We all know how hard it is to take your first steps into the world of work. The classic issues of 'how do I get enough experience without having had a previous job?' and 'how do I prove I have excellent communications skills?' affects the arts industry as much as any other. Whether they are coming off the back of years in higher education or wanting to make a break in a career they are really passionate about, the routes into the arts can often seem quite daunting and gated.
Following on from our recent article with three Kickstart graduates who have moved from Universal Credit to permanent positions in arts organisations in the house network, we speak to Ariya Nair who has spent two years working as a Programming trainee at Pegasus Theatre in Oxford. We learn about what drew her to the position and her experiences in Oxford and with house.
How did you find out about the role and what drew you to it?
I grew up around the corner from Pegasus and volunteered here in 2015 which was actually my first ever job, so it is safe to say I knew a bit about the organisation! I went on to study Performing Arts at college and in 2019, I was studying Scriptwriting at university, but I dropped out as Higher Education didn't feel right for me.
A year later, I found the Trainee Programmer role on Indeed. I had never heard of a 'programmer' in theatre before but the fact this was an opportunity specifically made for someone around my age enticed me to apply!
How did the role work as a traineeship?
For the first 3-4 months, I had the wonderful Katy Snelling, an expert in programming, training me up. Due to her excellent teaching, I picked things up quickly I have been programming independently ever since. I work closely with our Technical Manager, Marketing Officer, Front of House Managers and Artistic Director on a daily basis to ensure the smooth delivery of booking to stage.
What is the event/project that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of
Christmas 2022. I had programmed a company that cancelled on me due to
difficult circumstances so I reached out to a lovely company, Paddleboat
Theatre, who I met while working at Pegasus and successfully programmed their
wonderful and inclusive version of Hansel and Gretel. Our schools and families
loved it, our staff too. Working with Paddleboat was a brilliant experience and
encouraged me to begin learning British Sign Language.
How did house help you in your role? (if at all!)
house provided me with several opportunities but my favourite, of course, was my first trip to Edinburgh Festival Fringe! I learnt so much more about the world of touring theatre, met many inspiring people and made industry friends. It was also my first time in Scotland; Katy had thankfully warned me about walking shoes and a rain-coat!
What main things will you take away for future roles?
Definitely administrative abilities. Prior to Pegasus, I had only ever worked in Retail and Social Media. This has been my first experience working in an office environment and using software like Excel and Teams. I will also take confidence with me because I've had the opportunity to talk to performers, technicians and stage managers that I have never met before, every weekend at Pegasus.
Has the traineeship offered you an opportunity to continue with a career in the arts?
I've had a few interviews in the arts and Katy has kept her eye on jobs for me too, but I am excited to say that I am about to start as a Fundraising Project Coordinator for a charity that specialises in Palliative Care, a cause that is close to my heart.
Do you think there should be more traineeship positions in arts & cultural organisations?
Absolutely. With enough support and opportunities to progress, I think it makes perfect sense to train someone up. So often, young people struggle to find work due to not having enough experience. If they can, organisations should definitely offer opportunities for us to learn through work, because university isn't suitable for everyone.