How can designers and makers in theatre (including puppet, prop, costume and set designers) gain more access to technical knowledge, in and outside of formal training?

Convener(s): Bronia Evers

Participants: Miriam Murtin, Paron Mead, Julian Crouch, Stephen Jon, Michael Spencer Fiona Watt, Graham Mubren, Vicky Ireland, Bronia Evers

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or    recommendations:


We all learn on the job … that’s how it usually happens. It’s reassuring to learn that everyone is guessing, working stuff out for themselves… But it’s also important that we recognise that people need to develop skills… some positive suggestions for doing this included: 

Suggested Organisations to be contacted:

SBT – the society of British Theatre Designers

Produces list of students  graduated from theatre design courses. Each student lists the skills they have – could be used for contacting/networking with others with similar interests. 

Theatre Futures – organised by the Rose Bruford College. Two courses they have run recently include Advanced Model Making and Web design for theatre people.

Creative partnerships – run projects around the country, including the East Midlands, where there are currently courses in the basics of using new media being offered in Ashfield and Huddersfield. 

“Go out and do it. If you can’t make a ‘proper’ model, build one out of lego!”

Different people’s experiences what works, how do you learn

  • Being a designer is quite a lonely occupation. If you start as a maker, you are more likely to end up working in a room with other people, exchanging knowledge. 

Eg Welfare State International : no formal teaching but a group of people in a field building things together… sharing skills and learning from mistakes. 

Having a shared studio space puts you in contact with other artists and creates a network of knowledge, accessible ‘on site’. It also creates the kind of environment which is conducive to sharing knowledge, within the group of artists and drawing in those from outside. Eg it might be easier to invite another maker/ designer over to a studio space for a coffee (and to exchange knowledge!) than to invite them to your house….

The best networking does happen informally! It’s a fact of life…. Examples were given of formal events organised, eg for students at Central St Martins to ‘network’ …. But it was too forced and structured, These things happen better informally. (The relaxed nature of D&D being a good example…) where coffee breaks are encouraged).

The Internet is a very useful way to learn – both for meeting people and networking, eg Puppeteers UK website, and for asking direct questions eg on a chatroom for animators, about how to use a certain computer programme. 

Knowing less can be a good thing! The example was given of only knowing two things about an animation computer programme – this forces the designer to work simply. If you know ten things you may get more confused! Without the formal training, you use the tool in your own unique way and this is worth a lot. Again, it’s learning by doing…

It’s important to TAKE THE RISK – be foolish and say you’ll take on some work using a new tool, new skill…then you will learn it bloody quick!!


Need drives us to learn… 

Discussion Offshoot:

How do theatre people with very little knowledge of New Media (digital technology, live feed, projection…) get to grips with it? It’s now undeniably a big part of our theatre culture…People want to know about it so they can make an informed choice about whether/how to use it.

Examples cited of companies/movements to look to for help and inspiration:

-Children’s theatre in Denmark – very forward looking and use lots of new media.

-Company 59 (who did the video work for Waves at the NT)

  • Forkbeard Fantasy – Devon based company who use old cine film and new digital technologies in their theatre shows and offer courses.
  • Troyka Ranck in New York- a thetre co. who also offer courses