Kate Unwin, set and costume designer

 6 November 2012

Kate Unwin is a freelance set and costume designer. Her work is split between home, where she designs, and the theatres where her designs are built.

"Give every project all your energy and creativity."


I'm from Northamptonshire. I'm now living in Leicester.

What job do you do?

I'm a self-employed set and costume designer.

What previous jobs in theatre have you done?

I worked as part of the box office staff at Loughborough Town Hall , and while I was there I helped out in the theatre for free as a crew member.

After that I worked on the fly crew (the people who look after hoisted scenery and ropes). I then worked as a followspot (spotlight) operator, prop maker and scenery painter. Eventually, they started paying me something.

"Give every project all your energy and creativity."

Over the last few years, I've designed for a number of companies. These include Heartbreak ProductionsDerby Playhouse, the Playbox TheatreWired Theatre, and Central Line Touring.

I've also designed other things, including a music video, a theatre cafe, and a stand for the Chelsea Flower Show.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a BTEC foundation in art and design, and a degree in interior architecture. 

What do you do at work?

What I do depends on what stages the shows are at. Some days I'm at home designing, making models, doing admin, and sorting out my accounts.

I have lots of meetings at all stages of the process. I spend a lot of time sourcing props and costumes. I could be attending costume fittings, meeting builders, or checking the progress of work being created.

If the show is fitting up, you'll usually find me at the theatre. I'm likely to be there every day until the press night.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Every show is totally different, with a new set of people and ideas.

And the worst thing about the job?

Long hours and often low pay. I have a pretty non-existent social life at times.

How do I get into theatre?

My advice would be:

  1. Persevere
    If you really want to do it, keep going.
  2. Network
    Meet as many relevant people in the industry as you can. Always follow up new contacts.
  3. Be passionate
    Give every project all your energy and creativity. Put the hours in, and eventuallly it'll pay off.


Kate is part of our theatre experts panel. Ask Kate a question about working in theatre.

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