careers

SW Voices: Katy Stephens, Events Sales Executive

Katy Stephens joined us in September 2018 as Events Sales Executive. With over 20 years’ experience in London’s conference and events industry, in her new role Katy focuses on maximising opportunities for Sadler’s Wells’ spaces as hire venues and searching for new clients.

Hi Katy, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born and bred in a small coastal village in Essex. After miserably failing my A-Level exams, a friend suggested that I should enrol on to a BTEC National Diploma in Hotel Management, Hospitality and Operations. I had the best time there, learning not only all the aspects of hotel management, but also how to cook, plan menus, and run restaurants and bars. After college, I went on to do a management training programme, rotating in various departments in different hotels until I decided to focus on Front of Office and Reception.

Within a couple of years and with further progression, I became Conference and Event Manager at an independently-owned, four-star hotel in South Kensington. Apart from the hotel sector, I also worked in the catering industry, corporate hospitality and event management, holding positions such as Regional Sales Manager and Senior Events Manager supervising spaces like ExCel London and working on prestigious events such as the London Boat Show, the Classic Car Show and World Travel Market.

A key moment in my career was when I joined the events team at the Hilton London Metropole, where I had the opportunity to arrange one of my most memorable events: the organisation and event management of the Olympic Sponsors, VISA, in 2012. I was lucky enough to attend the Opening Ceremony!

From setting up hospitality and VIP dining in a tent to sumptuous banquets in the Hinze Hall at the Natural History Museum, the list is of events I managed is endless, and each one was completely different! I’ve worked in Front of House to greet guests, but also put the gloves on, and helped the team clear plates and glasses. That’s how this industry works!

Have you noticed any difference working at an arts organisation compared to working in a more corporate setting? Was there anything particular about Sadler’s Wells that drew you in?

First of all, the atmosphere is much more relaxed at Sadler’s Wells compared to a corporate setting. The environment in the office is a joy to work in, with many laughs and discussions on the wide and varied range of events that we hold. This is not to say that working here comes without challenges. The deadlines for venue availability are ever-changing, making some of the sales aspects a little more difficult.

Also, as my background is more corporate, it has been hard to ensure that we are targeting the right market sector for the spaces. This has involved going down the more artistic route, hunting out contacts and looking for business in areas where I had not ventured before! It’s great that I have the opportunity to work with a new type of business and learn the way of working within a theatre environment, where each event enquiry is unique.

Before coming to Sadler’s Wells, I was briefly exposed to event management in the arts. During a temporary contract with a leading catering company, I worked with the Event teams organising The Brits Awards 2018 at the O2 and the Mercury Music Awards 2018 at the Eventim Apollo. When the opportunity to join an exclusive artistic venue like Sadler’s Wells arose, it was too good to miss.

You joined the events team in September. What does your job entail? What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of it?

Since joining the team, I have been asked to take a more proactive role to ensure that we are up to date with our online listings for both venue information and availability and to increase the number of enquiries that we receive.

The additional capacity within the Events team since I joined also means that we can now be more involved with our partners at Unique Venues of London, London City Selection and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and their activities. I regularly attend the members’ meetings and search for opportunities to work and network with them, and open up the venue spaces to a wider audience who maybe didn’t know about all of the facilities that we have available for hire. Our goal is to maximise the use of all our spaces through bookings from corporate and commercial business

I have always firmly believed that ‘people buy from people’ and that, if you are confident and believe in your product, your clients will be more inclined to go with you as a venue.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing a career in event management in the arts?

Be prepared to learn and be quick! In the events and catering industry you are always learning. It is an industry that is ever-changing.

Be mindful that event management in the arts world is not the same as in the corporate environment. Therefore, learn the rules! Have an understanding of how systems work in each setting and what you need to get in order to make a complete and concise proposal. Make sure you copy in all relevant colleagues to emails and correspondence, as in this environment it is a 24/7 operation. Event management is not a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job! To be a successful event manager, be prepared to work hard and often long hours.

Have the memory of an elephant. You will have hundreds of conversations in an hour and someone will always come back and say, “You know that thing you mentioned…”. If you are not sure, write it down!

SW Voices: Programming Coordinator Sarah Lacombe

Sadler’s Wells offers a number of internships in different departments within the organisation, giving young people the opportunity to take their first step into a career in the creative industries. Programming Coordinator Sarah Lacombe is responsible for organising the logistics of the productions which are presented at Sadler’s Wells. She first joined the programming team in March 2016 through the Creative Employment Islington Programme, and in July 2017 she became Programming Coordinator. We asked Sarah about how her internship helped her to access the creative industries and the advice she would give to other interns.

What is your background?

I studied in France and read English Speaking Countries Culture and Arts for both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. It would be the equivalent of English Literature in the UK, with a focus on performing arts (theatre, dance, circus), visual arts and cinema. I also did an Erasmus exchange here in London at King’s College London studying mainly French Literature.

You started out at Sadler’s Wells as part of the Creative Employment Islington Programme, can you tell us a bit more about that, such as how you found out about it and what made you want to work in programming?

I discovered the Creative Employment Islington Programme on the Arts Council England’s mailing list – Arts Jobs. I was living in Islington at the time and thought it would be a great opportunity. I was fascinated by the idea of curating a programme and working closely with companies. Through a variety of different internships, I gained experience in the creative industry. I learnt that I wanted a career that enabled me to be as close to the artists and their creative processes as possible. The Creative Employment Islington Programme provided this experience and served as a perfect stepping stone for me to proceed into artistic programming.

What was your experience interning at Sadler’s Wells, for instance the kind of day-to-day tasks and projects you worked on?

There is a very positive attitude shared amongst the staff at Sadler’s Wells. I felt welcomed and included from the beginning. As an intern, I worked on every production we presented at our three venues (Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Lilian Baylis Studio and Peacock Theatre) and off-site, as well as artists development projects such as our Summer University programme. I provided administrative support to other members of the team, from booking transfers and accommodation to planning receptions or greeting visiting companies during airport pick-ups. With two to three new productions opening each week, my role was very diverse and interesting.

How do you think that the Creative Employment Programme influenced and helped you pursue your career?

The Creative Employment Programme narrowed down the competition during the application process, which I think is even harder for young people with little work experience. It was a great opportunity to take a step further in my career, and I have been able to evolve quite quickly after it. It would also have been a great kick-starter to then continue a career in the arts.

What would you say you particularly enjoy about your job and working in programming specifically?

What I enjoy the most about my job is working with artists and being close to the creative process. The communication and social aspect of the role are also very interesting as I get to meet lots of new people from all around the world every week, all with different backgrounds and experiences – which is fascinating.

What have you learnt so far in your time here?

During my time at Sadler’s Wells, I have learnt many valuable things both on a professional and personal level. Working on so many shows at the same time has enabled me to improve my ability to manage competing workloads and prioritise tasks accordingly. I have also developed my communication skills, which is vital when serving as the main point of contact for visiting companies. As a result my self-confidence has improved greatly, and of course, my knowledge of contemporary dance!

What advice would you give to other young people doing an internship at Sadler’s Wells?

My advice to people doing an internship at Sadler’s Wells is to see as many productions as possible and research each department to get a clearer understanding of what each team’s role is within the creative process. I would highly recommend doing an internship here as it is a vibrant place with many fascinating projects to work on. It’s a great opportunity to meet many people in the industry, develop and refine artistic taste and start a career in the arts.