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Creative hands-on training is energising career prospects for the stage crew of tomorrow at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, thanks to its Bright Sparks initiative.

Young Technicians is an innovative course for young people aged 16-24 eager to get to grips with lighting, sound and stage management in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings.

The course is currently on its third intake offering 16 students a broad introduction to understanding and operating lighting and sound, as well as a range of planning, design and health and safety concerns including risk assessment and method statements.

“It’s about workforce development,” explains Lighthouse partner Libby Battaglia, who designed the course with Poole-based international lighting designer James Smith.

“As one of the UK’s largest regional arts centres Lighthouse has always found it difficult to find and recruit technicians from the area so given that we have highly skilled and creative technicians of our own and connections with some of the top freelancers and private companies in the field we set out to train our own from an early age.”

The course costs £145 to cover some of the costs, but full bursaries are available to students funded by the Bright Sparks initiative to nurture new talent at Lighthouse.

“This Christmas students will work on Jack and the Beanstalk, our family panto, with James who is production manager on the show. They’ll see him in action and put the headphones on so they can hear the technicians at work and some of them will be able to do some paid work on the follow spots.

“In February the connection with Light Up Poole festival of digital light art means they’ll work alongside the artists and technicians to deliver a major outdoor event right on their doorstep.”

James has more than 15 years of professional experience lighting musical theatre, plays, pantomimes, live music and events all over the world. His enthusiasm for teaching Young Technicians is immediately obvious, as is his rapport with the group.

“There are few if any courses like this available in this country,” he says. “The students get lots of hands-on experience and crucially it’s real world training in a working multi-venue arts facility and a live festival on the streets of Poole.”

The course provides a foundation that will enable Young Technicians to specialise and next year it is hoped to run more advanced intensive five-day courses in lighting, sound and stage management.

“I want to take this on and get more into sound engineering,’ says Peter Mason, from Lytchett Matravers. “We’ve done a lot in short time and I’ve had a go at different things. The guys taking the course are really good and have a lot of experience as well as skills to share.”

Teia Johnson, from Ferndown, also has an eye on the future.

“I’m really keen to follow a career in stage management,” she says. “The Young Technicians course means I am adding to my portfolio of experience and it will count in my favour when applying for university courses, but it’s also putting me in direct contact with people working at the top of their profession. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

It is planned to develop Young Technicians into formal apprenticeships at Lighthouse and then to run an industry-led foundation course.

“Lighthouse is actively seeking a partner college or university locally to help deliver that,” adds Libby, “but for now the course presents career opportunities to young people who might not even realise that jobs like these exist.”

To find out more or to register interest in future intakes of Young Technicians or the specialised courses email learning@lighthousepoole.co.uk.

Published 2 December 2019