sw voices

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.

Sadler’s Wells’ Voices: HR Coordinator Braham Lyons

Sadler’s Wells offers a number of apprenticeships, giving young people the opportunity to access practical training and develop crucial knowledge and skills across different areas of the creative industries. Braham Lyons is a member of our Human Resources team, who joined Sadler’s Wells in October 2014 as an Administrative Apprentice, moving up the ranks to HR Assistant before becoming HR Coordinator in June 2016. We spoke to Braham about what he learned from his apprenticeship, further study and his advice for future Sadler’s Wells apprentices.

What is your background?

I left school and started an English Literature degree at university, but within the first year I knew it wasn’t right for me and I ended up withdrawing from the course entirely. I’ve always loved theatre and the arts so knew I wanted to work in some way in the industry, but I had no idea what to do to get in!

I spent a few years working as a freelance writer, where I undertook a theatre’s writers programme, staged my own play at a fringe theatre, and had a children’s play published but I was still struggling to find regular work and it was really stressful trying to live and work that way, I really needed to find an option for a career rather than odd jobs!

You started out at Sadler’s Wells doing an apprenticeship in HR. How did you find out about this and why did you want to apply for it?

I found the opportunity on Arts Jobs, at the time I was looking for a way to get in to an arts organisation and gain some solid experience to build on, but I had very little relevant experience, so the apprenticeship looked the perfect way to build my experience while learning about the industry. To be honest, I really didn’t know that arts administration or HR roles existed within the arts industry, so it was refreshing to find an entry level opportunity that was open to me and that I had a real chance of getting.

What was your experience of the apprenticeship, for instance the kind of day-to-day tasks and projects you worked on?

The great thing about being an apprentice here was that I was treated exactly as any other member of permanent staff, I was given responsibility and control over my own workload which is something I wasn’t expecting. My main focus was recruitment so assisting with everything from job creation through to coordinating interviews, and job offers which is great because you get to deliver good news, and so many people are genuinely excited to come and work at Sadler’s Wells. I also worked across the administrative functions, so helping staff with benefits, and keeping track of annual leave. As our department is quite small, I got a lot of exposure to wider HR issues and projects as well, so I had a fantastic oversight of HR over the course of the year. All of the academic work was linked into the day to day work I was doing as well, so it felt like I got to apply my learning on a continuous basis.

How do you think that this apprenticeship was helpful in helping you pursue your career?

I really wouldn’t have even known that this was a viable career for me without completing the apprenticeship. It gave me a year of solid work experience, and confidence with a qualification to back it up. I was lucky in that a role within the department became available for me to apply for, but if it hadn’t, I felt that I would have been in a strong position to apply for entry level HR roles in other organisations. With the range of experience I built up, it transformed my confidence and how I felt about my employability and career options.

You went from being an Administrative Apprentice and you’re now the HR Coordinator. What would you say you particularly enjoy about your job and working in HR?

In HR you’re always looking at how things can be improved, and I have a lot of freedom in pursuing projects and initiatives that will help Sadler’s Wells as a whole, it’s great to have that freedom and also the confidence from my Head of Department to work in that way.

With recruitment, I also get to represent Sadler’s Wells which is something I’m really proud of, and the interactions I have with people are often their first impression of the organisation so it’s great when I can help them join in a really positive way.

What have you learnt so far in your time here?

I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my ability, but I have also learned that you can’t do everything by yourself. You need to use other people’s expertise and skills, and really work together to perform at your best.

Another key thing is to not assume and to go for opportunities that intrigue you. Before doing my apprenticeship I thought studying wasn’t for me, but now after completing my apprenticeship and working within HR, I’ve gone back to university as a part time student to obtain a CIPD qualification and I’ve absolutely loved it (couldn’t be more different to the abandoned English degree!), I can’t wait to be qualified, which is something I never thought would happen!

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

You will get out whatever you put into your time here, so if you’re interested in something, speak up and get involved with as many different areas as you can. You need to get your work done, but there are so many people with a fantastic range of experiences at Sadler’s Wells that can give you an insight into their career, and different options, so it’s really worth buying them a coffee and picking their brains!

Figuring It Out: Michael Johnson on his Producing and Touring Internship

On the last day of his internship, Michael Johnson reflects on his six-month experience in the Producing & Touring team at Sadler’s Wells.

Getting out of the lift to the offices of Sadler’s Wells Theatre – just above and behind the historic main stage, there is an image by photographer, Mike Figgis of Ballet Frankfurt, taken in April 2004. Within the picture hides the uber-tall and magnificent dancer, Stephen Galloway waving his arm. Galloway is a giant creative force in both the dance and fashion industry, with a career I aspire to follow, so it felt inspiring to see this image every working day in my new role as the Producing and Touring intern.

Photograph by Mike Figgis that hangs in the Sadler’s Wells office buildings.

I came to Sadler’s following a few years of working as a professional dancer and came wanting to learn as much as I possibly could about the role of producing and ways to tour dance works internationally, as well as playing a small part in one of the strongest powerhouses of contemporary dance in the world, which I have admired for most of my life.

This was not your average or basic internship. There is of course the odd post office errand to run, expenses to file and internal mail to send to stage door, but you are never treated as the office aide.

Alongside continual development opportunities across the team, you are pulled in many directions, which reminds me of a dancer in the studio. I had the chance to work on a variety of tasks and projects in my six-month placement.  There is rarely a dull day in the Producing & Touring office. You are mentored with guidance and care, such as one-to-one meetings with senior producers who seek to fulfil your individual expectations.

Sweet treats from foreign trips are always in abundance, as producers are flying back from all corners of the world such as international festivals, opening nights or rehearsals, where a vast portfolio of Producing & Touring shows are created and presented.

Challenges morph, but rarely escalate in the Producing & Touring team. You’re constantly learning both hard and soft skills, from finding out the most efficient modes of travel for your productions on the road, to witnessing how to evacuate members of your team from a category 5 hurricane.

In my final week as an intern, I was offered the chance to oversee the London Fashion Week show of fashion designer and Sadler’s Wells ambassador Hussein Chalayan. Chalayan’s collaborations with Sadler’s Wells include Gravity Fatigue, the first dance production he ever directed, and the upcoming new show Dystopian Dream, of which he is designing the costumes. This opportunity was a perfect chance to gauge my skills in helping to produce a live fashion event within a traditional dance theatre context.

My biggest revelation was realising that the Producing & Touring team, from freelance technicians to wardrobe staff, producers and coordinators, all work tirelessly against constant pressures, both financial and artistic, to ensure that the best contemporary dance shows get out there and seen all over the world. Following this internship, I hope to continue my own projects as an independent dance producer, specialising in dance and fashion. In the not so distant future, I look forward to producing my own projects in dance and fashion through my company, Mode and Motion. Taking the breadth of experiences gained here at Sadler’s with me, I hope to continue chasing in Stephen Galloway’s footsteps.

Image of Michael by Nick Eagle