Helen graduated from a BA (Hons) in Drama and Creative Writing in 2009 and landed her first position at The Kings Theatre following several applications for work experience at theatres in Hampshire. In addition to working full-time at the theatre Helen also still practices drama and is undertaking marketing training funded by her employer.
Talk us through the various job roles you have had at The Kings Theatre…
At first I worked on the marketing campaign for a production of Beauty and the Beast and only came in once a week for four months. During this time the position of Marketing Assistant became available so I jumped and the chance. From there I became Marketing Officer and three years later I was promoted to Marketing Supervisor. A position I have been in for a year now. I have responsibility for the whole marketing department at the Kings Theatre. Bearing in mind that I had little to no marketing experience when I started – I am the poster child for a lot of determination and learning absolutely everything on the job, and never making the same mistake twice.
Were your original aspirations to work in the theatre or marketing?
When I was very young, I wanted to be a star! Over time, though, I fell out of love with the performance side, and came to realise that as a career, you have to be dedicated with every part of you, and I wasn’t sure I could commit that. I did however love the theatre and the arts, which led to a stronger interest in the production and development side. I don’t think many people – particularly students studying drama or performance – realise how much more there is to the arts than being centre stage. Discovering the concept of ‘arts management’ – and I really did discover it, quite by accident – and subsequently arts marketing, made everything fall quite neatly into place.
How has working for the theatre helped develop your skills?
I have had a fairly meteoric rise through the ranks at the Kings, due to some fiery determination and a lot of hard work, and I have grown up immeasurably in that time. I can manage multiple staff members, independently and seamlessly run a marketing operation for an enormous portfolio of shows, and I still enjoy it everyday, which is nice! I am lucky to have senior management who are 100% behind me and my development, don’t mind me getting it wrong sometimes, and give me challenges and opportunities when I need them. I am now half way through a post-graduate diploma in arts marketing – supported by the theatre – which is a great chance to develop my skills on paper, and put everything I do practically everyday into an educational context. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work, and you need great time management and even greater skills at juggling, but you can’t ask for much more, three years out of university, than to do a job you love in a terrific building like the Kings Theatre – which is lucky to be at the centre of the fantastic bustling creative hub of Albert Road and wider Southsea.
What is it about your job you love?
A sold out Kings Theatre is quite a wonderful place. It is great motivation wanting to see it full, and wanting it to be the best it can be. In a venue like this, you really feel like you are part of something. From a personal, developmental point of view, I have learnt more in three years than a lot would learn in ten, and I am excited by everything that is possible within the arts and the wider marketing world, both by myself and my contemporaries. There is something about the arts, though, that just captures you. It captures your imagination and it doesn’t let you go, and that’s why people dedicate their lives to it.
What are your plans for future development?
There is so much opportunity for the Kings to develop and it is a great time in it’s history, with the tower restoration completed and great projects in the pipeline. For me, future development could be within the arts, or the wider world of marketing, or even going back to the start and looking at arts management and producing. I am in a great position to finish my qualification, continue to work on challenging projects at the theatre, and take as many opportunities as I can as and when they come along.
Do you still do your acting?
On an amateur level. Sometimes I feel like my life is all about the theatre, one way or another. It is important to me to keep up that side, and it reminds you what it is really like centre stage, and what it’s like to be the product sold.
What advise would you give to any students seeking a similar career path?
Experience, experience, experience. If you can, get a placement, get some work experience, offer your time, work for free. Be clear about what you want to do and get out of it, and work hard. Read everything you can get your hands on, be it The Stage, The Guardian, or just get on Twitter. Watch as much theatre as you possibly can, good or bad, professional or amateur, large or small. When you walk around, open your eyes. Look at every advert you see, think about who came up with that, why and how. Market yourself sensibly. Don’t ever be drunk on facebook or an idiot on twitter. Employers read those things too. Overall, be passionate and enthusiastic. There are so many people out there going for so few positions, that you have to help yourself, and in this industry, unflinching passion and a hard work ethic can go a long way.