- Course: BA Theatre and Performance
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background before studying at Leeds?
I was always performing from a young age. In fact, I was even up onstage before I was born as my Mum, a keen amateur actor was starring in a play whilst she was having me. I grew up in Stockport but was soon escaping to the bright lights of Manchester as soon as I was old enough - I was lucky to have some amazing theatre’s right on my doorstep.
I was in every youth theatre I could find – I’ve run many youth theatres since and it’s such a joy when you see a young person find their ‘tribe’. I took the traditional learning route taking 5 AS-Levels (I must have been crazy) and 4 A-Levels, all in arts and humanities subjects.
What made you choose to study at the University?
I always knew I wanted to perform, but also knew just being an actor wasn’t quite right for me. I wanted to understand theatre and storytelling at a deeper level and I soon realised there was a whole world of exciting theatre-makers, do-ers, inspirers, producers, writers, designers, researchers, historians… I wanted to know about it all.
I also really enjoyed academic learning and so I wanted a course that could provide me with the best of both worlds: training and academia. The BA Theatre and Performance course was the only course I found with equal emphasis on practical training and traditional academic assessment. It felt like the perfect fit.
What did you enjoy the most about your course?
The course was modular, allowing you to pick and choose which areas of theatre you really wanted to hone in on.
And there was an emphasis on collaboration: working closely with students on the Performance Design, Dance and Applied Theatre courses set me up well for the collaborative nature of the performance business.
What opportunities/activities were available for students outside of studying and which ones did you take part in?
Leeds has an incredible students union with so many societies – it was hard to pick which to be a part of!
I was of course involved in the drama and musical societies but also took an interest in student governance and was Student Wellbeing Officer for Bretton Hall Campus (now closed) in my second year.
What support services were available for students outside of studying?
I was on a smaller campus for the first two years but we had access to all the support of both the University and Student Union teams on the main campus throughout including LGBT specific support which I accessed.
I was diagnosed with HIV aged 16 and at the time I was studying, lived with a lot of anxiety about people finding out (I’m now fully open having made a solo-show about my life growing up HIV+).
But I had a great relationship with my tutors and felt able to tell them – they offered lots of support including one-to-one chats with a coffee through to reasonable extensions on deadlines when things were a bit too much.
Without that kind of support, I don’t think I’d have got through the three years.
What are you fondest memories of your time at Leeds?
There are too many to mention! Lots of memories making friends for life, socialising, going on trips together and exploring our art together in some wonderfully creative and mad ways including doing a Halloween ghost tour around the old mansion and lake where our campus was based.
Moving on to your career, where do you currently work and what is your job title?
I have always worked for myself from the day I graduated. I get itchy feet to be an employee in one role for any length of time. I’m what they call a portfolio worker I think. My (self appointed) title is: Theatre Maker and Creative Consultant. Aside from writing, directing and performing, my main skills lie in Arts Marketing and Producing.
Currently I am touring my solo-show about my experiences growing up with HIV: First Time. We took it to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 and it received 53 stars and two awards. We were completely taken aback.
I’m also currently filming ‘Boys’, a new television drama for Channel 4 written by one of my absolute idols, Russell T. Davies. It airs later this year.
Can you tell us about your day-to-day role?
I pulled out my old professional development plan from university recently and I was surprised how accurately I had described my future… spooky. No two days are the same – currently most of my time is taken up booking, promoting and performing my touring show interspersed with days on set filming.
I also have a range of other clients I work for delivering arts marketing services as well as delivering workshops and training for youth theatres across Manchester.
Later in the year I’ll be working on developing my show into a screenplay… I do like a challenge.
How do you think your degree has helped you to progress in your career? In particular, what skills did you learn and how do you use these in your role/career path?
Absolutely 100% I acquired a fierce independence whilst at Leeds.
The arts are notoriously difficult to work in - I learnt early on that nobody is going to turn up and offer that perfect career on plate, you’ve got to do it for yourself.
The degree focused heavily on self-direction and self-motivation, two invaluable skills you will need to make it in the industry.
I also learnt how to have confidence in my creative ability, but also how and when to listen to feedback and criticism, and how to decide when to take that onboard or follow my creative instincts and challenge the norm!