What it's like to be part of the NSDF Technical Team: a conversation
20 November 2019
NSDF Technical Advisors Hamish and Emma explain what the NSDF Technical Team get up to at the Festival.
Applications to be on the NSDF 20 Technical Team are now open.
We welcome any applicants aged 16-25 (and mature students) it doesn’t matter if you’re in education or not. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 17th January 2020. To find out more and to submit your application please click here.
H: I got into NSDF because the festival came to Sheffield, where I was studying at University. It was immediately obvious that it was something that I wanted to be involved with. As a member of the crew we spent all day transforming venues that I knew as University buildings into theatres, as well as working at the Sheffield Crucible. Since that first festival, I have gone on to have many different roles (including directing a selected show!) and was a TA (Technical Advisor) at last year's festival. As a result of NSDF 2012, I am still friends with people that I met for a week.
E: Last year's NSDF was my first experience of the festival, and I was there as a TA. I had been hearing about the festival for years, through Hamish and other people have been involved in the past, but it is something that I missed out on when I was a student. Within moments of arriving in Leicester and starting our first pre-festival meeting, I could completely see what all the fuss was about. The other TAs who had done the festival before, some as students and others as TAs in the past, are so passionate about ensuring the festival continues. I have already been thinking about when we can go back and what we can do to make sure that the festival is always improving.
Last year's NSDF was my first experience of the festival...within moments of arriving...I could completely see what all the fuss was about.
H: The passion that people have for the festival is immediately apparent and it is that which is so infectious and means people keep coming back- you cannot help but love it! The people you meet at the festival are people you might work with in the future, they are people that you might go to the Edinburgh Fringe with, and they can become lifelong friends.
E: Thinking back my first memory of the festival was back in 2017 when we visited NSDF together in Hull. Hamish was working on a different project at the time so we weren't involved with the festival, but we just had to pop in to say hello. People who I had never met before came running (and jumping, literally!) over to see him because they were so happy to see him. I don't think I have ever experienced another environment where people form such close bonds with people despite spending relatively little time together.
H: The work that happens at the festival is unquestionably intense but is absolutely incredible. There is no other situation where as a member of student crew you get to use so much equipment to do so many different things, building so many different theatres, performance spaces, event spaces and immersive shows. You do all of that and then potentially operate those performances, help companies re-tech their shows and work them into new spaces. On top of all of this, you then get the chance to work on the events space with evenings such as a cabaret night, open mic nights and a quiz night, culminating with the awards ceremony, and of course the opening and closing parties. Each of these is an opportunity to use the new skills you have learnt. Not only are the technical resources outstanding, but you get to have all of this taught and supervised by a group of people who are incredibly passionate about the festival and truly care about students learning and sharing their experiences.
Not only are the technical resources outstanding, but you get to have all of this taught and supervised by a group of people who are incredibly passionate about the festival and truly care about students learning and sharing their experiences.
E: Despite being brand new to the festival, I was encouraged to run workshops of my own, and was really struck by how, despite the busy days that turn into late nights, students are so eager to learn as much as they can in the short time that the festival runs for. As a TA, we get to spend time with lots of different teams of students, so we can really pick up on what you want to learn from us. I ended up running workshops on all sorts of topics- I remember trying to gather some musical theatre scores together to run a last minute 'reading music for show-calling' workshop!
H: One of the things NSDF does amazingly well is work with people who aren't necessarily at drama schools. It's great if you are, if you have that opportunity, but the festival also caters to people who are part of student societies at university, or not studying formally at all. You get the chance to learn through doing, not necessarily through a class or a course, you just get a chance to to do workshops with industry leaders. It is a hands-on experience, not lecturing, and you get the opportunity to put your new skills into practice while you are building a venue, or setting up a show, or taking part in an event at the festival. You will take so much away from the experience because the whole week is so practical.
You will take so much away from the experience because the whole week is so practical.
E: The workshops, and it was those on the technical side which are the ones that I got to experience, are incredible. I was really struck by how many people from external companies are willing to give up their time to bring up equipment and teach you how to use it. I really didn't expect the festival to be such a draw for companies within the industry, but from my conversations with them I found out that so many of them had such fond memories of being involved in the past. If it was their first time there, they found it amazing that so many people come together to teach young people and I was really impressed with their eagerness to offer advice and make contacts with young people who are the future of the industry.
H: We try to be as conscious as we possibly can about trying to address issues within the industry, for example to do with gender, race, and class. To that end the management team work to make sure that as much as possible there are bursaries and reduced ticket prices available, and excitingly tickets for NSDF 2020 will be free for members of the tech team. Last year we ran a workshop about women working in technical theatre for the first time. Those conversations are really important to have and to address at this level and indeed every level that we possibly can. In terms of who should apply to a NSDF, I would say anybody who has any interest in working in the industry, improving their skills, learning something completely new, and of course making really good friends along side the work! The days can be long and hard but they are incredibly rewarding. It is a 'get out what you put in' sort of environment.