What does a theatre producer actually do? After 12 months working for The Empty Space, which produces and supports theatre in the north of England, Hannah Clarke-Stamp has the answer. She reflects on her twelve-month placement at the company through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme and what the future holds for her.
The past 11 months and three weeks have flown by. So much so, that I feel like I only really started two or three months ago, and that I should bake a few cakes to make everyone like me.
Before I saw the advert for this post and then applied for it, I didn’t really know what a producer did. Now, after a year at The Empty Space with the wonderful Caroline Routh and Natalie Querol, along with the invaluable advice of my mentor Ed Collier, I have not only a sound appreciation of what a producer does, but also the reassuring knowledge that I can always ask for help and advice from all of them after my placement has finished.
At times I felt a bit guilty, as when people would ask me “How’s work?” I couldn’t help but say “Brilliant!” which seemed to make them a bit jealous because if you ask me, in this country we aren’t supposed to enjoy our jobs. I have even had the awful task of being sent to theatre festivals to simply watch lots of theatre. AND I got a fishfinger sandwich on my first day. If anything, I’ve been spoiled: whomever I work for next has a lot to live up to. Although I’m becoming a freelancer, so will be my own boss… Lots of fishfinger sandwiches for me then!
Over the past 12 months, I have:
- helped to produce a national touring show, Heartbreak Soup (pictured above), and the international theatre festival GIFT (pictured below)
- been introduced to countless contacts and been given numerous networking opportunities
- developed skills and found confidence that I didn’t know I had
- and introduced the office to the joys of salt and vinegar peanuts.
A real highlight of the scheme has been the group events where I’ve been able to meet the other bursary recipients and began to form friendships that I hope will become professional working relationships, as well as a multi-disciplinary network of contacts across the country. We have an event planned for November and high on our list of priorities for that is how we all stay connected after the last person has finished their placement and the scheme is over. Hopefully we’ll be able to establish the network and keep it running for years to come.
Being about to go out into the world as a freelance producer is a slightly daunting but incredibly exciting prospect. I am fortunate to have some projects lined-up, including GIFT 2012 and producing some work for a couple of theatre companies (though please don’t let that stop you from contacting me regarding any work you might have for me!).
I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of this scheme. Not only has it meant that I’ve had a job for the past 12 months, but a job that is actually in the industry in which I want to work, and the arts at that. I don’t think any of us who are on this scheme are under any illusions about the current employment situation, or the difficulty of getting your first paid foot-in-the-door in the arts sector. As a result, I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity, which will hopefully be the foundations of a long and prosperous (though not financially – it is the arts) career.
Photos courtesy The Empty Space. Heartbreak Soup image ©Alex Brenner. GIFT image ©Richard Kenworthy