Spotlight On...Louise Walker, Creative Learning Manager, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Spotlight On...Louise Walker, Creative Learning Manager, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Friday, 1 August 2014

Ever thought about working in creative learning or audience development? Check out our newest Spotlight On with Louise Walker.

Lovely Louise is the creative learning manager at our partner venue, the Wolverhampton Grand. She recently married the love of her life, but we found out what she gets up to at work when she's not planning a wedding!

What does an creative learning manager do?

I’m responsible for creating, organising and running all the learning activities and opportunities at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. This can range from schools to young people to adults. I run regular events such as our Glee Choirs, Tea and History afternoons and Theatre Tours but alongside this I’ll also be managing projects linked to our shows or projects within their own right. Recently I managed a large scale community opera with English Touring Opera starring 200 local people called Zeppelin Dreams. It was all based on the real story of the Zeppelin raids on Wolverhampton in 1916 and tied in with this year’s anniversary of World War One. It was a wonderfully rewarding experience but once it is over you’re then onto the next big thing. At the moment I’m thinking about a project for babies and young children, as well working on our schools Pantomime project where we will ask hundreds of local students this autumn to “Design Cinderella’s Slipper” with the winning design being made into a real pair of shoes for our real Cinders to wear in the show!

How did you get your current role?

I was doing an English and Education degree and was going to become a teacher, but then I got accepted onto a playwriting scheme at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. This really opened the door for me to the world of theatre. Not only did I get my play performed on stage, I suddenly discovered there were the most amazing jobs behinds the scenes - you didn’t just have to be an actor. I started researching and googling Theatre Education jobs and found one coincidentally at my local theatre for a Youth Development Officer. Theatre jobs don’t always come up very often, so perhaps it was fate! I’ve been here for almost 10 years but it doesn’t feel like it- my role has evolved with lots more responsibilities and as we get a new show through our doors each week, everything always feels very new and exciting.

Who would be most suited to this role?

People who are creative but practical – you have to have lots of interesting ideas for projects and workshops, but also be able to put these into practice. You need to be a confident and social person as the role involves a lot of talking to people, from parents to performers. There’s quite a bit of public speaking involved too such as schools assemblies or leading a panel of actors at a post-show talk. I really lacked confidence in this at school but my teaching degree helped and these sort of skills have definitely come with practice and experience of my job.

 

Louise with members of the adult glee choir performing in their 2013 summer show

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the local community involved in some way in the Grand Theatre and helping to develop our future audiences. If I can ensure that someone has a positive experience, be that a backstage tour, a performance on stage or a workshop, then hopefully that person will come back and visit us again. In Zeppelin Dreams we had the most amazing adult drama group work with us- around 30 performers with varying disabilities. It was of course, very challenging to make sure they were able to cope with the demands of being a theatre performer, both on stage and off. Every little thing had to be considered from finding their dressing rooms, coping with stage fright and being quiet backstage. However, seeing their faces when they came off stage after their first performance was worth it- they were buzzing! It was for some of them, their first experience of ever visiting the Grand Theatre. Ever since, I’ve seen the group back here as audience members seeing musicals and dramas- they have really taken “ownership” of the theatre and feel comfortable being here- which is what my job is all about, making our theatre available for everyone.

Tell us the funniest thing that has happened to you in your job.

We have loads of laughs at the theatre- there are always plenty of funny stories to tell about shows, actors and things not quite going to plan! I’ve had to dress up lots – I’ve been Angelina Ballerina, a pirate, Peter Pan, Columbia from Rocky Horror, Cinderella and even a chess piece!! One of the funniest things is taking characters into schools as you never quite know how small children will react- very often they cry and run off! Once, we took Postman Pat out to a school in quite a deprived area and it was nearly home time so there were lots of  parents waiting round to collect their children when we came out. One of the Mums decided to chase Postman Pat around the playground shouting “Oi Pat! Where’s me giro?” Very funny.

What are the biggest challenges of your job and how do you overcome them.

When I finish successful  projects I always worry “how am I going to better this?” “What am I going to do next?” Luckily there’s always something to keep me busy or a new idea will suddenly evolve. That’s where a creative mind comes in handy! I just have to have a really good think about what we need to improve and what people would like. You have to get to know your audiences really well and put yourself in their shoes.

 

Thanks Louise! You can watch the trailer for the community opera Louise managed, Zeppelin Dreams, below: