SW Voices: Diana Sam

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we talk to Diana Sam to find out about her experience working as our Technical Apprentice.

Since 2014, Sadler’s Wells and the Roundhouse have partnered to offer two full-time, paid apprenticeships in technical theatre (sound, light and stage) per year. Apprentices split their time between the two organisations to complete a Level 3 Creative Venue Technician apprenticeship standard, developing a variety of backstage skills and production knowledge.

Hello, Diana. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a huge music lover. I literally listen to any genre, from drum and bass  straight to drill, grime, classical and jazz. I generally love the arts and the variety of different art forms there are. I’m also a drummer and play a bit of keys .

How did you find out about the apprenticeship opportunity? Is there anything in particular about Sadler’s Wells and the Roundhouse that made you want to apply for it?

I found out about the apprenticeship through Art Jobs, as it is ‘The hub’ when it comes to looking for a job within the creative industries. What I really adore about the two organisations is that they are both very different, but quite similar in some aspects. They are both performance-based venues, but the Roundhouse focuses primarily on music, whereas Sadler’s Wells focuses on contemporary dance.

The radiant visuals in terms of light and staging that both venues are able to produce and show to the public are really what made me to want to apply for the apprenticeship.

What does your apprenticeship involve day-to-day?

It involves many things and each day is different. I’m always learning something new. If I’m doing a get in, then the day involves a lot of setting up and preparation for the show, while on show nights it’s more about observing and bringing in and out props that are needed for specific acts.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy the setting up of a production, being able to be involved in the making of a great show. Knowing that you were a part of it is an awesome feeling.

Have you encountered any challenges?

Getting used to the different terminology used on stage, as there were some terms I had never heard of before – that was a bit of a challenge!

How do you feel the apprenticeship opportunity is benefiting your professional development?

It is benefiting my professional development in so many ways. In particular, it’s been helping me to become more confident, and to improve my problem solving skills.

“Working backstage in theatre requires taught technical skills of course, but we also look for real hands-on experience, a proper understanding of how to work in a team, how to work under tight time pressures, and how to work with artists and performers,” says Emma Wilson, our Director of Technical & Production.

“Learning on the job as an apprentice is a fantastic route into professional theatre, giving the individual a real depth of knowledge and understanding, and proven practical skills. As an employer we value this route into professional work very highly, regard those who have completed their apprenticeship with great respect and are confident that they will be ready to work in one of the largest theatres in the UK.

We also benefit greatly from having an apprentice working alongside us. It gives us the opportunity to constantly examine our own processes and procedures, and to change and improve as we guide their learning. Our technicians also benefit personally, we find they are keen to share their skills and knowledge with someone new and eager to learn, the atmosphere is positive and forward-looking. It’s great to have someone new on the team asking questions, wanting to learn, excited about their future.”

Read more from technical theatre apprentice Sophie, currently working at the Roundhouse, here.

SW Voices: Tiegan Hummerston

Tiegan Hummerston joined us in September 2016 on an apprenticeship placement, working at Sadler’s Wells for four days a week while she studied toward a formal qualification in Business Administration. Earlier this year, Tiegan was shortlisted for the National Apprenticeship Week’s Creative Apprentice of the Year award with Lewisham Southwark College. She was recently promoted to HR Assistant, taking up a full-time position. In this interview, Tiegan shares her experiences of working for Sadler’s Wells and in HR.

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

I grew up in Essex, where I still live today. After finishing my GCSEs and A-Levels, I wasn’t quite sure about what I wanted to do next. Most people my age were going to university, but I didn’t feel ready to commit entirely to one subject – my A-Levels were fairly diverse; Psychology, History, Art and Law – so I decided to look into a range of apprenticeships and work opportunities. I was taken on for two weeks’ work experience in two separate companies, both of them in HR departments. I decided to try this experience, as it was suggested to me based on my current interests and skill set. After undertaking these two weeks’ worth, I felt very positive about the experience and decided to begin applying to full-time HR apprenticeship schemes.

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

I actually found the posting through the website. I hadn’t heard much about Sadler’s Wells, but I did some research and was intrigued – I liked the fact that they wanted to get young people involved in the arts, both in terms of engaging them in dance and in terms of helping them get experience in and be employed in the creative sector.

What did your apprenticeship involve, and how does it compare to your role now?

While doing the apprenticeship, it very much felt like I was a full-time employee – so there wasn’t actually a huge jump in terms of workload! The role came with a lot of responsibility quite early on. I’m still very happy I was formally taken on. Our HR Coordinator recently left, which provided me with an open opportunity to be kept on in the department. After discussing my interest in staying with my colleagues and line manager, they decided to reset the job level to an Assistant role, to which I was happy and comfortable with applying for. The only noted difference is that my workload has gone up – so the sort of experience I was gaining during the apprenticeship has been important for staying on top of things.

During my training period, I was at Sadler’s Wells for four days a week, and I was going to college on a day release on the other day. The course was in Business Administration, and we did coursework, had lectures and exams. So I was getting the roots of the theory for one day a week, then applying that on the other days – it was an interesting combination.

What have you particularly enjoyed during your time at Sadler’s Wells?

I’ve enjoyed a lot, but some of the aspects of recruitment in particular – I like meeting new people, and it’s been great to put into practice the policies about engaging young people I first read about on the website. An event that sticks in my mind is Skills London, an event where everyone in Sadler’s Wells HR and some of the interns go to the ExCeL Centre in East London to talk to young people about work opportunities and the creative sector. We had our own stall and spoke to loads of people; it was really interesting and great to engage with young people who are considering a career in the arts.

Staff induction days have been another highlight – it’s great to get experience in leadership, and curating a whole day of talks and activities makes for a really rewarding project.

What advice would you give others looking to make their way into the arts, HR, or the professional world more broadly?

If you don’t know what you want to do just yet, try getting experience in a field you think you might enjoy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I gave HR a go, and – perhaps luckily – it just really seemed to click with me. It’s not always a good idea to go to university just because people around you are going; it’s experience that gives you a real feel for what you might want to do in life. Do some research, dig around, and see what might appeal to you!