Spotlight On...Rebecca King, Marketing Officer, Darlington Civic Theatre

Spotlight On...Rebecca King, Marketing Officer, Darlington Civic Theatre

Monday, 26 May 2014

Rebecca King was born in County Durham in 1986 and studied English literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has been employed variously as a bookseller, theatre usher, box office clerk, and even as a clerical assistant in a council's streetlighting department. Now, aside from writing she works in arts marketing. She currently lives in Darlington but dreams of living by the English seaside, or in London, New York or Paris, possibly in another, earlier decade although she hasn't yet decided which one it would be.

We caught up with Rebecca King and asked her some questions about her profession. 


What is your background? Where did you train?

I moved to Edinburgh when I was 19 to study English literature at the University of Edinburgh. It was a fantastic place to be a student; there is so much going on in the world of theatre throughout the year, and of course during the Fringe and International Festival it moves into a different sphere. I never had any desire to act (although I’d always done a lot of dancing) so didn’t join any of the student theatre companies, but I loved watching theatre, from opera to new writing to ballet, and was very lucky that most theatres and theatre companies offered heavily discounted tickets for students. At the start of my second year I started working as an usher at the Traverse Theatre, getting paid to watch plays. The front of house staff used the theatre’s office as a base, so I started to get to grips with who did what, and what roles were available behind the scenes in a theatre. I then got a front of house position at the Festival Theatre and King’s Theatre, which I combined with my work at the Traverse, as well as my degree. One of my fondest memories in seeing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot four times in a single week.  


 How did you get into marketing?

In the summer vacation between third and fourth year at Edinburgh, I teamed up with theatre critic Gareth Vile to produce a dance magazine called The Shimmy Skinny for that year’s Fringe. We were based in the offices at Dance Base, on the Grassmarket, and at the end of the summer the marketing manager there offered me a job. So during fourth year at university I worked in Dance Base’s marketing department, first for one day a week and subsequently for three days a week. As well as that, I kept on my front of house work at all three theatres – I couldn’t bring myself to give it up! It was a busy year as I had to keep working during my final exams, but it paid off as the summer I graduated I managed to get a full-time position as Marketing Assistant at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh. And yes, I did pass my degree! The job at the Brunton was a maternity cover, and once that was finished I went to Sunderland Empire Theatre as marketing assistant, a very different experience as I was working for Ambassador Theatre Group, a commercial theatre group. I’d been at Sunderland for just over a year when I saw an advertisement for a marketing job here at Darlington Civic Theatre. It was the first theatre I’d ever been to and I had wonderful memories of seeing shows there, and I set my heart on the job. Happily, I was successful, and I’ve now been here for more than two years.   


Tell us about an average day in the office.

The first thing I do on an average day is check my email, my voicemail and the current sales figures for the current and forthcoming shows. Part of my job involves liaising with promoters and producers to arrange and carry out marketing campaigns within a specified budget, for example sending direct mails and e-blasts and booking advertising space, whether it be in a newspaper, on the radio or on the back of a bus. I also look after the Civic Theatre’s website as well as our social media platforms. On any given day I might be working on a specific project, such as the season brochure. During the course of the day, there might be a press call, where I would need to accompany performers to a radio station or supervise a photographer. If it’s the first night of a show, there’ll be a press night, so I’ll be there to welcome the press and give them their tickets along with any information they might need to enable them to write their review.       


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I’m incredibly lucky to be working in a creative environment where I’m involved in bringing theatre into the heart of the town I grew up in, and where I get to watch theatre as part of my job!  I also have some great stories to tell at dinner parties – my boyfriend’s favourite is that I once (accidentally) nearly pushed Sean Connery down a flight of stairs.


What five personal attributes are important to have if you want to go into marketing.

You need to be organised to be in marketing as it involves juggling lots of different balls. There are lots of different aspects to the job, and there are different theatre companies coming and going every week. You need to be able to look to the future whilst also dealing with things that are happening in the present! You also need to be flexible, as in a lot of theatres the staff is quite small and you need to be able to turn your hand to different things at a moment’s notice. A lot of people think you need to be very outgoing to work in theatre; I’m actually quite shy but you do need an element of confidence to be able to deal with press, performers, producers and promoters. I also think it’s important to be able to think creatively.  


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

Working in theatre can be very busy, and it isn’t as glamorous as you might think! There have been a lot of cuts to arts funding over recent years; the environment has become more challenging with venues closing down, companies losing funding, and teams of staff becoming smaller. If I ever feel disheartened, all I need to do is to go into the auditorium and see a show. As soon as I see performers on the stage and the audience enjoying themselves, I know I’m in the right job.


Thanks Rebecca! More Spotlight On interviews coming soon.