College celebrates all-female backstage team for International Women’s Day

Mar 8, 2024 | Apprenticeships, Ladder News, News

Stratford-upon-Avon College is proud to share the talent and journeys of its incredible female staff, especially females working in under-represented or male dominated areas.

This International Women’s Day the College is celebrating its all-female Backstage Production Arts team. Technical Theatre is one of those areas which is considered a male dominated industry. In a recent study* it was found females represent only 33% of Technical Staff in the theatre industry.

Head of Technical Theatre at the College, Louise Millward, commented: “When I first started many moons ago it was hard to be taken seriously in the industry but there has been a huge change and shift that has allowed females to be respected and carry out any job within the industry.”

Louise has been working at the college for 19 years. After a career that has included working in Theatre and TV, Louise’s specialty became stage design, props and stage management. Plus, her skill and natural flair for managing people meant she fell into leading and designing the course the College has today.

Creative Arts Technician Instructor, Helena Lowrence, has worked at the college for over 23 years following a career working in theatres and touring, plus a career highlight, working at Glastonbury Festival – which she has done every year since 1998.

In terms of working in a male dominated field, she remarked: “It has always been a very male dominated industry. It still seems to be the perception that men are stronger than women so where the heavy lifting and graft side of things is concerned men seem to still think women will be no good for the job. My experience is that you just must fight a bit harder to prove you have as much right to be there as them.”

The team also includes Creative Arts Technician Instructor Lauren Russell, who has worked at the college for 2 years. She is pleased to be part of an all-female team: “It is beneficial for prospective technicians to see women in industry and learn from them. It will encourage future generations to feel empowered to go for careers in what still is a male dominated industry.”

Louise noted: “This year is the first year we have had all female staff on the tech course, but this has naturally happened and although it is great to see females making their mark on the industry, being on a tech team is very much about being part of a team – gender doesn’t really come into it – as long as you pull your weight like everyone on the team the magic happens.”

Helena commented: “I love being a woman working in this industry and have learnt so much off other women (and men to be fair). Maybe I was lucky that one of my most memorable mentors early on in my career was female and she really encouraged me to feel just as good as the men and to not be intimidated. What I really love now though is seeing more of our students on the technical theatre course being female, which is very encouraging for the future as, to me, women can do just as much as men, if not more.”

She continued: “It’s fabulous to work with a team of women. When I started at the college in 2001 the tech team was a) much bigger and b) again mostly men, which I never minded but to now have the team made up predominantly of women is a breath of fresh air and is also very telling of how far we’ve come.”

The whole team feel passionate about inspiring the next generation of technicians. Helena detailed why it is good for students to see women working in industry: “I think the more women that are seen in industry the more it empowers and encourages other women to think ‘I can do that’.”

Backstage Production Arts student, Tilly Shenton, detailed why having female tutors was so empowering and inspiring for her: “I chose this course as I love the thrill of being backstage, the adrenaline rush you get working on a theatre show is unbeatable. So then coming to college for my interview and meeting the team, seeing how amazing they are, made me all the more excited to come here. It feels so good to be learning from them. It’s a safe environment, they understand and there’s a lot of respect, both from us to them and from them to us. By learning from them I have developed my leadership skills and have a lot more confidence presenting myself. I would definitely recommend this course to other girls who want to work in Tech!”

Louise noted that though the course has been shaped and taken different routes over the years, what hasn’t changed has been the dedicated students that come to the College to train: “I am very pleased to say our alumni base is huge and I have been a huge part in helping some of those into the industry which is fab. What is especially nice to see now is that female technicians are coming to us to train and the industry is accepting it well. I am always very proud to hear from our alumni and for them to come back into college. It is clear to see how different the industry is as we now have more females joining the course then males, which again just shows the change, which is great.”

Head of School for Creative Arts, Nicky Haines, is excited to celebrate the team: “We are extremely proud of our very talented all female Backstage Production Arts Team. It is so important for us to have highly skilled tutors and instructors. It is also important that we champion women in the arts, so on International Women’s Day we are shining a spotlight on our amazing team to celebrate them and what they do for the Creative Arts at Stratford-upon-Avon College!”

*https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2021/jan/13/uk-report-reveals-disgraceful-gender-inequality-in-the-arts

 

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