CCN: The show must go on

Rich Hill teaching students in the Platform Theatre at City College Norwich

Rich Hill teaching students in the Platform Theatre at City College Norwich - Credit: Keith Whitmore

In the latest of our series on City College Norwich, Clare Burgess turns the spotlight on hidden careers in the performing arts

This year’s festival season is now in full swing and people across the county are gearing up to see some of the biggest and best acts take to the UK’s stages. As excitement builds for the performances themselves, it is easy to forget about the vast backstage and production crew who work tirelessly to ensure that each show runs smoothly. With the increasing demand for backstage support and the greater need for specialist technical knowledge in the performing arts sector, City College Norwich provides a production arts course to give young people the opportunity to learn the skills required for this exciting and varied career.

Production arts lecturer and manager of the college’s Platform Theatre, Rich Hill has worked in a variety of production arts roles throughout his career. Starting out as a member of a stage crewing company who provided technical support for big London venues such as the O2 and Wembley Arenas, Rich soon progressed to stage and tour management roles which eventually saw him working for large West End productions, big name music acts and large UK festivals such as Latitude.

Rich explains how he trains his students to become professional and successful production artists by providing them with the necessary experiences and opportunities: “Production arts is an extremely creative and varied field of work that is responsible for every aspect of a gig, event or show except for the performing itself. Professional production artists can find themselves in a wide range of roles, including lighting designers, sound engineers, stage managers and/or set, prop or costume designers in a variety of locations anywhere in the world.

“The production side of any show is incredibly important as it’s our job to ensure that we get the best performances out of people by providing them with the best possible working environment. This means that if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do or if there are any technical errors, such as lighting malfunctions or microphone feedback, it can be show critical. The key to becoming a successful production artist is learning to stay calm and expecting the unexpected. The best way for us to teach these skills to our students is by allowing them to run the production elements of our Platform Theatre which hosts a variety of gigs and performances from our dance, music, acting and musical theatre students throughout the year.

“Working in production arts requires such a wide range of skills from stage preparation to set and prop making and even, in some cases, calming the nerves of performers. To prepare students for this varied career path it is vital that we provide them with the opportunity to experience as many of these different elements as possible which helps them develop as professionals and allows them to see the number of options that await them in this exciting industry.”

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