Ellie Turner, pyrotechnician

 1 August 2012

Ellie found an arts apprenticeship opened new doors for her. Now she organises pyrotechnics and staging for outdoor live events.

"I enjoy working with so many different people. I love creating something, and having something real and exciting to be working towards."


Originally I'm from a small village in Gloucestershire near Bristol. Now I live in Manchester.

What job do you do?

I'm a pyrotechnician and production manager. 

What previous jobs have you done?

All sorts. I was a learning support worker, a cook and an arts workshop facilitator.

I’ve mostly been working in outdoor events. I started out as a site rigger/site decor type before I became a pyro. I've also done some indoor work as a stage manager and as a production manager.

I’ve always been freelance, so I've done lots of bits and pieces all mixed in together. 

What qualifications do you have?

I have a degree in fine art, but I've also studied an apprenticeship stage management programme run by Liverpool's Hope Street Ltd arts centre. Post-degree, it all happened partly by chance and partly by grabbing opportunities as they arose.

"I can't praise my apprenticeship enough – it was brilliant!"

The apprenticeship scheme wasn't just for performers. On my course, there were actors, directors, designers, workshop leaders, technicians – and me. There was a huge range of ages and abilities.

We did indoor theatre work, arts workshops, an installation and one outdoor theatre piece. It was hugely enjoyable and it provided me with new contacts, leading to my securing a full time contract job as well as many other freelance offers. I can't praise my apprenticeship enough – it was brilliant!

What do you do at work?

Some days can be purely administrative – phoning, scheduling, ordering, organising, and liaising. Other involve site visits, running meetings, running rehearsals, making, being on site, rigging, loading trucks and fusing fireworks.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It's always different. I enjoy working with so many different people. I love creating something, and having something real and exciting to be working towards.

Specific to outdoor work, I love shows and events that bring arts and performance to a larger audience – to people who wouldn’t go to a gallery or buy a ticket to the theatre.

And the worst part of the job?

Your work being your life. In some ways that's also what I love about it, but it’s hard to keep a social life up outside of it. Long periods of time pass without being able to meet up with long-distance friends and relations.

How do I get into music?

Work hard, but enjoy it. Always have fun. Always be up for trying and learning new things. Be positive, keen and friendly. Volunteer if you have to, to improve your knowledge, contacts and skill base.

Get yourself out there and soak it up like a sponge! Think about what it is that you want to do and try and find a way in through training and volunteering. 

Never close any doors – if something sounds interesting, even if it seems to be going off on a tangent, do it and see where it takes you.

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