, I began exploring lighting and soon became eager to delve deeper into this area. When I heard about the programme offered by SLX, it instantly appealed to me as an exciting opportunity to improve my confidence and further develop my skills before stepping into the industry.
How did you first hear about SLX’s Lighting Programme?
I learned about SLX’s lighting program through a friend named Ciaran, who had been a part of the previous year’s cohort. Ciaran shared his experiences with me, mentioning that the programme opened many doors, including the opportunity to meet the English Touring Opera, which led to going on tour with them. It was incredibly impressive to me seeing firsthand how the programme could benefit students, and served as a major motivation for me to pursue it.
Now that I have completed the programme, I find myself stepping into Ciaran’s shoes by passing on the information to students on my course and encouraging them to apply. It feels like we’re all sharing the knowledge within our university community, and it’s great to see.
What drew you to the Lighting Programme and what were your expectations?
I was really intrigued by SLX’s work on sustainability. Not only did it deeply resonate with me, but I also had the opportunity to see how SLX is working with venues like the London Palladium to make a positive change. There’s something about SLX’s values and approach that resonated with me and helped fuel my enthusiasm to get stuck right in!
As for my expectations, I anticipated having discussions with professionals (like Katy and Ruari) to gain insights into the realities of the industry. I was also hopeful for a sense of community, which I definitely found and exceeded my expectations. The programme not only provided talks from lighting manufacturers, touring companies, and large-scale theatres, but it also paved a clear pathway for me to enter the industry. Looking back, the support and guidance provided throughout were second to none, and I never felt like I was thrown into the deep end; there was always someone there to assist and nurture my growth. The programme truly built my confidence and provided an invaluable experience.
How did the programme contribute to your growth and development as an industry professional? Were there any areas that you found particularly valuable?
From the application to the interview, and then walking into the warehouse meeting the SLX team for the first time, the programme contributed enormously to my growth. On my first day, I had the opportunity to meet the English Touring Opera team while they were preparing kit for their Autumn tour, and this instantly heightened my awareness of what happens behind the scenes. Being able to witness the organisation and preparation involved with preparing the kit that was going to be used on tour was immensely valuable. It filled the gaps in my knowledge and was a catalyst that pushed my confidence further.
I didn’t anticipate how much I would learn within the first three days of the programme. It was a great opportunity to meet like minded students, and gave me the opportunity to experience the friendly and supportive nature of the industry.
In what ways did the programme prepare you for a career in the industry? Were there any opportunities that you found especially beneficial?
One of the moments that stands out to me the most was when I first visited the warehouse. It was amazing as on day one I was able to also meet the London Palladium staff whilst they were in pre-production for their fit-up. This experience led me to reach out to the team, and gave me the opportunity to work as a follow spot operator for their 2022/3 panto run and a variety of their other shows during concert season. It just goes to show that by having those brief conversations and making connections in the programme can really help make a name for yourself and open up opportunities.
There’s no denying that I was really nervous to work on their panto, but SLX helped me see that the skills I learned in university were transferable to larger scale projects!
Were there any challenges you encountered during the programme? How did you overcome them?
Looking back, even my first day at SLX was a bit daunting as I didn’t know anyone. However, I was quickly at ease, as my cohort and I began discussing our various journeys leading us to the programme.
What stood out to you most from the programme? What made it significant?
What really stood out to me was the opportunity it provided to get my foot in the door of the industry. The programme’s emphasis on networking and building confidence was significant and has had a lasting impact on me.
The programme is also not just a one-year programme that simply ends; Ruari and Katy provides a platform for continued contact and support among all of the students. I’d describe it as distant support, not physically present every day but always available when needed. It’s almost similar to calling your parents for support, I can find myself calling Katy “please can i have a light for tomorrow”…
It’s so handy to just have that!
What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling to the Lighting Programme?
Firstly, just do it without any hesitation! I’ve encouraged so many people from my University to apply as you’ll not only start growing your network, but you’ll also gain so much confidence when applying for roles. The interview and application process alone was so useful and it doesn’t feel like a traditional interview; it feels like the SLX team cares and genuinely wants to get to know you. It forces you to reflect on why you’re interested in working in the industry and challenges you to think deeply about your motivations.
Secondly one of the key lessons I’ve learnt is to just take action. Don’t be afraid to send an email or make a phone call. If there’s a project you want to be a part of, reach out and express your interest as every step you take is a stepping stone to getting to where you want to be!
And lastly, the community you’ll build up is incredible. By the time you graduate, you’ll have both work experience and a network of contacts that go beyond what you can anticipate. The time you invested in the program will benefit you enormously, so what are you waiting for?
How has the Lighting Programme helped you take the next steps in your career?
It’s helped grow my confidence, and also get my foot in the door which is tricky anyway. Even more so when I was based in Devon and wanted to travel further afield to see the opportunities our industry offers.
Where do you see your career going in the next 5 years?
I already feel so grateful as I recently became a full-time technician at the London Palladium for the summer season, however I’d really like to have the experience of touring in the future. I love travelling so I feel it would be amazing to relocate to different parts of the country and see a production come to life in some of the UK’s most renowned theatres and venues!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am extremely thankful to SLX for their dedication to supporting us as we get ready to leave university. To this day, Katy and Ruari provide so much input to the little things such as advising us on what to do and what to avoid. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to to join calls with Phoebe Currie regarding SLX’s great efforts to sustainability which demonstrates their enthusiasm for involving us in these aspects. We’re all understanding their passion for cutting emissions in the industry, and it’s working as we’re so excited to pass their message on!