TheatreCraft is a unique careers fair for the arts. We all know that the theatre world is, naturally, all about performance. But sometimes the myriad careers that co-exist alongside what we see on stage can feel somewhat sidelined – but not at TheatreCraft. Whether you want to write, stage manage, design, the fair is all about discovering the next steps you can take towards a career “behind the scenes” in the theatre. Anna Shields from TheatreCraft tells us more about the event and why you should come along.

So first off, can you tell us some more about TheatreCraft?

TheatreCraft is a free event for anyone looking for a career “beyond the stage” in theatre. This means we represent a broad range of areas within the event; everything from props and lighting design, to arts administration and marketing, with other areas like directing and producing, or arts facilitation and journalism in between. It’s a big remit, but one that is well covered with our mix of workshops, exhibitors and expert advice from across the industry.

How did you personally get involved?

I attended TheatreCraft in 2009 when I’d just finished my MA in Theatre Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama and thought it was an amazing event. So when I saw that TheatreCraft were looking for an Event Assistant in 2011, I jumped at the chance to be involved and am thrilled to be working on the event again this year.

As a freelance Event Assistant, reporting to Holly Whytock, the Project Manager, I assist with the administration and planning of the event, booking workshop leaders and exhibitors, keeping our website and social media up to date, and I’m also responsible for recruiting our team of Ambassadors – volunteers who will help us make sure everything runs smoothly on the day.

And I imagine there are a fair few challenges to that smooth running with an event of this scale.

I think timetabling is probably the biggest logistical challenge with an event like TheatreCraft. We need to make sure we can accommodate all of our workshop leaders’ individual needs while producing a varied programme of events throughout the day. Additionally, ensuring all of our exhibitors and workshop leaders have the relevant information and amenities to run their stand or session on the day is a big task, but one that’s ultimately very rewarding.

What is it about TheatreCraft that makes it so special?

It is so valuable for an event to exist for people who want to pursue a non-performance career in the arts. There are so many opportunities out there for actors, singers and dancers, so it’s great to have an event that is solely for the industry that supports those performers.

TheatreCraft runs in partnership with the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, the Royal Opera House, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, the Society of London Theatre and Creative & Cultural Skills. It’s great to have links with these organisations and to utilise their skills and facilities in planning the event.

And what about ensuring that people who work backstage aren’t always left behind the scenes?

The applause at the end of a performance should celebrate everything that has gone into making that production happen: from the lighting and sound designers, wardrobe, wigs and make-up department alongside the creative team and marketing and administrative brains who get you through the door in the first place, enticing you to get a ticket to see a production. At whatever level, it’s important to highlight just how many hands go into making theatre happen.

The fact that TheatreCraft acknowledges so many of these areas is a major benefit of the event, and I think it’s particularly important that we recognise arts education. It is often our early engagement with the arts at school or at a local community or youth theatre that then encourages us to pursue a career in the arts, so I think it’s fantastic that everything from this grassroots level right up to top training and work experience opportunities are represented, celebrated and promoted at the event, and that young people can receive advice from top people in the industry, and all for FREE!

Does the event benefit the industry as a whole then?

This industry survives through community and our connections, experiences and communication with others in the business, so I think it’s enormously beneficial that free events, like TheatreCraft, exist to support that community and help people find their creative feet alongside others in the same position.

There is so much press, both good and bad, about the provision of arts funding, education, training and internships at the moment, so I think TheatreCraft is a really valuable way of highlighting these conversations and showcasing the many different routes available into the industry and giving young people the means to get a foot on the ladder of such a vibrant industry.

What can attendees expect from the day?

TheatreCraft 2012 kicks off with a launch from Michael Grandage, which is a great way to start the day! Attendees can then make their way through our marketplace of exhibitors, where they can speak to representatives from arts venues, drama schools, unions & associations, charities and other bodies who will be on hand to talk about their training and/or opportunities.

Attendees can also book to attend two workshops on the day and one Ask the Experts session, which gives them one-to-one careers advice with a professional working in their area of interest. The Royal Opera House will be abuzz with excitement, and it’s a great experience to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about theatre as you are.

I hear you’ll be busy yourself on the day running a workshop?

Under the umbrella of my own company, Starling Arts, I’m running the Working with Young People and Communities workshop. This will be a really fun and practical session for anyone who is interesting in applying their own theatre practice to working with young people or in communities. We’ll give an idea of the bigger picture when it comes to facilitating, looking at both the practical and logistical side of working in these settings, and will give our participants pointers on where to find out more information and gain experience – it promises to be great fun!

What’s next for you and your company after this year’s TheatreCraft?

2013 will see a lot of growth for Starling Arts, so I’m overseeing our new ventures and events. We’re building even more on our schools and corporate work in the coming year, as well as setting up new music theatre projects and classes. Hopefully you’ll see us back at future TheatreCraft events, too!

TheatreCraft 2012 runs 9am to 3.30pm, Friday 30 November at the Royal Opera House and AYT will be exhibiting! Book a ticket to come and see us and all the other great activities taking place or just turn up on the door. For more information, visit

Find out more about Anna’s company Starling Arts, which specialises in music theatre projects and has just recorded a debut album, Taking Flight. To buy the album or find out more, visit

Image credit: TheatreCraft 2011 by Alex Rumford