What it’s like to work for a theatre

Helena Jacques-Morton is marketing officer at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Helena Jacques-Morton, Chichester Festival Theatre

I always loved theatre and for a long time wanted to pursue acting.

I didn’t get into drama school at 18 and panicked about doing a drama degree, so took an unplanned gap year and ended up going to the University of St Andrew’s to study English.

Whilst there, I was lucky enough to get a place to study abroad for a year at the University of California in San Diego, where I studied theatre and literature, I spent a lot of time at the beach and joined a sorority.

When I returned to Scotland I threw myself into the performing arts society there, directing three shows over the next couple of years and becoming an engagement officer, responsible for running and organising workshops, scratch nights and a shadowing scheme for first years.

I stayed at St Andrew’s to do an MLitt in Writing for Performance, which I loved and took my first play to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Changing my path

Having decided, somewhere along the line, that drama school wasn’t for me – I don’t like rejection and was craving some routine – I graduated without a real sense of what I wanted to do other than being involved in theatre.

I applied for a ton of entry-level jobs before striking lucky at Chichester. I started in March 2018 as a communications assistant, and have since stepped up to marketing officer.

My job involves working on marketing campaigns for productions across our two seasons. In the Festival season, all of the shows are produced in-house, and then we receive touring shows in the winter.

It’s great to be able to work on a real range of productions and events because you’re targeting slightly different audiences for each one. That can be a real challenge because you’re juggling contrasting shows alongside different projects and trying to reach as wide a range of people as possible. 

I manage our Prologue scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds which gives them £5 tickets as well as a programme of events and outreach work, so a lot of my work is focused on how we can get more young people involved with the theatre and ensure that the building is serving their needs. 

What I love about my job

Engaging new audiences is the thing I love most about my job.

I get to work with a group of young people on our Prologue ambassador scheme each year and absolutely love hearing their ideas on what we can do to make the theatre accessible and exciting for them. It’s incredibly rewarding to help them take their ideas through to completion.

Recent ambassadors came up with Prologue Tuesdays, our drop-in session for 16 to 25-year-olds on a Tuesday afternoon. They can come and hang out at the theatre, borrow plays from our library and get career advice from people in the industry.

Last year I got to work on the marketing for our brand new venue, the Chichester Spiegeltent. This was such a good opportunity to work a bit differently and as it was a new project there was a lot of room to experiment.

Marketing a really diverse ‘fringe’ season of work was quite different from the longer campaigns I’m more used to working on, but it meant we could have a lot of fun with it, especially on social media and digital ads.

It was a pretty exhausting few weeks of back-to-back shows and many an evening in the Spiegel Bar, but I’m very excited to be able to keep building on its success this year and bring in even more new faces!

Celebrating women

I also love having the freedom to try new things out and work with people from across the organisation. For example, I have worked with our learning, education and participation officer to plan a day of events and a podcast to celebrate International Women’s Day. I think it’s so important to celebrate female leadership in organisations and to support women at all stages of their career.

Imposter syndrome can be very real and it’s so important to have cheerleaders telling you ‘you can do it!’. I’ve been really lucky to feel listened to at work and to have people in my life encouraging me and celebrating my achievements, however small they might seem.

And it’s very exciting to know that I’m still just at the beginning of my career and don’t yet know where it might take me.

My advice

I think I’d tell my younger self to take a few deep breaths and tidy my room more often! There’s definitely something to be said for ‘tidy room, tidy mind’.

And not to stress about accruing imaginary points on some CV scorecard.

Learning to recognise your own skills is really difficult but so important, and having the confidence to believe you can do something is half the battle for me. I’m definitely getting better at realising what skills and experience I already have and that just because you don’t have experience of that exact thing doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You can also learn a lot from Google.

To find out more about Chichester Festival Theatre, visit: www.cft.org.uk

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