A day in the life… of a Young Person’s Programme Manager
Our renowned education projects give schools access to free theatre tickets to Old Vic productions, as well as bespoke learning experiences at the theatre, in the classroom and online. We have worked with over 60,000 students from schools across London and continue to provide all our resources for free. We caught up with Young Person’s Programme Manager Naomi Lawson to find out more.
1. What does your job involve?
I’m the Young Person’s Programme Manager in the Education and Community team, which means I look after our programmes for 16-25 year olds. We run a variety of different projects for young people that focus on employability, from bringing young people into the theatre for paid front of house placements, running courses that train young people in creative facilitation to an annual Summer School for young people wanting to gain practical experience in different areas of theatre, such as voice and movement. Our team also run programmes that go directly into schools, using drama and theatre techniques to boost key employability skills such as communication and teamwork, which young people can apply to University or future careers.
2. What do you do in an average day?
It’s really dependent on the projects that are running at any one time. On a desk-type day, I’ll often be doing administration and planning for upcoming programmes, whether that’s promoting the opportunities, liaising with other departments here in theatre, or sorting out project timelines so we know exactly what is happening at every stage of a programme. But there are other days that are a lot more active, where I’ll be running inductions or workshops with the young people involved in the programme. I also try to make sure I have time to meet other organisations to see we might be able to cross-promote our projects, so that we can continue to offer a mixture of opportunities to the young people who have been involved with us, as well as bringing in young people who might not have engaged with The Old Vic before.
3. Have you always worked in a theatre?
This is my first job working in an actual theatre, but my background is very much based in the theatre world. I studied Drama at University and then went on to do a Masters in Playwriting. From there I realised that my passion lay in outreach and went on to work at an arts education charity called Shakespeare Schools Foundation for four years, working for their annual Festival which provides the training and resources for schools to put on their own abridged Shakespeare plays in local professional theatres. It was a brilliant four years where I saw first-hand the amazing impact that theatre and the arts can have on young people of all backgrounds, and very much something that I was excited to keep doing here at The Old Vic.
4. Which part of your job do you most enjoy?
For me it’s all about getting to work practically with young people from so many different backgrounds and facilitating the opportunity for them to take on new challenges and explore everything that theatre has to offer them. Getting to hear what they’ve taken from our programmes is a really inspirational thing, especially when you hear that it’s helped them to develop confidence to try out new things and pursue new opportunities that they might not have done otherwise.
5. What is your best memory of working at The Old Vic so far?
The first time that I ran a workshop with young people in the upstairs of the theatre was particularly brilliant. Some of these young people had never been to The Old Vic before, and they were about to embark on two weeks of paid placements in our Front of House team as part of our Front Line programme, and I loved getting to work with them in the actual space of the theatre. After the programme had finished, they fed back that they had really felt part of The Old Vic family and I think bringing them into the space so that they felt that they really belonged there was a really important part of that.
6. If you were to offer a young person advice wanting to get into the industry some advice, what would it be?
If you feel passionate about theatre, find every avenue you can to get involved and the first step to that is realising that you can. I feel like it’s quite easy in this industry to have an interest, but think to yourself that you don’t belong, or don’t have access, which is definitely something I felt when I was younger. But everyone has the right to get involved, and there are so many amazing programmes out there that offer opportunities to young people. Once you’re part of those programmes, you’ll find that not only your passion but also your motivation to stay involved grows.
7. What is the biggest misconception about working in a theatre?
I think people don’t realise the range of roles that are available in theatre – there are so many opportunities outside acting, directing or backstage. Whether it’s marketing, administration or outreach, there are so many different roles that suit different skillsets or personalities, and these are all roles that make the theatre a really varied and exciting place to work.
8. Did you have any theatre heroes when you were growing up?
I’ve wracked my brains trying to think if I did have any one hero, and actually I think the answer is no. I grew up in a fairly small village in South Wales, and didn’t have that much exposure to theatre, other than what I studied in school. I had a really engaging, brilliant drama teacher, who was very much involved in the industry as well as teaching, which definitely helped develop my passion and see what opportunities were available to me but I didn’t have the confidence to be more ‘out there’ and follow them until I went to University. I think that’s why I’m so passionate about this type of work, because I want every young person to have the confidence to feel part of the theatre community, and not struggle to answer this question if asked!
Front Line is supported by The Golden Bottle Trust, The Lucille Graham Charitable Trust, The Holbeck Charitable Trust, and The Richard Radcliffe Charitable Trust
Summer School is generously supported by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.