What is the scheme really like? Hear from our previous Graduate Trainees.
Jamie and Rachel were first to undertake the scheme, from 2014-2016. Rachel is now Deputy General Manager of Aylesbury Waterside Theatre and Jamie is Commercial Development Assistant in ATG’s London office.
English and Drama, Bristol University
After graduating I spent a year back in the restaurant I’d been working in since I was 18 finding my feet in a management role. It wasn’t where I’d dreamed of going after university, and when I saw the advert for ATG’s graduate scheme I was presented with a unique opportunity to marry the passion I have for theatre with the experience I had gained in management. After an intense recruitment process, I turned out to be one of the lucky two selected to go on this whirlwind opportunity with ATG!
My first few months on the scheme have been incredible. After a few days meeting heads of departments in our London office, I was whisked off to my first assignment at The Empire Theatre in Sunderland, one of ATG’s regional venues. Upon arriving the priority was to get me Duty Managing shows by the time Mamma Mia came around, which was an incredibly busy show. As well as this, I took my expertise in restaurant management into The Empire’s Garden Place Bistro, attempting to streamline processes for the staff whilst speeding up the customer journey.
I have since spent time in each team in the theatre, gaining an insight into their work while learning from the theatre’s managers too. I’ve been in the Box Office selling tickets and packages, working on Arts Council bids with our Creative Learning Department, and engaging with audience development initiatives within the Marketing Department. I’m currently juggling the Merchandise Strategy for the Pantomime and the Empire’s Business Continuity Plan for our Risk team – two projects that could not be much more different! I’m also eagerly anticipating the arrival of Shrek The Musical, where I’ll be assisting backstage in the Technical Department. This has been such an inspirational start to a career, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of my journey with ATG holds.
Economics & Business, University of Amsterdam and Strategic Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam
I have never come across such an amazing opportunity in theatre before. I think the scheme is unique in that it allows you to learn about all aspects of managing a theatre as well as running a large commercial business. All whilst the company gives you the opportunities to develop yourself as a person and a leader.
For me, this was exactly what I was looking for but assumed would not exist. Originally from the Netherlands, I combined my work in theatres back home with my studies to aim for a career in theatre management. I always wanted to become a leader in theatre that combines a passion for theatre with business skills to be able to let theatre(s) thrive.
My first assignment is in Glasgow, which means that I get to learn from two, quite different, theatres at the same time: Theatre Royal and the King’s Theatre. Almost every day is different as I get to learn from all different departments and work on my own projects on the side. For example, I could work on a front of house recruitment project with the customer experience team during the day and subsequently run a show from the stage wings with the colleagues of the technical department. Or I find myself carrying out marketing activities for this year’s pantomime after having attended a budget meeting with the theatre director about the potential of shows that are planned after next year’s pantomime. The time here gives me the opportunity to literally experience what every role within the theatre entails, and provides me (already!) with an understanding on how all roles together enable our theatres and the business to run.
Both the Rising Stars programme and the contact I have with previous trainees and fellow current trainees boost the learning even more. It allows me to share ideas and reflect on everything I experience. I can’t wait for the rest of the months here in Glasgow and the new learning experiences that lay ahead.
International Business and French, Aston University
I worked Front of House part time at ATG’s New Alexandra Theatre during my studies. Upon joining the Graduate Scheme I spent my first six months at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Whilst there I spent time working with every department in the venue, including Duty Managing a variety of shows including the annual pantomime, working backstage with the Technical department during the national tour of Evita, and taking ownership of a digital archive project to begin the process of bringing the theatre’s rich history into the 21st century for everyone to enjoy.
Following the period in the offices, I spent ten weeks working at the Savoy Theatre in the West End, current home of smash hit musical Dreamgirls. This time gave me a real front-line experience of one of the company’s busiest West End venues – Duty Managing shows and responding to customer complaints, along with learning about the general management of a West End house was a great experience and made me realise the vast differences between our regional and West End theatres.
Whilst there are no doubt some significant similarities, the challenges faced can be completely different, with a much broader demographic made up of tourists, international schools and day visitors much more the norm, with less of a core repeat audience that you might expect in the regions. I also led on a project to explore the viability of offering theatre tours – the Savoy is a historic building dating back to the 1880s, so the opportunity to potentially open the doors and share that with the public was an exciting one.
I am currently part way through a six month project with the Group Food & Beverage team, leading on the development and launch of a new menu for our six Bistro restaurants as well as developing a new range of food for our West End Ambassador Lounges.
Julia Groen and Peter Chicken joined us in September 2017 and are currently in their first year.
German Studies, University of Warwick
My first six months in post were spent working at The Kings and the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. These two dynamic venues with their energetic team and constantly changing shows were a perfect introduction to a commercial receiving house. Variety is the word to describe this placement – one week can contain anything from payroll and performance reviews to planting a paper-mâché pumpkin patch for panto!
The subsequent secondment in Head Office is your chance to learn about corporate strategy and develop market understanding. Some of the business operations encountered here (such as HR and finance) are pivotal to any enterprise, others, namely ticketing, programming and production, are specific to the live entertainment industry. This placement provides an insight into the quantifiable and commercial considerations behind the intangible and experiential product of a theatre visit.
During my West End venue placement I joined the management team of the Harold Pinter Theatre, who were hosting the sell-out summer season of Hamlet. Here I Duty Managed shows and worked together with Box Office and Front of House to launch venue tours of the historic building. Now you have encountered both a venue with long standing show, and a receiving house with a high show-turnover, you can compare their respective operational goals and challenges.
Year two of the scheme is your opportunity to take responsibility for business critical projects. Mine included project managing an IT roll out across the business, and acting as Deputy General Manager of York’s Grand Opera House. The scheme is a well-structured and unique opportunity to develop management competencies across two complementary worlds: that of commerce and the creative industries.
Biology, University of Sheffield
As a third year Biology student studying at the University of Sheffield, I was really involved in the student theatre company, managing people in my role as chair and organising events with a local children’s theatre company. When I found out about the graduate scheme, I couldn’t wait to apply; it sounded perfect for me. After a competitive selection process, I had the opportunity to move to Liverpool for six months to work at the Empire Theatre, one of ATG’s regional venues.
Here I spent time with the different departments in the theatre, such as Marketing, where I was handed over responsibility early on to lead on the marketing activity for our in-house restaurant, Lime St Bistro. My project management skills and understanding of marketing a business have increased and I had a valuable sense of ownership over a significant aspect of the venue. There was also a strong focus on developing my skills towards a career in venue management. I duty managed shows, handling customer complaints and supporting the Front of House team, which has developed my communication skills and my ability to maintain control in difficult situations.
From working on Britain’s Got Talent to helping with the youth theatre’s involvement in the Liverpool Luminous Landscapes lantern festival, every day has been exciting and different!
I am looking forward to starting three months in the Harold Pinter theatre in the West End, before going on to three months of Head Office tasters, to develop my understanding of the wider business and integrate my knowledge of venue operations with centralised functions.
Rosie Preston and Daniel Lewis joined ATG in September 2016 and are currently in their second year of the programme. We’ve asked them to describe the first year of the scheme.
Arts and Festivals Management, De Montfort University
Whilst studying Arts and Festivals Management at De Montfort University, I went to watch Headlong’s 1984 at Richmond Theatre in September 2013. During my second year I was researching every theatre I set foot in to see what career opportunities they had and if they did anything for graduates...and that’s when I came across the Graduate Scheme! I knew I wanted to run a major theatre and this was the perfect scheme to get me there.
I began my graduate career at Milton Keynes Theatre for first six months where I worked in lots of different departments. I spent my first few months working directly with the Deputy General Manager, attending internal and external meetings, learning about deals, settlements and seeing the venue from every departments' point of view. I then delved into my first department placement with Front of House, just in time for Panto season. This was a fast paced and intense period, doing everything from serving behind the bar, cashing up, and taking in deliveries to duty managing performances and learning how to lead the front of house team.
In my time with the Marketing team I learnt what it means to be a theatre marketer and gained insight into the many different aspects of the team’s work. I assisted with the brochure, analysed the just-completed pantomime, worked with designers to produce print and worked with internal and external stakeholders to set up competitions and offers.
My final week was spent with the General Manager, attending meetings and seeing exactly what my dream job looked like! I’ve had an incredible introduction to ATG and look forward to the next chapter where I will spend six months at the Apollo Victoria and Head Office.
History with German, UCL and the Humboldt Universität
I studied History with German at university, whilst working front of house at the Milton Keynes Theatre. Despite my best efforts to write essays on theatrical topics (the politics of 18th century German operas, anyone?!), my degree does not naturally lead onto a career in the theatre industry. The ATG Graduate Scheme however allowed me to bridge the gaps between my studies, my skill set and my professional ambitions in a way that no other scheme promised to do.
The scheme’s structure is tailored according to the development needs of each candidate; a perk of being one of two as opposed to part of a mighty trainee cohort. If you’re proactive, new opportunities to explore the business’ complexity and move across venues and departments arise daily. Fast-paced change characterises the trainee experience. I have lived in four different locations over the course of the two years, as necessitated by the different placements I have undertaken. It’s intense and overwhelming at times; it’s exhilarating and inspiring always.
The support you receive from not only line managers but all colleagues is tremendous, everyone wanting you to succeed and welcoming your curiosity about their role in ATG. The range of expertise housed within the company makes for a fascinatingly broad educational experience - valuable ‘food for thought’ in the early stages of my career. The scheme is less about amassing specialised knowledge on one particular topic and more about developing your understanding of the industry, your own skill set and your professional identity. I am very grateful that this was my start in the industry.
Adele and Thalia joined the scheme in 2015 and completed in 2017. Adele is now Deputy General Manager of the New Theatre Oxford and Thalia is Deputy General Manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London.
English, Bristol University
For my first placement I was based at the Milton Keynes Theatre, with the intention of gaining a good overview of ATG’s regional venue operation. With this as the goal I had the chance to spend some time working with every department in the theatre, often getting involved in projects with them, but my main focus was the Front of House and Marketing departments as well as the senior management team in the venue. For the second six months I worked in London and my time was split into two parts: half in a West End venue (mine being the Piccadilly Theatre) where the intention was to get an overview of how ATG’s West End venues operate, and half spending two or three days in each central department in both ATG’s Woking and Charing Cross offices. This gave us an insight into the role of each central department and how they support ATG’s venues.
In comparison the second year placements were much more project focused, allowing me to get fully immersed into a certain aspect of the business. I spent my first six months in the central Customer Experience department, working specifically on the roll-out of ATG’s Bistro concept (restaurants in our regional theatres). The project was mainly focused around the brand management of the concept, as well as making recommendations on how to roll out the concept into regional venues. My final six months is based in the Ticketing department, specifically in London Sales, looking at the unused inventory in the West End and identifying new markets of theatre goers.
The scheme is an amazing opportunity for any graduate looking for a career in theatre management. It is not often, in any company, that you get the chance to spend two years experiencing such a variety of different placements and this is what makes ATG’s Graduate Scheme an incredible springboard into the world of commercial theatre.