It takes a lot of hands to build a successful show, exhibition or concert. To shed some light on the variety of positions and jobs available across the cultural sector, we have asked arts professionals to give us insights and tips on how they got into the industry.
We are delighted to present Rebecca Brown, Becky Lees and Dave Yard from the Arts Centre Gulbenkian in Canterbury. All three have shared their experiences and tips of their roles from Marketing, Programming to Business Development.
Celebrating its 50th birthday this summer, the Gulbenkian opens its doors for over 100,000 people per year to its theatre, music, dance performances, films and festivals.Young people are especially welcome to join and be a part of its community. Situated at the heart of the University of Kent, the art centre has created a save space for its young audiences to participate, learn and grow. Different programmes and projects are reaching out to all young creatives of all ages, providing them an inclusive platform to try out the arts: ART31, TECH31, SCREEN31, Media31 and GulbenkianUNCOVERED.
Today Becky tells us about her experiences as Programme Manager and discover their way into the Arts…
Job title / industry
Programme Manager (Arts Venue Programming)
Average starting salary
£18,000 - £20,000
What qualifications /experience do you need?
I think experience is more important than qualifications really although some places might ask for some GCSEs/A Levels and maybe a degree in a vaguely relevant arts/humanities field – but really as much experience as possible is the best thing, volunteer in your local arts venue in any area of the organisation just to gain an insight into how things work, and go and see as much live performance as you can too to gain a broad understanding and knowledge of the sector.
In a nutshell, what is your job?
I work with our Director to programme the venue which essentially means deciding what we put on our stage and into our cinema, so booking shows, films and events, considering what we want our programme to be, managing the diary & scheduling, liaising with artists, theatre companies, producers, comedy & music promoters and agents etc to book things, negotiate financial deals & manage the programming budget, do paperwork including contracts for events and generally coordinate logistics in the lead up to events. Making sure our internal delivery teams (Front of House, Technical etc) have all the info they need to deliver the event. It involves some fun things like going to see shows or attending festivals or screenings days for films to watch things and see what we would like to book or meet artists we might like to work with.
Best part of the job
It’s very creative - I get to be part of deciding what our creative output is as an organisation and I enjoy meeting and working with artists in lots of different fields, I like going and seeing things that we might programme and also enjoy the organisational side – planning and organising events and then seeing them happen and an audience enjoy them is always very rewarding
Downsides to the Job
Not much really – sometimes it is busy with lots going on at once but I enjoy that! It can be difficult to say no to people whose shows we cannot programme because we can’t fit them in or they don’t quite work as part of our programme but I’ve learnt it’s better to just be up front with people and say no if we know it can’t happen, rather than leaving them hanging – usually people are fine with it!
What does a typical day look like?
I’m mainly office based responding to and sending emails! Also scheduling things into the diary and updating information systems about events, drawing up contracts or working on budgets or scheduling spreadsheets. Usually I have a few meetings in a day too, either internal staff meetings to plan what’s coming up or meetings with artists or producers who might be bringing shows here. Some days involve working on live events and occasionally going out of the office to see shows/films or go to festivals.
How did you get into Programme Managing?
I studied English & French at university but was always involved in drama and music societies whilst at university. As part of my course I spent a year teaching English in France. I then did an internship at the Barbican, in the education department, which involved planning a big arts festival in a secondary school. My first proper job was in the education department of an arts charity, organising art workshops in schools. I then moved to Stratford Circus Arts Centre where I was for five years, managing the Creative Learning department and the live programme for schools and families. I then moved to my current role as Programme Manager of the Gulbenkian.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to go into Programme Managing?
As I said above, I think the key is getting as much experience as possible – take part in arts activities, volunteer at your local venue or festival, go and watch lots of things. The key thing to demonstrate in interviews is your passion for the arts and your willingness to get involved – for my role in particular you need to be fairly organised and good at communicating but apart from that the main thing is to be passionate about bringing great art to people! I would also say it’s important to research any particular venue you want to work at and demonstrate an understanding of their particular ethos and values as an organisation.