Danielle Blackburn, BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 2014
"I quickly learnt that the University of Birmingham and its fantastic Drama and Theatre Arts programme would not only enrich my self-development, but it would also create the essential foundations for a huge foot-in-the-door when it came to career prospects. In interviews, I have quickly learnt to sell my degree as an extension of myself, as the course provided an invaluable structure for me to develop a wide spectrum of skills for the workplace in critical, practical and technical areas. These skills include; taking risks, developing from criticism, tenacity, empathy, spontaneity, creativity, problem-solving, thinking on my feet, speaking well, organisation, resourcefulness and the ability to work well both in a team and manage a team.
I started going along to Careers Network talks in my first year, which introduced me to various industries. One talk called out to me – Events Management. I gained an Events Assistant internship through the Careers Network, which included assisting in the organisation of high-profile international conferences, events and summer schools for the College of Arts and Law. I also got accepted onto the Alumni Mentoring Scheme. My mentor relationship with Programme Director of Writing West Midlands, Sara Beadle, extended into a working relationship during the Birmingham Literature Festival 2013 and as a result gave me invaluable advice, contacts and experience in my chosen industry.
I also got involved with student groups such as Watch This (original theatre society) and Vale Festival and joined the committees of these societies. At Watch This, I held a Publicity Officer role, which encompassed maintaining the society's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress) and assisting with arrangements for taking the Improvisation Troupe to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. At Vale Festival, I was Head of Performances, Workshops and Stalls, where I was the first and sustained point of contact for over 50 performers, workshop-runners and stall-holders for the festival. I delegated tasks to a team and scouted, contracted and programmed acts for fundraisers and the main event, which took place on June 7th 2014 and raised over £25,000 for Trekstock and Macmillan cancer charities.
This balance of gaining experience around my degree, meant that, as well as gaining a first in my degree, soon after graduation I secured a job as Operations Assistant at a high-quality events and hospitality staffing company, Off to Work."
Daniela Waters, BA English Literature and Drama, 2012
Daniela Waters graduated with a degree in English Literature and Drama in 2012. She is now a Media and Communications Officer at The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.
Daniela talks about her inspirational career, "Working with the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society means I can make a huge difference to the 690,000 people in the UK living with the debilitating disease while getting really great experience in working with the media. I began working, in conjunction with my studies, with a student events company: this required time management, prioritisation and good social skills! It is this balance of studying and working that enhanced my CV and helped me to get a job after graduating. Studying at University of Birmingham helped my career because I learned to be self-disciplined and how to write properly. Essay deadlines meant that I learnt to really manage my time well and now I do not struggle with deadlines in my career at all. University also gave me great resources such as career talks which helped me to choose my current career in Public Relations!"
Daniela tells current students, "Enjoy every minute of your time and utilise every resource that you can. Your tutors are there to help you so don’t feel intimidated to ask for help. Learn to reference in your first year or you will really struggle throughout. Most of all make friends on your course. It’s great if you are poorly and miss a day and need to catch up!"
"My favourite memory of the University is walking into the English Department in 2012 and finding my name on the 2:1 notice board with all my peers. That elated feeling is something I will truly never forget. The English office were all hugging us and crying with us and the atmosphere was amazing. There is a real sense of ‘togetherness’ at the University of Birmingham and I will remember the good times forever."
Louise Olley, BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 2010
Louise Olley graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts in 2010. She is now a professional actress and is currently touring the UK, playing one of the main roles in Dreamboats and Petticoats. The show has done very well and Louise has been impressing audiences and critics alike at venues as prestigious as the Edinburgh Playhouse.
Louise thoroughly enjoyed studying Drama at Birmingham. She recalls “As part of our course we were able to experience the practical aspects of theatre, not only through performance but also through mediums such as lighting, sound, stage management and costume, working on full scale productions in these roles. This has given me a clear understanding of everything that goes on within the theatrical world and also supplies extra opportunities for those who want to work in theatre as non-performers.
Louise is delighted with how her career is progressing. “As most actors will tell you, there is a certain, indescribable buzz that comes from performing in front of a live audience. I'm having a fantastic time touring the UK with an exciting, young cast.
Looking back on her time at the University, Louise has some great advice for Drama students: “Utilise the prestigious drama societies that are available at the University. I spent a large amount of my free time with the Guild Musical Theatre Society and was involved in all six of their productions during my time in Birmingham. The level of talent is sensational and it also creates other opportunities, for example, I was able to follow another passion and choreographed two of their musical shows. I also made many close friends through this group who are now working as industry professionals.
Chloe Gunning, BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 2007
Chloe graduated in 2007 with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts and currently works for Heart FM as a Radio Producer.
“My drama degree helped my levels of confidence, and taught me how to work well with others. It also involved audio - which I focused on in the second year. The degree was the sort of all-encompassing course - you had to be really dedicated to do well - the same goes for working in a competitive industry like radio! While at university I gained work experience at BRMB and had my own show on Burn FM. Since leaving I continued to do work experience, landing a great placement at Heart. I was then offered freelance work, and worked there as well as at BBC Radio 1 and Kiss 100.
I now work as a producer on Heart Breakfast and Emma Bunton's shows. I love the variety and creativity of what I do. I have worked with some amazing people and had the opportunity to do some very exciting things - from broadcasting live from Disneyland, watching intimate sessions with Michael Buble and Robbie Williams, to producing fun, creative shows with the best presenters and biggest celebrities!”
Katie Day, BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 2001
Katie graduated with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts in 2001. She is now the Artistic Director of The Other Way Works, a theatre company that she co-founded in 2001.
“I co-founded my theatre company The Other Way Works with a handful of University of Birmingham graduates in the summer after graduation. I undertook further study in 2002/3 - an MA in Directing for devised theatre at Central School of Speech & Drama, London. Following this I moved back to Birmingham and have lived here ever since, building the theatre company from nothing into a successful small-scale touring operation, presenting experimental theatre performances. Running my own company means that I can make the work that I want to make, in the way that I want to make it. It makes me happy to be able put artistic integrity before profit when coming up with ideas for new performances.”
Rosie Walsh, BA English Literature and Drama and Theatre Arts, 2001
Rosie graduated with a BA (Joint honours) English Literature and Drama and Theatre Arts and she is now a self-employed novelist and TV documentary producer.
“One of the most positive aspects of my drama degree was the atmosphere in the department. It really was like being in a family - a slightly mad, noisy family, admittedly, but a family all the same. Being thrown together to do the kind of work we did in that department created a wonderful sense of camaraderie and I am still very good friends with a lot of my chums both in my academic year and those above and below me. The tutors were very much part of it too; they were the antithesis of the remote academic hiding behind his lectern. They were right in the thick of it with us and I think we all benefitted from that.
After my degree I started working for a major west end theatre producer but after a couple of years felt that I needed to do something a little more creative. That's when I decided to try television. I had to start again from the beginning - which was, briefly, rather galling - but once I'd done my stint running around after people I soon began to progress and got my break as a director after six years of hard work. The writing was added to the equation only recently but I'd always felt that writing was my strongest skill while studying at Birmingham and it's an area where my tutors were particularly encouraging.”
Ian Farthing, BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 1990
Ian Farthing graduated with a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts in 1990. He is now the Artistic Director at St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival.
Of his degree, Ian says, "The course enabled us to study with a number of practitioners in the field, which helped to fuse what we were learning on an academic level with the realism of a professional life in the world of theatre. The instructors were inspirational, challenging and confirmed for me that working in theatre was the right choice for me. I was involved in around 27 shows in the department over my three years, in addition to all of the academic study. Every play you work on means learning about a whole new world. The breadth of subjects helped open my eyes to different viewpoints. Connecting with working theatre professionals was invaluable."
Ian talks fondly about his career at St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival; "Well, it’s never dull, that’s for sure! There’s always something to keep me busy. The aspects I love most about the job are people-based, whether working with actors in the rehearsal room, meeting with community groups to spread the word about Shakespeare on the St. Lawrence or sitting at the back of the amphitheatre not being able to hear a pin drop at a crucial dramatic moment. The Festival has had a positive impact on the community, both in terms of economic development and in terms of self-esteem and it’s humbling to have been a part of that growth."
Ian gives his advice to current students; "Soak in as much as you possibly can. Do as much practical work as you possibly can, both on stage and off. Having a working knowledge of all the other aspects of theatre such as costumes, lighting, sets, ASM-in, Front of House etc., makes you a better artist!"