How many applicants do you get for the bursaries per year?
Katie: 50 – 60 per round, and in the most recent round I’d say we interviewed for about 6 or 7 bursaries. We offer up to 10 bursaries a year and up to 6 apprenticeships.
Zoe: It’s increasing and is generally about 60 on a round, so it is quite fierce competition. Part of Katie’s job is to shortlist the applications, so they don’t all get interviewed.
How often do you go through the applications?
Katie: Twice a year for the bursaries and apprenticeships – I’m going to open the next round in February.
How do people apply for the bursaries and apprenticeships?
Zoe: There are guidelines on our website for what we look for in an application.. We give £15,000 a year and Stage One is a charity so we raise all the money to cover that – we raise about £170,000 a year – so there are quite specific criteria that we have to fill, because it’s about career progression. Although we’re a charity, Stage One is different because we are attached to the commercial theatre industry. So we’re about developing talent, which lots and lots of theatre companies are doing, but it’s more about looking for those top people that genuinely stand a chance of making it in the industry. For a lot of the people on our council, it’s about getting the younger generation coming in. Theatre is becoming more and more of a tough profession to get into – and just a tougher world economically to produce in. So we want to find those people who have the entrepreneurial flair and creative vision that genuinely stand a chance of being able to make money out of it, because that’s ultimately what good commercial theatre is about. So that’s why I say there’s quite tough competition! Then Katie will whittle it down, and then you come in and get interviewed by a panel of 6 or 7 key industry figures …
Peter: When I was interviewed, the panel seemed like it went on for as long as the eye could see! It is quite bizarre walking in and seeing all these people you see in The Stage every week, that you look up to.
What is particularly special about Stage One’s apprenticeships?
Peter: I think it’s really great that it’s been renamed an apprenticeship because in a way it’s quite an old-fashioned way of training somebody. What I’ve realised is there’s no other way of doing it other than actually being with people who do it now, and learning how it works.
Zoe: It’s true – you can learn how to put together a budget, you can teach certain things and you can ask people but the other stuff you’ve just got to get on and do. And that’s why the apprentice scheme is so fabulous, because you’re actually there living, breathing, hearing how people are doing it and seeing all the things that go wrong every day in the industry and how you respond to it.
Do Stage One work mainly in the West End or regional theatre?
Zoe: But the apprentices are pretty much all London-based.
Katie: Unless it was a big independent commercial producing regional theatre that also transferred to the West End– most of the producers are based in London, so that’s where the apprentices go.
How does Stage One work day-to-day?
Katie: Every day is a bit different… sometimes I can receive about ten investments proposals, when a lot of productions are opening and that would be a busy time for me, but for Zoe it’s the fundraising for the Start-Up fund that’s taken up most of her time at the moment…
Zoe: Yes, I have to keep my eye on annual targets for bursaries and apprentices – I’m constantly looking at where we’re at for 2010/2011, but we’ve already raised about 50% of that so that’s taken the pressure off because I’ve got another year or so to raise the rest of the money. This means I could focus solely on the Start-Up fund. It’s been successful because there are wonderful council members who felt they could actually ask – I’ve never ever worked in a charity where people have been so hands on, they have been marvellous.
How many people do you have in the office?
Katie: The general enquiries come in to me – not necessarily the fundraising – and then I work with Nick Salmon, the chief executive. We talk through everything and meet up a couple of times a week to make sure it’s all being done and talk about how we could do things better. Zoe works part time from home.
Check back for more from Stage One… and take a look at the website, www.stageone.uk.com.
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