Simone Gayle, community arts apprentice

 8 March 2015

What does a community arts apprentice do? We heard from apprentices employed through the Creative Employment Programme, starting with Simone Gayle from The Albany in London.

"My eyes have also been opened to a lot of roles behind-the-scenes that I didn’t know existed."

What job do you do? 

I work as a community arts apprentice for The Albany, an arts centre in London.

What do you do for your apprenticeship?

It varies. I am based at Deptford Lounge – a public library and community space which residents staff from The Albany. I work here with one other apprentice, and there are three more based actually in The Albany, so I’m one of five apprentices.

I love the cultural side of my work, but it really helps to have an understanding of business and budgets.

One of the main aspects of my role is hiring out the community spaces and putting on events. We try to make the building a creative space as well as a library. We want to find new ways to encourage more of the community to come in and engage with the exciting things going on here. A lot of different people use the building: for example, we hold drama workshops, host school visits and put together unique packages for various shows and events.

Another major part of my role is dealing with digital communications and marketing, so updating the website and keeping our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) up-to-date and interesting. Even when there aren’t events going on, I try and post things that people can interact with so people see us as consistently interesting to follow.

How did you get started?

I tried out a few different things before starting my apprenticeship. I did a BTEC Extended Diploma in Business at college and then started out working as a financial assistant, and have also been a cash clerk at Sainsbury’s.

Alongside this I have been working freelance as an assistant workshop leader at the London Bubble Theatre Company for some time, which is something I still do now on Mondays after work. My interest in working in the arts sector really began here, from helping to run drama workshops to acting in plays that toured schools.

I think having both a business background and experience in the arts really helped me when I applied for this job. I love the cultural side of my work, but it really helps to have an understanding of the business side of things and the budgets.

What have you learnt?

I’ve been in my apprenticeship for five months now and have learnt loads. I am much better at organising events and I now know about the health and safety and all the hidden extras, like getting people to sign PRS forms. I’m getting better at all forms of communication and I am also getting very familiar with Microsoft Excel.

Meet new people and tell them what you’re all about. Be prepared to talk about your interests and skills. 

I am specialising in events management as part of my apprenticeship so organisation and communication are key. You’ve got to be on the ball and you can’t be laid back as everything needs to be in a good place at least a week before the event takes place. Learning about the principles of the creative and cultural sector at college as part of my apprenticeship has also taught me a lot more about the legal side of putting on events.

My apprenticeship is helping me recognise what I’m good at, what I like working on and what I don’t, which I think will be really helpful when it comes to choosing my next steps. My eyes have also been opened to a lot of roles behind-the-scenes that I didn’t know existed before I came here. 

What's the best thing about your apprenticeship?

I love putting events together. I get a real buzz from organising something from start to finish, selecting who will be performing, marketing the event and attracting an audience, setting things up and keeping everyone entertained on the day. When you finish a successful event it’s really satisfying and the whole team feels good. 

And the worst?

Probably when I spend a day just sitting at my desk. I’m an active person, so I find it difficult to just be in front of my computer doing emails, but quite a lot of the job is office-based.

What do you want to do next?

I’m thinking about doing a Level 4 apprenticeship in Project Management, but my dream has also always been to work in a West End theatre, perhaps in events management, education or front of house.

How do you become a community arts apprentice?

  1. My philosophy is if you’re considering it, there’s nothing to lose by trying it out.
  2. Learn as much as you can on the job and go beyond your role wherever you can. Ask people in other teams or departments if there’s anything you can do to help them. This will help you broaden your skills and give you a better understanding of the organisation.
  3. Keep going. Even if there are elements of your job that you don’t enjoy as much as others, don’t let them become obstacles in your way. Give your all and you’ll find it a lot easier.
  4. Network. Meet new people and tell them what you’re all about. Be prepared to talk about your interests and skills. You never know what their interests are and who they might know, so make sure they remember you and what you can do.

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