What is the National Student Drama Festival?

National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) is a theatre festival for young people. They don’t have to be in full-time education. We welcome anyone aged between 16 & 25 to attend the Festival. If anyone is older than 25 and a mature student (in part or full time education), then they can get involved too.

The 2020 Festival took place from the 4 to 10 April Online via Zoom, for more information visit our NSDF 20 Online page.

can I access the NSDF 20 online workshops or Bigger Room events again?

Due to copyright and safeguarding concerns we were unable to record any of our NSDF 20 Online sessions or Bigger Room events. 

However if you head to our Facebook Page you can still watch our Closing Panel Discussion on Rebooting the Industry after lockdown.

For all the lastest on our Bigger Room events head over to The Bigger Room Project. 


can I enter a show at the moment? 

We are currently unable to send our Selection Team out to see shows due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is our hope to pick this back up as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

Please get in touch with Lizzie, [email protected]  if you would like to talk to someone about entering your work for the 2021 Festival. 


what happens at the festival?

NSDF is a week-long Festival. We welcome hundreds of young people, established artists and local audiences.

We present a number of productions (11 shows, and 1 work-in-progress in 2019) from the 100 plus shows we have seen through the year leading up to Selection Day.

We also programme performance, technical and producing workshops. These workshops are led by visiting artists who are all industry professionals. We publish the programme on our website a week before the Festival, with a two day browsing period, before the booking system goes live.

We run a magazine called Noises Off that publishes a hard copy every day and has rolling new online.

There's a daily discussion where we talk about all the productions you've seen and host panel discussions and forums on wider cultural, social and political issues. 

Late night events include a Disco, The Big Quiz, Kabaret and Open Mic. The bar and cafe stay open until late. In the bar and cafe you'll be able to meet and mingle with other Fest-goers and visiting artists in a relaxed, friendly and inclusive environment. 

how can I get involved?

The deadline for submitting a show into NSDF 20 has now passed. We are now looking to select shows for NSDF 21. 

You can enter a show, apply to join the Management Team, apply to join the Technical Team, apply to write for Noises Offcome along with a few friends or rock up on your own! You can find out more about geting involved here.

we want to enter a show - what does it involve?

Entering a show gives you and your company the chance to perform at the Festival. If you enter a show (and give us three weeks notice), we will send a member of our selection team to wherever you are in the country. We can often see a show with less notice so do call us to check. Call Lizzie Melbourne on 07539768087.

I've entered a show - what next?

After you've entered your show and paid your entry fee of £98, you will receive an automated email confirming receipt of your entry. 

We'll then email you once we've allocated a member of the Selection Team to come and see your production. They'll attend the show and give you detailed feedback after the performance.

When a Selector has been assigned to you, you will receive an email letting you know who will be attending and which performance. You will also receive a document outlining the selection process in full. If you have any questions or concerns at this stage, you can discuss them with Lizzie.

A few days before the performance, you will be sent a selection schedule. This will outline where and when you should meet your selector as well as the relevant contact information for the selector and festival office. The schedule also acts as a cross check to make sure all of the information you provided us with, like the venue and running time, is correct.

I want to enter a musical/devised piece/immersive piece/a dance piece etc not a traditional play - is this okay?

Yes! We will see any performance whatever the genre or the venue requirements.

In the past four years, we have seen an opera, many musicals, dance shows, physical theatre, site specific and responsive and shows that can only play to a very small audience. We've sourced a Victorian house with 11 rooms as the venue for a site-specific version of The Nutcracker.

And if for some really surprising reason we cannot consider your show – you will be reimbursed straight away. But we are always on the end of the telephone to talk it through.

how does the selection process work?

Our selection team see over 100 shows throughout the year - from the day after the previous selection day to two days before selection day for the next festival. The team feedback face to face with all the companies and then they report to us in the office.
We have an interim selection day in December and let any shows know if they have not been long-listed. We then meet with our selection team and decide which shows will be selected for the Festival. The decision is based on which we think were the best shows we saw. We do not curate a theme for the Festival; we celebrate the talent we have seen. We also select individual actors and directors and writers, who we think are particularly talented and invite them to be part of the Festival Company. You can read about the Festival Company here
Who is in the Selection Team?

The Selectors are all professional actors, directors and writers with a passion for the festival. You can see the full team here

When is Selection Day?

Selection day for NSDF 21 will be at the end of January 2021. 

If my show is selected - what are the costs involved?

You will need to buy a festival ticket which is access all areas, including daily workshops, panel discussions, entry to all shows and late night events. 

The ticket prices for NSDF 21 are yet to be announced. 

You'll also have to book transport to and from Leicester and accommodation. Aditionally, you'll need to transport your set, costumes, musical instruments and the like to and from Leicester. 

NSDF provides technical support in the form of venue, light, video and sound equipment. 

We aim to be completely transparent about costs and funding. Please get in contact with us if you have any questions. 

If my show isn't selected can I still attend the Festival?

Yes! You can buy a ticket and come along and access all the shows, discussions, workshops and events. 


what are the costs?

to enter a show: it is £98 which is around a third of our costs and helps towards the selector fee, train and accommodation.


what are the deadlines?

You can enter a show at any time ahead of the performances but we ask for a three week notice period from entry to seeing the show.

Selection Day for NSDF 21 will be held late January 2021. 


I'm not a student - can I come to the festival?

Anyone aged 16 to 25 years old can come to the festival, whether they're a student or not. If you are older than that but a mature student in full or part time education then you can still come.

I'm a teacher - how do I bring a group to the festival?

School groups are an important part of our Festival community. Check out our Info for Schools page here

If you'd like to talk it through in more detail, email [email protected], or call the office on 07539768087.

what is the festival company?

The company are actors, directors and writers who the selection team thought were particularly impressive when they saw their show.

We invite everyone recommended by the Selection Team whose shows did not get chosen on Selection Day. 

If you join the Company, there are no restrictions on what you can do at the festival - it is access all areas the same as everyone else. You get to see all the shows, do workshops and attend all the other events and in a new initiative last year, rehearse every day on a project.

what is the technical team?

The Technical Team make the Festival happen; they build the venues, tech and support the shows and help create all the live events.
The team is made up of at least 11 professionals including our Technical Director Graeme Nixon who leads and trains the team of up to 60.

Depending on your experience, you will be appointed to roles ranging from being a member of the Crew, to Venue Manager or maybe an Assistant to the Heads of Department. It is an on the job training with a range of workshops led by a variety of organisations. 


what is the management team?

The Management Team help us produce the Festival; managing the venues, workshops and front of house. The team is headed up by three Managers - usually members of the team who have been to the Festival before. The Managers run a team each:

1. Front of House and Box Office

2. Venues

3. Workshops

We draw up a rota so that the team members can attend workshops and see as many shows as possible. As a member of the team, you'll have the opportunity to attend bespoke workshops on producing and starting your career in the arts.


what is noises off?

It's the festival magazine. It publishes online and a hard copy every day. Noises Off is led by professional journalists. They support you when you contribute reviews and articles and they also write their own reviews and commentary about everything at the festival. They want as much as you can give them - including photos, video, graphics, drawings and cartoons. Noises Off is the maverick of the festival.

can you recommend places to stay during the week? 

Please see our Accommodation recommendations here