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UK theatres help to promote backstage careers

Creative Choices - the new name for Offstage Choices - has gone from strength to strength since Creative and Cultural Skills launched the programme in 2009 with just a handful of events. And that’s very good news because it is helping to get performing arts careers to school students - something that does not happen enough, as I point out regularly.

This term, some of England’s major theatres and live music venues will open their doors to an estimated 19,000 school children in years 9, 10 and 11 (13-16 year olds), to demonstrate the wealth of career opportunities available in offstage and backstage roles.

Creative Choices, now established as an annual series of careers events, aims to give young people a hands-on insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes, including: box office, casting, community theatre, costume, directing, event management, finance, front of house, lighting, live projection, playwriting, programming, promotion, props, set design, sound, stage management, theatre in education, theatrical make-up and venue management. Among the venues taking part this year are the National Theatre, London, the Lowry Theatre, Salford, the Royal Opera House Production Workshop in Thurrock and the Salisbury Playhouse.

Beginning on October 2 with the National Theatre, London, running until November 23 with the Richmond Theatre, London, free workshops will be hosted by professionals working in live theatre. In addition to technical demonstrations, the events provide information on how to get into these industries, supported by a website which offers detailed advice about the range of careers available in theatre and live music, plus up-to-date information on training, workshops, job opportunities and qualifications. I’ve attended several of these days in the past and, believe me, they’re good.

And each year the reach is larger. In 2011 events were attended by 2,650 children and their teachers from 125 schools in 33 different venues. A total of 5,000 students and teachers have attended events to date. This year, remember, they’re expecting 19,000.

Places are still available at some events. Teachers can book at www.creative-choices.co.uk/events.

Pauline Tambling, Joint CEO, Creative & Cultural Skills and Managing Director, National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural said: “Current research shows increasing demand for backstage staff in technical theatre and live music. Employment in the industry increased by 21% between 2010 and 2012. Many young people are simply not aware of the technical and supporting roles that contribute to the success of the UK performing arts sector.”

Mark Londesborough, Secondary & Further Education Programme Manager at the National Theatre, agrees: “Many young people are attracted to the idea of working in theatre or entertainment, but don’t realise there’s a lot more to the industry than performing. There’s a huge number of different roles that work together to create a production. At the National Theatre we are dedicated to promoting theatre skills and delighted that we can build on this work through Creative Choices to encourage a new generation of talent to join the industry.”

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