After completing my Masters in English Literary Studies at Queens University Belfast in September 2019, my internship with TheatreNI as a Membership Development Officer has acted as somewhat of a buffer between my university studies and the daunting prospect of full-time employment.
When pursuing an arts degree, the common assumption among students in regard to getting work experience is to ‘take all that you can get.’ Throughout my university studies, the dark cloud of unemployment has hovered over me, and over my fellow students, with the common belief being that an arts degree is only good for one thing, that is to become a teacher. However, TheatreNI has broadened my horizons, allowing me to see that there are many people making an equitable living while working in a profession they love. While I have worked with other organisations and been placed on different internships, working with TheatreNI has been the first time I have worked with an organisation whose aims and goals are directly related to my degree and personal interests.
While working on a marketing strategy, attending licensing training and creating the November edition of the monthly ezine have all been beneficial in expanding my experience and independent work ethic, what I believe has been most beneficial is listening to the workings, negotiations and conversations of my team members. While at the beginning of my internship I may not have understood a significant part of the intricate workings of the organisation, as I expanded my understanding and became familiar with the many names associated with the running of the organisation, I began to grasp the responsibilities, roles and duties TheatreNI perform for their members and the creative sector.
In terms of the skills I have developed during my internship, I have learnt to adapt my manner and approach when communicating with different members. I have come to realise that individual members, organisations, venues and local authorities all need to be approached in different ways, ensuring their needs are directly targeted and accommodated. This is alongside the experience I have gained in the value of persistence. Sometimes a simple email just won’t cut it, instead members need to be directly communicated with either over the phone or through personal discussions. These personal discussions are complimented by the experience I have gained in being responsible for TheatreNI’s social media channels and website. The familiarity I have gained in the use of platforms such as Hootsuite, membership works and MailChimp have all helped develop my somewhat lackluster ICT skills.
While the creative sector and the theatre at large may be synonymous in some people’s minds only with acting, the sector requires the skills of a range of professionals, including arts managers, technicians, producers, directors, facilitators and drama teachers, who work across the industry in film, local authorities, community organisations and youth and professional theatres, to name but a few! Each plays a fundamental role in providing professional theatre and performing arts activities to citizens in our towns and cities, ensuring the continued relevance and importance of the arts to our community, especially when cuts and restrictions seem to characterise public discussion of the arts.
In this way, working in the creative sector has been something of a revelation. From the outside it’s hard to imagine how much work is required for the successful negotiation and organisation of this sector, but having an insider perspective has made me realise that the smaller the team, the more effort and passion is required of the role.