TheatreCraft, the UK’s biggest free off-stage theatre careers event for 16-30-year-olds, returns to London next month. Project Manager Alex Turner talks about what to expect from this year’s event, and why it’s so important that young people know there’s more to theatre than acting.

With just a couple of days to go until TheatreCraft 2018, the organisers and I are currently in a frantic blur of activity, making sure everything is in place, before hundreds of theatre organisations and industry experts – not to mention over 1,000 aspiring young theatre-makers, descend on London’s Waldorf Hilton Hotel and neighbouring West End theatres for the day-long event.

Project managing TheatreCraft has proved to be quite a challenge (albeit a very rewarding one) with responsibility for everything from booking the amazing industry speakers for over 50 workshops and panels, to making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time, and our army of young volunteers is fed and watered on the day!

With most of the organising now done, (hopefully) we’re so excited to present a cracking line-up of workshops and talks on everything from producing to playwriting, directing to design, stage management to sound, and make-up to marketing. Now in its 13th year, TheatreCraft offers the chance to explore practically every off-stage job. Put it this way, if you want to know how automation works on a massive West End show, or how to choreograph a fight scene, or even how to write a hit musical, we have you covered! We believe it’s more important than ever that events like this exist to inspire the next generation of theatre talent. In 2017, research by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre found that this area, despite having a passionate, engaged workforce, is struggling with a shortage of skilled technical workers behind the scenes.

We’re proud that the TheatreCraft line-up always reflects the best of theatre from all over the country and over half of young attendees are usually from outside London. The upper age limit has been raised this year to 30 (previously 16-25) to include people looking into theatre as a career change, as well as a first job. We want to make sure young people from all backgrounds and areas can be inspired by the rich variety of theatre careers out there, and get the advice and connections they need to break into the industry, which is why TheatreCraft has always been totally free.

Alex Turner

The proof that TheatreCraft works is in the pudding. Previous attendees have gone on to achieve great things; take award-winning set and costume designer Khadija Raza as an example. She came along three years ago and is now one of the faces of the TheatreCraft 2018 campaign, as well as running a set and costume design workshop. Having attended TheatreCraft myself nine years ago, I know what might be going through the minds of the hundreds of young people who attend the event, why they’re there, what they’re looking for, and so I’ve programmed and planned this year from that personal experience. Speaking nine years ago was Playful Productions, one of the largest independent producers and general managers in the West-End and several years later, I got a job working for them. Joining one of their producers on that panel was Joe Smith, another independent producer, who is now my Stage One bursary mentor and giving me guidance on my career.

I’m pleased to have programmed a couple of firsts for TheatreCraft. New this year are a series of ‘Super Panels and we’ve managed to get some of the best in the business to come and share their pearls of wisdom about big areas of the business, including the 2018 TheatreCraft Ambassadors, Tamara Harvey (Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd), Christopher Oram (award-winning Set and Costume Designer), Indhu Rubasingham (Artistic Director of Kiln Theatre) and Griselda Yorke (lead Producer of the Royal Shakespeare Company). Attendees can put questions to Super Panels on marketing and PR, technical theatre, producing and fundraising.

Another TheatreCraft first is this year’s 100 ticket giveaway: a raffle to win tickets to a West End show that very evening, with tickets up for grabs for many shows including: Heathers, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and A Very Very Very Dark Matter, which is pretty cool. I’m actually gutted I have to pack up after the long day and can’t head to see one of these brilliant shows myself!

If you happen to still be at the Waldorf late Monday evening, you’ll see myself and the TheatreCraft team most likely having a well-earned sit down and hopefully, over 1000 young theatre enthusiasts will be more inspired, informed and equipped for the first step in their theatre career.

TheatreCraft takes place at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel on Monday 19 November, between 9:30am – 4:30pm. For more information and to book your free place, visit the TheatreCraft website.