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Katie Mahon

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background before studying at Leeds?

I am from a council estate in Bradford. I attended a special measures secondary school but had a lot of parental support and encouragement to break boundaries which gave me motivation to pursue my ambitions. I didn’t really know how to explore what courses the universities offered in detail I just knew I wanted to go to university and I had done the best in drama in school and I loved it so I chose to do drama.

What made you choose to study at the University?

I really wanted to attend university and because I’m from a working-class background. I was limited for how far I could go to university due to lack of finance. However, I also participated in the Access to Leeds programme and attended open days and workshop days before applying for university which had me pretty much settled on going to The University of Leeds.

What did you enjoy the most about your course?

I loved studying in the city of Leeds, it’s a vibrant city with so much going on within my field but for being a student in general. It was an amazing experience living in Leeds for four years. The University campus is truly beautiful, and I miss it a lot. I also appreciate just how open the School of Performance and Cultural Industries was for students to use facilities and the amount of opportunity that is offered that I can now reflect on.

What opportunities/activities were available for students outside of studying and which ones did you take part in?

I set up my own theatre company, which was inspired by a festival opportunity during my course, which quite literally changed my life as it is now my full-time job. I also took part in the School’s panto society more so in my first year. I am now engaged with open theatre, offering workshops for students. There were lots of opportunities to attend employability sessions, some of which have stayed with me today and allowed me to make contacts I work with today.

What support services were available for students outside of studying?

While studying I received support from the disability student services for anxiety, I was going through a very difficult time with multiple bereavements and other difficult life experiences that were surfacing. I would encourage all students to seek support as up until the end of my second year I tried my best to carry on as normal and hide away, to give the impression that I was okay, and I was coping. It was truly down to the support of the tutors who ask how I was, encouraged me to access support and that revelation of asking for support has also stayed with me today.

What are you fondest memories of your time at Leeds?

Time with friends, time in practical sessions, social events

Moving on to your career, where do you currently work and what is your job title?

I am now the Artistic Director of Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company, the company I founded in my first year of university.

Can you tell us about your day-to-day role?

About my company:

Our Mission is to increase access to opportunity and to the arts for working class communities. We do this by creating original professional verbatim theatre pieces that explore working class narratives. Engaging with professionals, highly experienced within the field and offering volunteering, intern and academic placements within the professional theatre environment. We also collect content for our plays by engaging with working class communities, offering a variety of interactive and participatory opportunities.

We are very passionate about the work that we do as we bring voice and empowerment to working class communities while raising awareness for the barriers in place to access to further opportunities.

My day to day working life is hectic and fast paced but I love it because no two days are the same. I look working with working class communities and in a field that I am passionate about.

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?

My degree has allowed me to build transferrable skills that make me versatile and adaptable to working in several different environments and with several different groups of people. This is a core need of my job. It also allows me to balance a hectic schedule and work with several different organisations at any one time. I feel that this is particularly strong because of studying at Leeds.