Get into learning and participation

 21 September 2017

Thinking about a career in learning and participation in theatre? Susan Mulholland, Deputy Director of Participation at Northern Stage took time out of her busy week to talk to Melanie Shee, our Skills Academy Manager for the North East, about her role and some of the key aspects her job entails.

"I wish someone had told me the range of jobs in the cultural sector."

What does a Deputy Director of Participation do?

I manage a range of projects at Northern Stage, including those in formal education from nurseries to university level.

In addition to that, I also manage the regular programmes of work that take place in the building.

You need to be as comfortable talking to five year olds as you do to board members.

For example: the Saturday sessions for young children, summer schools, script reading groups, workshops and school conferences.

I work closely with the artistic planning team who produce and programme the work on all three of our stages.

Together we curate a programme of ancillary or wraparound activities such as workshops, pre and post show talks.

What are the key skills required in this role?

Written skills are very important as you may be called to write a funding proposal or you might have to provide progress reports to the funder.

You may also have to write for the website or provide copy for marketing.

I’m also a playwright so I really enjoy these aspects of the job!

I’d add that knowing when to ask for help and support from colleagues is also a useful skill.

What advice would you give someone wanting to do learning and participation in theatre?

The most important skill is communication skills. The ability to talk to people face to face and in writing is critical to this role. 

You need to be as comfortable talking to five year olds as you do to board members.

Having a passion for the work is vital because the rewards are in the work as opposed to financial rewards. You're not in it for the money!

What would you say was most challenging about your work?

The most challenging aspect is most definitely the breadth of work.

Having a passion for the work is vital because the rewards are in the work as opposed to financial rewards.

The capacity as an individual to cover the various projects and sometimes the amount of work can seem a little overwhelming.

What's the most enjoyable aspect of your role?

It is all about people. The projects may be similar but what keeps it fresh is that the people you are working with changes all the time.

What do you wish you had known before you began this role?

I wish someone had told me the range of jobs in the cultural sector.

I was not aware that there were so many different roles available (40 people work at Northern Stage and none of them are actors).

My careers advisor never told me about the sector when I was at school and I’m trying to change that!