Birmingham Royal Ballet

Cultural Intern Autumn Evans is a month into her six month placement with Birmingham Royal Ballet as part of the Cultural Internship Scheme, read on to discover all that she’s been up to in her first month…

It is fair to say that going into my internship at Birmingham Royal Ballet, I was quite honestly devoid of expectation: not in the looming what-have –I-let-myself-in-for way, but in the exciting sense that I knew very little about ballet or fundraising so everything was new and mysterious (admittedly an odd situation to be in as a fundraising intern at a ballet company). Indeed, such a statement does proffer questions as to what my draw was to the internship in the first place? A question to which I could only concede, ‘fair point’. However, for me I think there was simply something in the brief that sparked my interest – I knew BRB to be an incredibly reputable and well-established arts organisation within what can only be described as a spectacular arts and culture scene in the wondrous city of Birmingham. I liked the promise of learning new things. I liked the suggestion that my drama degree would come in very handy with the creative side of things. I felt very positive going in. My hunch was not wrong.

Since day one of my internship I have just honestly absolutely loved it. Something about being surrounded by people who love their job, coupled with the fact that every day is dappled with people exclaiming ridiculous things like ‘god damn it where are the rat’s heads’ (the nutcracker has just opened FYI,) means that BRB is assuredly a fantastic place to work. The project I’m working on consists of looking at new commercial projects or products that BRB could roll out as a source of generating new income streams; there’s lots of creative idea-generation involved, but it’s also very strategic – something I’ve had less experience of – which I’m finding incredibly useful (because no, it would not be feasible to drag a very old, precious and expensive set wherever I want on the back of a van to do a spontaneous production in a park – and I’m going to give the poor technical department a heart attack if I don’t figure that out soon!) Essentially, I’m quickly learning that coming up with ‘good ideas’ is about more than just being creative. It’s about planning and team coordination. It’s about compromise and budgeting. This is the real world of ideas generation and horrifyingly, in this world the ideas actually have to come to fruition in some sort of meaningful and successful way instead of just a half-hearted, fingers-crossed attempt at something-or-other. It’s terrifying but more than anything it’s exciting, and it’s very, very useful.

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Snowflakes in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker which has just opened

However, it’s not all just desk based grown up stuff. Last Friday marked the opening night of Sir Peter Wright’s world-famous choreography of The Nutcracker which also just happened to fall on the eve of Sir Peter Wright’s birthday so there was, of course, a big bash to celebrate the milestone. It was all hands on deck as we got to decorating the hospitality studio with Christmas trees, tables and an easel to prop up the portrait that was to be unveiled before hopping behind the bar to serve prosecco to guests until the wee hours of the morning.

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Sir Peter Wright appearing on stage in the final curtain call of The Nutcracker’s 2016 opening night and his 90th birthday party celebration

Interestingly, a crucially valuable element for me has been the realisation of the breadth of BRB’s work. They have in place so many community outreach projects and engagement programmes aimed at making the ballet accessible to everyone; no matter age or wealth etc. It’s been a real eye-opener and has helped debunk many cultural myths surrounding the art-form for me, by the effort I’ve seen going into integrating ballet into mainstream arts and culture.

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Rehearsal for ‘Freefall’; a BRB-supported dance company made up of dancers with severe learning disabilities.

Moreover, I think one of the things I appreciate most about my placement here is that I’m made to feel very needed and valued by my colleagues.  There is nobody else in the company currently undertaking the work I’m doing, so the responsibility placed upon me feels extensive. On my second day at work I was sitting in on important marketing meetings and meeting business people from Birmingham city to discuss the possibility of future partnerships for the ballet. It’s lovely to feel that by the end of this I might have something to tangibly prove the worth of my time here, and something to feel proud of using as a springboard for future work.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve been here three weeks less than my fellow interns, and will be finishing three weeks later, so I’m only coming to the close of my first month rather than my second, but really, it already feels like quite a bit longer than that. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind so far but truly fabulous and I can’t wait to keep going, and see what awaits me just around the corner. Who knows what it’ll be, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

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