‘This is how I became a stage manager’

Not sure what to do today? Head on down to Independent Venue Week (plus it’s free!) Following on from my chat with Stewart Baxter about the career opportunities highlighted by national events such as Independent Venue Week, I spoke to Emily Dawson, 22, who started working in the industry after meeting Stewart at the Warren Youth Centre in Hull. 

In just two years Emily has become a sought after stage manager in her own right and has now applied to universities to study courses involving disciplines from sound engineering to drum teching.

We found out how she became a stage manager, Artist Liasion and Events Volunteer at Warren Records.

1. You’ve achieved a lot in a short space of time – how did this all get started? 

Through going to The Warren I did The Big Music Project Course – it is partnered with the BRIT Awards and BRIT School and you gain experience in putting on events, stage managing, and how to record bands in a basic studio. Along with other experiences gained around the time, the course led to me stage managing at Trinity Festival in in Hull. I knew who Stewart was but it wasn’t until our close mutual friend Simon passed away that I got in touch with him.

2. How did Stewart encourage you to get more involved in live music production? 

Stew invited me to shadow him and his brother Jim at Humber Street Festival; I picked up the basics in how to run a stage, what needs to be done with the bands and keeping everything to time. Stewart then asked me to assist on the main stage at Freedom Festival – he took charge on the first day and on the second day we took it in turns. With Freedom I learnt how to better communicate with the bands, and more on the technical side of security, lighting and sound.

3. How have you supported this practical work experience with qualifications? 

After working those summer festivals in 2014, I started at Hull College in the October studying a BTEC Level 3 course in Technical Theatre Performing Arts. It’s more of a theatre base but you learn a lot about the technicalities involved in a live performance – sound, lighting, how to patch, rigging, fixing equipment. I’ve got 5 months left of this course, and then I’m off to uni in September.

4. How important has Independent Venue Week been to you? 

I first got involved in last year’s events and that is when it felt confirmed to me that live music is where I see my future – I gained so much confidence and could see how far I’d come since I started. Another key moment was working the main stage at Slam Dunk Festival last year with Rob Highcroft who tour manages You Me at Six. That was a sold out, 3 day festival and the biggest event I’d worked.

5. Would you say you have taken on a similar role as Stewart held with you, in that now you are mentoring and advising your classmates and local kids that want to get involved in the live music scene? 

Because I had experience of working before I started my college course I was able to help others get started – I’m spreading the word quite a lot really! I’m now involved in all the small local venues on a weekly basis and people know me and know I’m approachable and happy to share advice and contacts.

6. What piece of advice are you passing on? 

Hull is Britain’s ‘City of Culture’ in 2017, so for local kids, now is the time to get involved in live events production. If they start now at volunteer level, by the time 2017 comes round they’ll be able to get paid work. There are going to be so many live productions on during that year that I’ll be coming back from university at weekends to work. Getting involved in your local venues, networking and having a good work ethic are the key pieces of advice that anyone living in any area can take from what I have achieved.

Find out more about Independent Venue Week here.

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