- Course: BA Theatre and Performance
- Year of graduation: 2019
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background before studying at Leeds?
I grew up in a town in the West Midlands and developed my love for performing through my local dance school. I did panto every year and got involved with everything I could in school and grew a passion for performing. However, I felt I had lots more to explore, especially in the creation and devising side of performance and productions. I went straight to University after Sixth Form where I studied English Literature, Psychology and Performing Arts.
What made you choose to study at the University?
For me the University ticked every box that I was looking for when deciding between universities. I was so impressed with the facilities the School had to offer with performance and rehearsal spaces and the rest of campus was just as exciting. The position of the campus also being in and of itself as well as on the edge of such a big and culturally vibrant city seemed to have the best of both worlds to offer!
What did you enjoy the most about your course?
Again, the variety! I loved having a go at as many things as were available to me and really varying my modules to develop as broad a skill set as I could. This meant I was always stretching and expanding my creativity as I could delve into so many different elements and really push and develop my skills, adapting them constantly. The specialities of each of the teaching staff made me feel like I was getting the absolute best training, advice and education for each subject. You’re very independent throughout the course, however the staff will always push you to your absolute potential. This enforced my realisation of my own capabilities and how much greater these were than when I first arrived at Leeds. Being able to transfer my practical experiences and growing knowledge into academic writing and presentation was also so rewarding. I enjoyed pushing the boundaries of my research outside of the realms of performance and production and into subjects like Psychology and museums.
What opportunities/activities were available for students outside of studying and which ones did you take part in?
There are countless activities, groups and events to take part in at Leeds, there was always something going on and new people to meet. I personally involved myself with multiple performance societies within the Leeds University Union, in particular musicals. With them I performed, directed and produced in musicals meaning I was most likely always doing something when not studying. In my second and final years I took on committee roles within the Stage Musicals Society as Social Secretary and then President. The friendships I formed within these societies and the experiences they offered became pivotal to my growth, development of skills and all-round enjoyment at University.
I was also part of a production with an alumni theatre company that went to the Edinburgh Fringe which was something great to be a part of.
What support services were available for students outside of studying?
There was always someone to talk to either at the university or at the students’ union. The School of Performance and Cultural Industries had a fantastic pastoral team as well as being given a personal tutor who is there to not only help with your studies but also as a shoulder to turn to when things aren’t going so straight forward. There is a professional counselling service as well as varying support teams and people within the Union for support and advice for whatever you may need help with. Even in the middle of the night Nightline is there for a friendly voice on the end of the phone.
What are your fondest memories of your time at Leeds?
The community of the school of both staff and students had such a wonderful impact on your day no matter how well it was going or how busy you might be. Experiencing commonalities was always so exciting when creating performance projects. These yearly creations and performances were an incredible challenge that required so much team work, collaboration and a combination of everyone’s skills to carry out. These projects were long and intense, but the pride that was always felt at their performance and then completion were some of the best times I had on the course.
Moving on to your career, where do you currently work and what is your job title?
I currently work for the Science Museum Group within the Learning Department at the National Railway Museum in York. My job title is ‘Explainer’, a bit of an unusual yet simple title.
Can you tell us about your day-to-day role?
My role as an Explainer is extremely varied day to day. Part of my job is to inform visitors with live interpretation of the different items and stories from the immense collection. (That’s knowing a lot about Steam Engines). The other part of my job is working with children, families and students. This mainly entails performing interactive shows, workshops, story-telling. These have a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) focus, aiming to engage individuals with and get excited about with Science. Not only am I constantly learning on the job, but also helping develop new material and activities to expand the museum’s learning offer and ultimately get more young people involved with and appreciating the wonder of the museum, it’s collection and STEM.
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?
The range of opportunities, experiences and teachings within my degree allowed me to develop so many transferable skills.
One experience from my degree which I feel has been vital to my career path was my second-year performance project. A group of us had the opportunity to work with Leeds Museums and Galleries within the stately home Temple Newsam to create a durational site-specific performance for the public. Creating something from scratch allows you to explore and develop your skills in multiple facets of devising and performance. Through my involvement I expanded my love for history, weaving this directly with the skills I was developing through production, collaboration and performance. This greatly extended my understanding of theatre beyond the stage and the uses and impact of performance to keep stories and histories alive. This really opened my eyes to museums, education and performance, which all are incorporated in my professional role today. Though I don’t dress up as a WWII nurse every day at work, I definitely use the variety of skills I honed through this project as well as many more modules I took on the course.
I use my research skills very often, when looking into items of the collection and exploring their stories. Skills I’ve learnt in devising and writing I use to adapt information to retell the story of an object for new public talks or focuses for an exhibition. I also use plenty of performing skills when doing science demonstrations and workshops, as well as just answering a question on the museum floor. Problem solving, collaboration, communication, my degree and the experiences it gave me have contributed to a great deal of my skillset which I’m sure I will continue to use in my career in the future.