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Sadler's Wells Podcast - Arts Work: A chat with the hosts, Ankur Bahl and Phoebe Reith

Image: Arts Work hosts Ankur Bahl and Phoebe Reith, photographed by Camilla Greenwell

Arts Work is the new podcast from Sadler’s Wells. The series includes 8 episodes with guest speakers, exploring the different roles in the creative industries and how to find your way in.  

Shama Rowland spoke to Arts Work hosts, Ankur Bahl and Phoebe Reith about why Arts Work was created. Ankur and Phoebe shared their highlights of the series and discussed how they hope the podcast supports young people navigating the creative industries.  
Shama Rowland: What is the Sadler’s Wells Arts Work Podcast and who is it for?
Phoebe Reith:
Arts Work explores the pathways into creative industries, into roles that people do not always hear about. It is about the different types of roles that come together to bring a creative project to life. We wanted to make something that was entertaining and fun but was also informative, shedding light on parts of creative industries that some may not know about. Each episode features a different guest who is killing it in their field, and we hear their stories about breaking into their industry and role.

We have a few audiences we are trying to serve with Arts Work. The first audience is people who are in their mid 20’s to 30’s and in the early stages of their career, working or wanting to work in the sector. The second audience is young adults, coming to the end of school, who are considering what roles are out there and deciding on their future career path or what additional training they might want to pursue.

Ankur Bahl: The third group of people are those who have an interest in the creative sector – museums, music, theatre, dance, galleries. It is for the people who are interested in how it all works, what happens behind the scenes, and understanding how the things they love attending come together.  
Shama: Why do you think it was important for Sadler’s Wells to create Arts Work to help change the perceptions and realities of working in creative industries?
Ankur: We have a personal and organisational commitment to diversifying our workforce. We identified some of the reasons the workforce is not as diverse as it should be. First, people told us they did not know what jobs existed or if their skills and interests could map to those jobs. Second, there is a perception that you must know someone in the industry to get one of those jobs. Third, it is all about timing. Coronavirus has affected the job market, so it has been hard to get or change jobs. As organisations start to re-open, hopefully that means jobs are coming back and people are more open to making career decisions about what they want. With the podcast, we wanted to capitalise on the timing and start breaking down barriers, to provide information on what these jobs look like and how to get in.
Shama: You have 8 guests, what drew you to choosing this specific panel?
Phoebe: We spent a long time thinking about who we wanted to hear from. We thought a lot about who the audience will be – what they do and what they want to hear. We had focus groups, which included people in the core demographic, those early in their careers and in apprenticeships and internships. The consensus was, they wanted to hear from people who were of a similar age to them, who had charted their career path in a context similar to the one they are facing now. This allowed us to refine the age range for guests to under 40. We then started doing our research to identify a variety of subject matter experts who have either navigated traditional pathways into these careers or created new opportunities for themselves.

Shama: You have specific episode themes. Why did you choose these subject areas?

We wanted a mix between the jobs that exist in organisations—roles like stage manager, marketer, social media manager, fundraiser—and roles that our guests have created for themselves by identifying opportunities in the work they are passionate about. We also wanted a mix of full-time roles and more flexible roles like creative producer, that you can do on a freelance basis, as part of a collection of opportunities you pursue.

Phoebe: For someone trying to find their way in, the process can feel difficult. So, we wanted Arts Work to feel like a helpful resource that provided a lot of information. Our goal with the subject areas was to create something different from other career podcasts, by including the element of an insider conversation. We wanted to walk the line between personal and resourceful.  
Shama: You each conducted four of the guest interviews. Which has been your favourite episode from the other and why?
My favourite episode that Ankur recorded is with Helen Comerford, who talks about her career in stage management. Helen has been responsible for a range of theatre productions and talks about the thrills of orchestrating a live performance. She explains the different routes into technical theatre and shares how she found her confidence as a stage manager. Stage management is something we don’t hear about often, and the conversation was also very entertaining and fun to listen to.

Ankur: My favourite episode from Phoebe was the one with Shay D. Shay is an artist and educator who talks about balancing education work with writing and performing her own music. We have the privilege of working with Shay as a colleague at Sadler’s Wells, but I learned so much about her work that I did not know from her episode. I also felt really inspired by her clarity of purpose. She can balance a huge array of endeavours and finds genuine purpose in the collective of jobs she does.
Shama: What is an important piece of advice from the series you would love to share with all young people finding their way in?
Phoebe: My advice comes from Ivan Blackstock’s episode where he shares how self-guided learning is core to his growth as a multi-disciplinary artist. He advises that if there is someone who is doing something that you would like to do, reach out and ask them how they are doing it. You may not always hear back, but if you do, it might take you somewhere or give insight into what your next step could be. It is a really practical tip on how to build your network and confidence.  

Ankur: Each of our guests, in their own way, advises us to think about what need exists that only we can fill. For example, social media manager Adam Koszary identified a need for people to understand historical objects outside of the museum context to make them more comfortable going to the museum, so he is going to do that by sharing hilarious memes and animal tweets. Shay D identified the need for young people to be able to be creative, so she designs programmes for them to understand how to unlock their own creativity. Starting with a human or societal need is a really great way of building a career that is rooted in a sense of purpose.
Shama: How else will Sadler’s Wells continue to support young people wanting to access the creative industries?

We are very passionate about developing the pipeline of younger creative industries on both the artistic and administrative sides. We have various projects and development programmes going on, including creating job opportunities through Traineeships, Apprenticeships and Work Experience Placements. We also have School Career Days, Skills London, STEP (Shared Training and Employment Programme), Creative & Cultural Opportunities Programme (A collaboration with LLDC) and Technical Theatre Discovery. If any of these are of interest to you, you can check out the Sadler’s Wells website for more details.

Shama: Will there be more Sadler’s Wells podcasts or series to come?

It was our first podcast at Sadler’s Wells, so we are looking at the performance and response to this series of Arts Work to answer some key questions. What is Sadler’s Wells’ most important role within the podcast space? What is it that we can do, that no one else can? What is it that people need and like? We are evaluating and learning from our first series to answer those questions.

Phoebe: It has been an extremely fascinating project to embark on. There are lots of people we could have spoken to in this series, which could warrant a following series. There are also other ideas we have that we could pursue, so for now, watch this space!

You can listen to Arts Work and catch up on any podcast platform, or scroll down and listen.

Next episode is out Tuesday 6 July
Instagram: @sadlers_wells
Twitter: @Sadlers_Wells
LinkedIn: Sadler’s Wells


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