Rachael Winder headshot

Rachael Winder

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your role as course rep?

I am currently in my third and final year studying in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries on the Theatre and Performance course. For the last 2 years I have been a course rep, as a representative for my year group and a point of contact between staff and students.

In my role I attend the Student Staff Partnership Forum each term, where I can speak on behalf of students in my year group about numerous points of discussion. This involves prior to this meeting asking for feedback from my year group if there is anything they wish to have raised and discussed at the meeting.

I have also headed a sub-group within my role looking at developing community within the school itself. The aim of this group was to develop interconnectivity across the year groups and courses within the school from Undergrad to Postgraduate. The group consisted of a few members of staff and students who felt passionate about this cause and wanted help organise events to encourage the community feel within the school. This is something we felt was particularly important to maintain this year people have not been able to connect with others in the school as they usually would, therefore we wanted to do what we could to support first year undergraduate and Masters students feel as part of the school as possible.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I knew that I wanted to do theatre in some form at University, but was certain that I didn’t wish to go down the drama school route as although I like acting and performing, it’s not something I wish the pursue a career in. Therefore, I looked to courses that offered the ability to pursue all aspects of the theatre industry so I could try new things that would help me decide what I wanted to continue with beyond university.

From looking at the course online and visiting on the open day, I immediately got a warm feeling about the course at Leeds and got excited about the potential modules I could study during my time here. Visiting the stage@Leeds building also helped to solidify my choice as it was great to think I could be learning and creating in a working theatre.

Something else that really drew me to Leeds was the option to take up discovery modules in other faculties to compliment my studies, giving the opportunity to broaden my skillset. In addition to this the Leeds study abroad programme was something I was really interested in taking advantage of and hopefully this coming September, I will be undertaking a year studying in Canada at Trent University.

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?  

As mentioned, my favourite part of my course is the wide range of modules that the school offers. Right from our very first module in first year it is instilled that performance can be interpreted in any way in all areas of society and isn’t necessarily confined to the cultural industries. This is a freedom I have chosen to explore with my dissertation, as I am writing it about rave culture and its performative nature as a subculture.

Another aspect of the course that I really enjoy is the collaborative nature of it. Theatre and Performance is such a unique course in that we are constantly working in groups with other students and due to the small cohort, this means that you get to know everyone really quickly, especially during Performance Project after long rehearsal periods.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general? Thinking particularly about your most recent experience and the transition to digital learning and support.

Studying in a working theatre means that you have full use of all the tech available: lighting, sound, projection etc. The tech team are also amazing and always willing to help with any questions or ambitious ideas you may have and wish to facilitate.

Particularly with the transition to online learning, the school was really understanding that this was difficult to us to adapt to work in groups whilst remote. They listened to our concerns and supported us by altering assessment outcomes, helping us still to achieve the best that we could.

Part of this included training sessions via zoom to look at video and audio editing software that we could access for free and help us to complete assessments.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

Outside of the academic course there are so many performance societies to get involved with!

Last year I was a member of Theatre Group society and I assistant produced a production of Pterodactyls by Nicky Silver. It was a great experience and we were so lucky our show went on just two weeks before the university took the decision to close due to the pandemic.

The societies offer the chance to meet new people as they’re open to anyone, it was also a great way to put into practice the skills that I had learnt on the course as well as a chance to learn from others.

Did you take a work placement or study abroad year? If so, how did you find this experience and what have you gained from it?

I applied and got accepted to undertake a study abroad year last year however due to the outbreak of the pandemic, I am now on the inverted course and I am due to hopefully go to Trent University in Canada this September.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

After I finish university and my year abroad, I am intending to pursue a career in producing.

I was first introduced to the role of Producer after attending a talk at the start of my second year with Peter Holland, a former student in the School and now Creative Producer for Frantic Assembly. In the talk Holland discussed his role and the relationship of balancing the artistic visions of the direct and putting them in practice logically.

Since then in my studies, the course has allowed me to gain producing experience when working on practical modules such as performance project. I have been able to produce a show for an audience and gain real life experience of what the role would be in the real world in a working theatre. I have also been able to do this through societies such as Theatre Group that offer roles on production teams.

The careers centre has also been a useful tool when starting to consider life after university, they have offered several talks with creatives from the North of England sharing opportunities that are available and offering advice on how to get them.

Please provide a good luck message/advice to those who have applied to your course and are awaiting exam results.

I wish you all the best for the next few months as you finish your studies and await your results! Just remember that the grades on a piece of paper don’t define who you are, and you’ll succeed no matter what if you’re passionate!

If you do end up in Leeds as a Theatre and Performance student you definitely won’t regret it! I have had the best three years here, and I couldn’t imagine having gone somewhere else for my university experience. Everyone here from my course-mates to academic staff have been so great to learn from and connect with. Good Luck!