Eleanor Cansdale headshot

Eleanor Cansdale

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

I am very passionate about theatre and performance and really enjoy exploring the different possibilities and aspects of theatre that are out there and can be explored. Outside of theatre, I am really interested in music and play the piano as a pass time. I grew up in Cheshire, in the countryside and so I wanted to come to a city that wasn’t too big to be somewhere very different to what I was used to.

As a course rep I attend all the Student Staff Partnership Forums (SSPF). In these I am able to talk to and discuss issues in the school with fellow students across courses and years as well as staff in the faculty which is extremely helpful and insightful. I feedback what I’ve discussed with students and staff, vice versa. There is a real opportunity for students’ voices to be heard here at Leeds and being course rep is just one of them. I would highly recommend becoming one if you want to get involved in understanding and developing the areas within the school that can be improved during your time at the University.

Within these SSPF meetings, we have subgroups which are led by a student course rep. These look into a particular topic of priority agreed at the first meeting of the year. I am currently the lead course rep for the subgroup on Academic Integrity and Experience, looking in particular at digital and hybrid learning, how it has worked so far, and what we can improve for future. So far, we have been working on a reference document to be sent out to all students at the beginning of each semester as a reminder where to find key pieces of information or where, for example, to find the printer clusters on campus.

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

I went to two open days at Leeds and the whole campus had such a wonderful, positive and exciting atmosphere to it that made me feel at home and that I could do anything I wanted there. This positive energy was further solidified when I spoke to student ambassadors and staff at the offer holder and accommodation days. Leeds is such an amazing place with a variety of places to go for entertainment, it’s perfect for a theatre student. The city is so vast in all it has to offer that it fitted exactly what I wanted for a home away from home.

I applied to BA Theatre and Performance because of how broad a range of academia and practice you learn about as well as the balance between the two that other courses didn’t have. The School of Performance and Cultural Industries is also such a wonderful place to be to learn about theatre and performance.

In my A Levels we didn’t do much theory, so I was worried about starting a degree with a lot of theory and essay writing, but the course eases you into it. When I was comparing it to other Universities, Leeds was best for being able to tailor your degree to your own interests and where you want to go with your career/academic life; both within the course and the University. Another big thing that really drew me to Leeds for me was the opportunity to do discovery modules in another subject, something I haven’t done yet but am looking into for my third year.

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?  

I think I would have to say the practical workshops, learning different ways of making performance and trying them out in the studio space. I love learning about the theory as well because I find it extremely interesting and exciting to see different perspectives and ways of looking at a particular aspect of performance.

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.

The facilities in the School are amazing. With two black box theatre spaces with retractable seating in the main building and several other black box studios in another, there is so much space for exploration, for learning, for experimenting and for creating. The department also has a wide range of technical equipment including recorders, microphones, and filming equipment available to book as a student. The technical team are also available to ask to teach you how to work the equipment and what equipment is best for what kinds of recording or exploration you want to carry out.

In light of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to access these facilities this semester, but I was still able to last semester for my module Creative Practices and Performance Contexts. Strict health and safety measures were put in place for handling and usage of equipment and we were taught how to use each microphone we borrowed. For the last two weeks of this term, I will be able to hopefully go into the studios for my module Performance Design which will give us the opportunity to work with some of this equipment and the spatial facilities provided.

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

There are so many societies at the University that it’s almost guaranteed that if you have an interest or passion for something, there is a society for it. These have all kept going through the pandemic and lockdown, with theatre societies creating digital work mainly focusing on creating radio plays live streamed on Leeds Student Radio, another society which is amazing to join. I shadow-directed a production of Wright Off, a farce written by a student at the University in the first semester of my first year. I then went on to be assistant producer of a production of Loot by Joe Orton in semester two. I did both these shows with the Open Theatre society.

In first year, I also tried the Filmmaking society in which I made a short film based off the prompt dreams with a group of other students, all the videos created for this society can be found on their YouTube channel. All of these were amazing experiences I am so pleased I was able to take part in. I would highly recommend joining any societies that interest you. You’ll never know who you might meet or what you might experience!

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 haven’t taken a work placement as of yet, but I am going on an industry placement year for 2021/2022 with Bradford-based theatre company Bloomin’ Buds under the mentorship of their company director, Katie Mahon. This is an amazing opportunity which enable me to learn how running a professional theatre company works from September to September. I am very excited for this experience to start.

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?

I am only in my second year, but I have plans to carry on working on the immersive and interactive theatre company I’ve started building with three fellow students on the Theatre and Performance course, Hitcher Encounters. Through the short time I’ve been at Leeds, I have developed and learned so many skills that will enable me to grow as an individual, as an artist and as a company member. From recording skills to knowledge of how to apply theory to practice in performance, Leeds has given me so much already that will help with my future in the industry.

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

Good luck to you all for your exam results! I wish you well in your future studies and hope to see you in the next academic year!