SW Voices: Serina Lopez

Serina Lopez joined us in October 2017 as a participant in STEP – Shared Training and Employment Programme. The initiative, aimed at young East Londoners, is funded by London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and delivered by Creative Jobs. Sadler’s Wells is one of eight host employers, including universities and cultural organisations, partnering to provide a two-part, 12-month paid internship in the creative sector. Serina has just finished her placement with Sadler’s Wells, and was successfully brought on as an assistant with Rambert Dance Company, where she starts later this month. 

Hi Serina, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I completed my degree in Illustration in 2013 and soon after that I fell seriously ill – which kind of derailed my career plans. Looking back, I feel like that time gave me a chance to think about what I really wanted to do. I was interested in making clothes, so I decided to go to tailoring college. I had an internship on Savile Row for a bit – I learnt how to pattern cut from the director, it was amazing. After that I was pursuing different creative jobs, and while looking around I found out about the Creative Opportunities Programme. It’s a two-week pre-employment programme where they take a group of young people around different arts organisations.

How did you find out about STEP, and was there anything about Sadler’s Wells that particularly drew you in?

Everyone on the Creative Opportunities Programme was talking about this initiative called STEP, which I hadn’t heard of, so I looked into it. They work with loads of different creative and arts organisations in London; it seemed ideal. There was a lot of competition, but I applied and was accepted.

In the application form, you choose certain categories and you’re assigned an organisation. In a way, I didn’t expect to be here, but I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity – they must have thought we were a good match! The STEP internship is divided into two, six-month placements, which for me meant working in two different departments at Sadler’s Wells: Visitor Experience and Producing & Touring.

What has your internship involved day-to-day? How has the work differed between the two departments?

My first placement was in the Visitor Experience team, which was fascinating. I learnt so much. You’re basically dealing with the skeleton of the organisation, encompassing cleaning, security, safety – the foundations of any venue, things without which a theatre couldn’t function. It’s really important to have a solid core, and I felt like Visitor Experience was at the heart of Sadler’s Wells. Day-to-day, there could be a number of different things going on. I was a port of call for security issues, I coordinated training days, I made sure all the safety information was up-to-date. Quite a lot of responsibility, really.

In April I started in Producing & Touring, where I am now. You’re dealing with the artistic side of things, which involves a lot of behind-the-scenes details to make sure that what the audience see on stage is perfect. This could be dancers’ logistics – making sure that they’re happy, that the technical team are pleased, and everything runs smoothly.

Is there anything you have particularly enjoyed during your time at Sadler’s Wells?

I couldn’t narrow it down to a single project – it’s been the whole experience, really! When I was ill I felt pretty lonely and limited, and so being able to talk to people and learn about what they do was great. Hearing about other people’s journeys and how it’s led them here – it’s been fascinating. Although one day stands out, when I was shadowing the wardrobe team for a performance of Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s company, New Adventures. I’m passionate about clothes and costumes, so it was beautiful to see their work.

Any challenges?

Adjusting to the pace can be difficult. When I first started, I only had a month’s prior office experience. Remembering names, protocols, keeping organised – that was a challenge. Once you’re into the swing of things, it’s fine. It was like a locomotive; it might take a short while to start, but once you’re rolling, you’re OK. I think it’s a feature of working as an intern at Sadler’s Wells – you have real responsibility from the outset. The work that I do as an intern demonstrably helps everyone else.

How do you feel the placement has benefited your professional development?

I think it’s greatly helped. My background is mostly creative, so I always wanted to work in a creative organisation. The organisational and administrative skills, everything I learned here is transferable. Going into another arts organisation or even another industry, what I’ve learned will set me up pretty well.

What advice would you give others thinking of pursuing a career in the arts or creative industries?

You have to be resilient. Some of the jobs that you do might not be what you imagined you would be doing, some tasks might seem mundane. But it all forms part of a creative endeavour. There’s beauty in doing things well.