Mentoring Scheme 

Convener(s): Lucy Foster

Participants: Charlie Ryder, Sam Howey-Nunn, Adeel Akhtar, Zoe P, Alys Torrance, Sam Yates, Liz Moreton, Ariella Eshed, Nadine Ishani, Gavin O’Carroll, Kirstie McKenzie, Julian Crouch, Caroline Thompson, James Stenhouse, Wendy Buckley 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Talk about a mentoring scheme started at last year’s D&D. During the year a meeting was held to talk more about such a scheme. This meeting was called with the hope of pooling more ideas and knowledge to hopefully help move it forward in 2007.

We’re freelance, we have no organisations to support our training and development. This makes mentoring essential. In fact more mentoring will be good for the work, providing more honest feedback and working the muscle that allows us to be reflective about our practice.

Mentoring relationships are as different as people; they always have to be negotiated by two people. Mentors are not something we stop needing when we get to the middle of our careers, it just sometimes becomes more difficult to ask for and we just need them for different things. Also, more difficult to find money outside of 18-25 bracket for mentoring. It was also agreed that it’s key for there to be a strong chemistry between mentor and mentee. 

Is a broker or matchmaker important in setting up relationships? They could help make the initial link but also with helping you be honest about what you want early on.

Giving and getting: there is also the peer mentoring option which could be easier to get going. Or we get a mentor for 3 hours a month but agree to put back into the community 3 hours a month mentoring someone who could benefit from our experience. Being a mentor can also help you to be a better mentee.

But, sometimes we do just need someone who’s more experienced (or better) than us.

Can mentoring relationships survive on goodwill or some kind of exchange? Or can they only work if they mentor is paid. Are lots of exciting possibilities for exchange (different skills, mentor another, etc) but paying someone can also be very empowering for mentor.

Does mentoring need to be within the same sector? Interesting examples of cross over between sectors. But comes back to what you need from a mentor. Can share thinking, but not knowledge. Theatre practitioners could also mentor business people (money in?).

In setting up a scheme needs to be a balance between making it runnable, so is widely accessible, but also having ways of making relationships sensitively set up which might be about having a broker. 

Sometimes you just want to meet and have a cup of tea with some friendly faces. This can help with isolation. But sometimes you really need a private session and some experienced advice.

Perhaps a mentoring scheme could offer different types of models.

Scheme could offer:

  • Contracts or advice for formulating contracts at the beginning of a relationship. These can be flexible things based on what mentor/mentee need, but could offer some guidelines on content and how to formulate them. Contract can be a psychological contract, how we’ll choose to operate rather than legally binding. A code of ethics.
  • Names of those who are willing to mentor and looking for a mentor.
  • Links to other organisations offering mentoring schemes.
  • Advice about pots of funding.

Existing Schemes:

  • PANDA – Performing Arts Development Agency. Based in Manchester, a collaboration with Salford university. Funded from European social art fund (?)
  • A mentoring scheme on the internet where got given two exchanges in a month by email of 500 words, then continuation of relationship after that was voluntary.
  • ABCA in Scotland. Affiliated to Scottish Arts Council.
  • Professional Development – part of Scottish Arts Council. Can apply for up to 2k to apply for courses or go on a course.
  • Princes Trust: mentoring schemes for 25 and under.
  • NESTA – no arts part anymore though.
  • Artsadmin – run a scheme called balloon. Puts artists that work together in a similar way together to give constructive advice. 7 or 8 artists meet. Decide amongst themselves which aspect of their work they’d like the others to look at. Maybe then watch documentation of their work and get honest feedback from others. Contact Nikki Tomlinson for more info.
  • New Work Network: online network for artists working within the new work sector. Offers profiles of artists and forums, plus more.
  • Step change.
  • Caroline Bright: live artist who held ‘emergency meetings’ every few months. Artists locked in a room together to give advice. Outside of room it’s confidential.


Something interesting that was noted is that a lot of the mentoring schemes referenced are outside of London in Scotland or the north of England.

Some ideas for models:

  • While an assistant director is working on a project with a director have the ‘exploratory shift’ in the evening where maybe for 2 hours can work in the rehearsal room with some actors and then at some point show in rehearsals early idea been working on = feed in what learning to own work and show director some of their own stuff.
  • Speed dating: way of finding a mentor. 3 minute chats then move on. Tell central point who your keen on at end of evening.
  • Could meet with a brainstorming group of 3 or 4 to tell them what you need and they suggest some ideas of different people as mentors who could help. Could help not to choose yourself – person you think might be your best mentor might not always be.