A paid internship scheme provides theatre company Third Angel with essential administrative support – and develops talent that will benefit the wider sector, the company writes.
Third Angel is a small but well-established theatre company based in Sheffield, with a strong commitment to talent development. We’ve been running a paid Administration and Production Internship since 2015 and are just about to recruit our fourth intern.
Why offer an internship?
Back in 2015, we were aware of a growing number of development opportunities for aspiring artists and performers but felt that there were few paid opportunities for the next generation of arts managers to hone their skills. Whilst there were specialist traineeships available in areas like marketing or fundraising, we couldn’t see how the future managers of companies like ours – people who want to make their own work and need support to make that happen – would get the grounding they need without having to work endlessly for free.
With this in mind, and with a new funding agreement with Arts Council England (ACE) in place, we advertised our first internship position: a 12-month full time role, paid at Living Wage Foundation rates. Four years later, the intern role has become a highly valued part of the Third Angel machinery. We’ve never looked back.
The Administration and Production Assistant (to give them their proper title) works with our General Manager and Executive Producer on every aspect of running our small touring theatre company, from office management to marketing, from creative learning workshops to tour logistics, and everything in between.
Our intern fulfils some essential duties for the business, while gaining an understanding of the working context and getting opportunities to support the creative team in rehearsal or on the road. The fixed term nature of the post keeps us all focused on that person’s development in the role, and keeps the post-holder’s mind focused on their long-term ambitions; on the ‘what next?’
What’s in it for us?
As well as the obvious benefits of providing our team with core administrative support, the internship has become a significant element of our talent development strategy. Alongside the established Third Angel Mentoring Scheme (TAMS), the internship demonstrates our continuing commitment to give something back to the sector.
Although the workload of frequent recruitment can sometimes feel a bind, the regular turnover of personnel pushes us to document, review and update our processes regularly, ensuring that the day to day tasks that keep our business running smoothly can be picked up by anyone at any time.
And importantly, we get the undeniable pleasure of working with some incredibly passionate and driven people right at the beginning of their career.
What’s in it for them?
The range of people who apply for the internship is wide. On the whole, people are looking to consolidate what they have learned through their studies, through short term voluntary experiences or through their own creative practice. Some are recent graduates looking to turn theory into practice; others have more hands-on experience but want to turn their passion into their bread and butter.
There are some elements of running a small, established theatre company that are difficult to get through project-based assignments or short-term work experience: working with a board, meeting ACE NPO funding requirements, reporting to the Charity Commission or Companies House, strategic planning, financial management.
Our first intern, Liz Johnson, (now Production Assistant at Nottingham Playhouse), said that getting this experience within a small company was essential as she got to “muck in and see how lots of different things work, rather just getting to know one area really well. The internship leaves you well-rounded with the opportunity to pursue whatever bit suits you best.”
Ellie Whittaker, our second intern, is continuing to work towards establishing her own company of collaborators through studying at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. Ellie said the internship “definitely helped me put rather vague ‘dreams’ into a much more practical and realistic context, and gave me a much clearer idea of the next steps for what I want to achieve.”
Our third intern, Sarah Webb, is just coming to the end of her time with us. She said “the support provided by the team and gradual increase in responsibility has helped me to grow, develop a great multitude of skills, and ultimately identify my passion for facilitating the creativity of others.”
What have we learned?
It is undeniable that our core funding from ACE makes it feasible for us to offer this opportunity - it would be difficult to offer such a substantial role if we were still funded on a project basis. That said, any organisation that has sufficient funds to support an entry-level administrator post could adopt this approach, and offer that post as part of a rolling internship scheme.
All that is needed is a mindset shift that sees routine tasks and roles as openings for talented people; that takes an active approach to the development of team members at the start of their careers; and sees investment in individuals as an investment in the sector as a whole, not a single company.
Such opportunities don’t have to be full-time. Changes in our programme led us to advertise our recent intern vacancy as four days a week. This has not decreased the level of interest in the post – we received over 50 applications once again – and has left space for the future post-holder to continue with their own creative practice or take advantage of other opportunities.
The quality of the applications we receive make it clear that there is a shortage of suitable entry level or training positions in arts management: shortlisting was hard! We’d love to be able to offer more of those talented people the chance to come and work with us, but we’re just one small company. The best we can do is to bang the drum about just how positive this initiative has been for our company. We’d encourage any small company with the means to do so to consider an internship scheme – it benefits you and it benefits the sector.
The article was written by the Third Angel team.