A day in the life of... a Senior Events Manager
The Old Vic wouldn’t be here today without the support of theatre-lovers. As a registered charity receiving no regular public subsidy, our Development team spend their days working to ensure that our theatre will be here for another 200 years to come. We caught up with Emma Robson, our Senior Events Manager, to see how she manages almost 100 events each year.
What does your job involve?
I sit within the Development team and organise all of the fundraising events that take place onsite at the theatre, whilst also assisting the Head of Events with our major fundraisers. As a theatre without regular subsidy, we have to raise approximately one third of our income through fundraising, so the events are to thank our generous donors, celebrate our sponsorships, and introduce potential future supporters to the theatre. I run about 95 of these events a year.
What do you do on an average day?
I usually tackle my emails first, armed with a cup of coffee. I have events three or four times a week so I usually need to answer some pressing questions or complete outstanding things on my to-do list when I first get in. I can then look a bit further ahead to events taking place in the next month or beyond – sometimes I work much further in advance, programming a calendar of events around a whole season of different productions. A lot of what I do day-to-day is the groundwork for these events – for example, if I have an event that takes place onstage, I have to ensure I’ve booked the right spaces, made sure I’ve communicated it properly to the relevant departments, booked staff, ordered the flowers, arranged the catering, reserved the tickets… the list goes on! When we have a large fundraiser approaching, I take care of the ticket bookings and act as the primary point-of-contact for the guests, so a lot of my days are spent answering ad-hoc queries, processing bookings and posting tickets, plus other tasks like proof-reading the programme and laminating access-all-areas passes…
Have you always worked in a theatre?
No, but I have always worked in events. I realised I enjoyed organising things when I organised the Leavers’ Ball at school, and then took some work experience in my university holidays organising an annual charity ball. After studying English Literature and History of Art at university, I knew I wanted to find a job within events that also satisfied my love of the arts. It took a couple of jobs that were not quite right for me to realise that I wanted to work in a theatre, and luckily the stars eventually aligned to enable me to get this job.
Which part of your job do you most enjoy?
The day-to-day satisfaction of organising, delivering and completing a really good, successful event. I love that I get to deal with almost every department, plus the cast and creative team, on a near-daily basis. No two days are the same; I would find it really difficult to get bored.
What is your best memory of working at The Old Vic so far?
I’ve worked on some fundraisers that have been bonkers but absolutely brilliant to be a part of. We organised an event called The 24 Hour Plays, where six new short plays were devised, written, rehearsed and staged in 24 hours, which was no mean feat, and for the past two years have delivered amazing fundraisers at The Brewery. And every time I watch a play staged here I’m reminded how fantastic this building is, and why I do the job I do.
If you were to offer a young person wanting to get into the industry some advice, what would you tell them?
If you want to be involved in staging work, then get all the experience you can. Take a job that gets you into a creative environment – our usher and bar team are made up of the smartest, most talented young actors, directors and producers around. Volunteer. Get involved with free schemes that will introduce you to theatre. There’s also so much more to the theatre than what you see onstage – pull back the curtain and you’ll find all sorts of jobs. If you want to work backstage, build up your experience elsewhere if you have to, all the while keeping your eyes peeled for job vacancies that crop up. Go and see theatre – lots of it – so that you can then wow your interviewers with your passion and enthusiasm.
What is the biggest misconception about working in a theatre?
Theatre and events can both be seen as superfluous and elitist, and there can be an assumption that it’s all glamour and celebrity spotting. There is some glamour and there are some celebrities, but the day-to-day is both busier and more admin-heavy than you might expect!