National Apprentice Week: Spotlight on Community Arts Apprentice, Emma Maddern
To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, the we’re sharing the experiences of our current and past apprentices in a series of blogs. The Belgrade is committed to offering opportunities for young people to develop a career in the arts both on and off stage. We offer apprenticeships across a range of departments at the Theatre including Lighting, Sound, Wardrobe, Community Arts, Marketing and Operations.
In this blog post, ex-Community Arts Apprentice, Emma Maddern talks about her year of working at the Belgrade after leaving Sixth Form, and the experience she’s gained from working alongside experienced theatre professionals. Since working at the Belgrade, Emma has gone on to become a student at the University of Warwick studying a combined honours degree in English and Drama.
If I had to put my experience of the past year I’ve spent working at the Belgrade Theatre as the Community & Education apprentice into words, I’d have to say it has been a massively positive and formative experience. When I arrived on my first day as an awkward ex-sixth former, with more experience planning a yearbook than a theatre session, I was nervous to say the least. I had never worked a full time job before, let alone in an office, so from leading last minute drama games, to understanding how to use Excel spreadsheets, I felt pretty daunted.
The first few months I spent working here were probably where I learned the most. I started to pick up tips from work colleagues who soon became so supportive and kind to me, I could call them my friends also. Orla, a drama worker who led Saturday Drama with me for the first two terms, encouraged me to lead a drama game every week to build my confidence, Keith taught me all I needed to know about how to run the databases, make registers, use my online diary and so much more (although I probably now hold the Belgrade world record for the apprentice who broke the computer system the most times) and Zoe continually answered my random confused questions such as how to put my ‘out of office’ on my phone and how to fit all margins on a page! These are just some examples of individuals from the C&E team who have constantly helped me, until I could do the work without any assistance at all, which was a crucial part of the time I spent as the apprentice.
Another preconception of my time at the Belgrade was the fact it was an apprenticeship. During school, I was told that an apprenticeship was a practical way of learning and earning simultaneously (which of course, it is) but these industries often seemed represented as engineering, plumbing, carpentry or dressmaking, so I had no idea that apprenticeships in professional theatres existed, and I was fascinated to know it was an option for me. Due to the competitive nature of the arts industry, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work in the field I have for the past year if it wasn’t for an apprenticeship, and the experience and knowledge I’ve gained has been invaluable. I finished my A-Level exams knowing I wanted to pursue theatre and knowing that I wanted to take a gap year, but without a clue as to how to make these fit together. However, after taking up the apprenticeship at the Belgrade I’ve come to realise from conversations I’ve had with colleagues and friends, that the perception others have of young people who’ve taken a year out of education to work, is extremely high. Taking the initiative to pursue the field of work you feel passionate about by committing to it full time speaks volumes about the kind of dedicated person you are, which will only benefit my job prospects in the future.
When working full time in a professional environment alongside theatre makers who know more about writing and crafting plays than any group of people I’ve ever met before, I often wondered (over my 12 months here) how long it would take before their drama orientated finesse rubbed off on me, and although even at the end of my apprenticeship I still finish phone conversations to strangers with an inappropriate ‘see you later’, I believe I have, somewhat, broken free from being the Brick Tamland of the Community and Education department, and have transformed into a much more capable and mature young person, just in time for starting university in October. I’m extremely grateful to the Belgrade for giving me this opportunity as I’ll no doubt that the skills and insight I’ve gained here for years to come.