A job well done at Lighthouse tends to fall into one of two categories – ones that everyone notices and those that hardly anyone notices.
Most of what the Duty Managers do is lodged firmly in the latter bracket in that if they have a good shift nobody really knows.
“It’s our job to keep a calm hand on the tiller – if we do that and everyone goes home happy then that’s a good day at work,” says the characteristically low-key Phil Cox.
Lighthouse has four Duty Managers – Phil and Craig are full-time, Charlie and Alice part-time – who take care of the building at an operational level morning, noon and night. They know how Lighthouse works and have a good idea of what to do if something, anything, happens.
“We need to learn the information and then supply it when needed so that our colleagues’ jobs are as simple and straightforward as possible. So, if there’s a problem with a till, for instance; or something wrong with a door, then we need to know and make sure others are informed.”
Each duty manager has their own way of working, but communication is everything and effective handovers are vital to the smooth running of the building.
“I’ve been on quite a few courses, but this isn’t really a job you can train for other than by doing it; you learn as you go along. I remember Martyn telling me it takes six months to become properly competent as a duty manager, then after a year it starts to come naturally and then you really start learning.
“Every day is different, but you never really know what is going to happen from one moment to the next. This job can go from being stress-free to totally stress-filled in the blink of an eye and I’ve had some very interesting shifts – from brawls at the bar, to the flood in the Theatre and the day the Queen died.
“To be honest though, I quite enjoy it when there’s a crisis moment. Is that wrong?”
Phil studied musical theatre at college and, following a series of temporary jobs, came to work at Lighthouse as a steward about ten years ago. After a stint behind the bar turned into running the bar, he moved into duty management and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s that kind of place – there are so many different characters here and most of the people who work here seem to really like it,” notes Phil. “Even when people leave, I’ve noticed a lot of them come back.
“The only thing is I’d say the job has ruined my chances of ever fully enjoying a show here again! I can’t help but notice little things; or think about what’s going on instead of just allowing myself to be immersed in it, especially if there’s any element of production. Even when I’m at work I find myself on my walk rounds running scenarios in my head – what would I do if…?”
Lighthouse is nothing without its audiences and arguably the duty managers see more of the public than anyone else, which makes them uniquely well qualified to gauge the mood of the people who come here to be entertained. Much has been made in the media – and it is borne out by our own anecdotal evidence – that audience behaviour has taken a turn for the worse since the Covid lockdowns were lifted.
“Oh yes, without a doubt,” says Phil. “People have been rude, arrogant I’d say, like they just don’t care. It’s as if they’ve had enough of being told what to do and want to do exactly what they want regardless of how it affects anyone else.
“I felt sad when a couple of the stewards said they were apprehensive about coming to work, or even that they weren’t sure they wanted to do it anymore. That’s not good to hear, although I have to say I think it has bottomed out now and gradually things are getting better.
“It’s about time too.”