My Traineeship: playground protests, pine branches and lessons learnt

Posted by: Emily Bird on Jul 19, 2018

Last week, I included the job advert for the next Artsadmin Trainee in the E-digest and I suddenly realised that my year here is coming to an end. (Insert crying emoji face here)

Graduating from my MA in Contemporary Performance Practices in 2015, I floated from job to job before coming across the Artsadmin Traineeship. Before I entered further education I had little experience of contemporary art and during my studies I had only really scratched the surface of experimental performance and was impatient to learn more. However, not being London-based and not having the money to see things regularly, I found it difficult to keep up with the scene. The Traineeship was my chance to be at the heart of contemporary performance and live art, and to be a part of an organisation whose work I respected and admired.

The beginning of the year brought me back to my hometown of Birmingham, coordinating Steve Lambert’s incredible conversation starter, Capitalism Works For Me! (True/False) at Fierce Festival and I am ending my year at the Barbican as Assistant Producer on METIS’ debut of WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE. Each project I have worked on has taught me new skills and broadened my understanding of what contemporary performance can be.

As a trainee, your time is split between assisting in the production of large-scale artists’ projects and working in the Artist Development team, which supports artists through a number of programmes such as BANNER and the Advisory Service. It is hard to describe a typical day in the Artsadmin office. For me, it has been everything from writing fundraising applications and attending meetings with artists and venues to the somewhat stranger tasks of sourcing pine branches out of season and searching the whole of London for a very specific type of South African cloth needed for a performance which was due to begin in just a few hours! With the broad scope of artist support which Artsadmin offer, your to-do list for the week usually entails a bit of everything…

One of the highlights of my year has to be spending the day creating live art with Year 3 at Canon Barnett Primary School. Watching the children initiate a protest in the playground chanting, “Make art free!” as they recruited others to join them was a really special moment.


PLAYING UP 2018. Photo by Rob Harris.

I have learnt so much from this year but I thought I should write down a few gems for anyone thinking of applying for the Traineeship or entering the world of producing…

  • Ask if you don’t understand. As awkward as it can feel to ask, sitting through a conversation and coming out the other end not having a clue what’s been said is worse! In my experience, people are always happy to help and don’t mind the questions.
  • Rest is important. Producing can be intense and you'll work lots of long hours supporting other people. Therefore, it’s okay to have a day off from artsy stuff and stay in and watch Love Island.
  • Download Citymapper. (Maybe one for the non-Londoners) This app definitely helped me get from A to B on time and in one piece on numerous occasions when I was on a tight schedule. 

One of the amazing things about working with Artsadmin (out of many) has been the support that they have provided during every wobble of confidence. They allow the space for conversations that question and explore things that little bit further. The flexibility of the traineeship has meant that I have been able to work with the Education department on a number of projects, focusing on my interest in socially engaged practices. For me, the Traineeship has been an opportunity to discover what kind of work excites me, what I actually enjoy doing and has enabled me to take those important first steps in my professional career in the arts. (Fingers crossed!) 

Photos by Rob Harris.

If you're interested in taking a first step into a career in contemporary arts, read more about Artsadmin's Traineeship, which is now open for applications. Deadline: Thursday 26 July.

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