How do I find paid backstage roles?

I volunteer with my local theatre group working in all areas backstage, from props to stage management.

I am looking to make this more of a career, but finding these jobs in my area is proving difficult as I live in Merseyside. Any advice would be great thanks.

— kelly

Expert answers

Pauline Tambling CBE's reply:

I’m assuming that you have just finished a course and have a good idea of what sort of backstage role you’re looking for.  However well qualified you are you will need to show you have experience of working backstage if you want to find more permanent paid employment. This is a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma and to get out of it you should look for some short-term or casual options first. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re keen, reliable, are willing to work hard and have a good attitude.

Casual work is often available at short notice but expectations of staff are high so be prepared to work hard.  When you’ve proven yourself to be a good reliable worker you’ll be in a better position to move to more permanent options. A lot of backstage work is seasonal -  the music festivals for example, or pantomime – so this is when there’s an opportunity for newcomers to make their mark

There are a number of websites where jobs are advertised. The Stage is a good place to start as is Creative Choices but you may be better looking locally and contacting local venues to see what opportunities they have for casual work. Never be afraid to make contact with local venues. A lot of venues only advertise on their own websites so draw up a list of places you’d be interested to get to know and watch their website Jobs sections like a hawk. A lot of people only rely on the major job websites but, of course, everyone is looking there!

Drama UK offers guidance, as does BECTU and there’s an excellent fact sheet called Guide to Careers Backstage which was prepared by the Conference of Drama Schools (now part of Drama UK and so it is therefore a little out-of-date) but you can google it.

If you haven’t been to college or university you could consider an apprenticeship in Technical Theatre (contact Creative & Cultural Skills separately about this option) or you might try a short course like Crewclass

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