Lois Tucker, 29 January 2013

Session peeps: Deborah, Mike, Alex, Liz, Producer Lady (sorry, didn't catch your

name!), Ellis and latterly: Maria, Flora.

I called this session as I've been meaning to track down a Mentor for some time now;

not knowing quite how to go about it, where to start and probably a bit of fear all being

blockages. Here's what came out of the session:

I was not alone in this Mentor vagueness - three other members of the session felt

similarly and didn't really know who to approach and how, especially as some of us felt

our work was quite broad. There was a feeling that a finding a Mentor should have an

element of ‘fate’ attached to it.


Find more than one Mentor! One session member had 4 and they all brought

something different to his process.

Be open to the idea of finding a Mentor - go to talks, private views, events, plays etc

and just see who you meet. Go to where the people are - like DandD. No need to

Network (with a capital N…) just chat to people and see what happens. An accidental

meeting could open doors you never expected.

One session member had an experience where a company she was working for really

wanted a specific famous actress to conduct an opening ceremony (or something of

that nature) but the actress in question was affiliated with too many similar things and

it was unlikely that it would be a go-er. Someone in that meeting then said “you do

know that I go out with her PA…?!” YOU NEVER KNOW WHO PEOPLE KNOW! No

harm in putting your needs out there. Think of all the people you already know.

I wasn't sure if perhaps I should go through some official Mentoring channel/hub. The

response to this (which I promised to put in) was this: No, possibly not the best place.

It's the difference between using a dating website and actually living your life…! Ahem.

Another myth was that it was no use approaching people really high up the food chain

as they must be approached by loadsa people. In reality - people just don't ask! Ask -

what have you got to lose? The worst that can happen is that they say no. One

session member had seen a big fish at a talk and really wanted to go and chat to him.

After being egged on by a rather bitter barman at the venue he approached said fish

after the talk and they got on well. He then contacted the fish's PA and they now meet

up on a very informal ad hoc basis around every 6 months or so, the big fish

badgering and having a go at him and suggesting people to meet, things to see etc.


Most people would love to help. One session member was wanting to get into/know

more about Theatre Marketing, so went through 50 theatre programmes and sent her

CV and a letter to the 50 Theatre Marketers she found there. 48 people replied and

most of them were thrilled and were very open to her coming to meet them. You may

find you get loads of no's however, as one session member had - don't let it put you

off: stay open…

Also - Artistic Directors etc WANT to know about your work. Remember - your work is

a gift. Connections don't work by telepathy! One session member had worked as

an Artistic Director's PA and said that the AD would always meet up with Directors that

had got in contact, even if it took a while to get around to it. Another session member

said that Samuel Beckett, at the height of his career, would always arrange to meet

people that contacted him. Maybe the person you're thinking about contacting will be

the same. Go on…

It was also suggested that it could be a good idea to find someone in a slightly

different field to you, or someone who makes different work. They will still have

contacts and ideas and can look at your work from a different perspective. All different

kinds of art and people can feed into your process.

It was clear that it is very important to know why you want a Mentor - what are you

looking for them to bring to the table? Once you've identified this, it is easier to

clarify who you might need and where you might find them. You could start off by

looking through your own contacts. One session member had a specific project that

she had needed help with. She tracked down someone on her radar and built a fee

into the project's budget so that they could meet formally once a month. They also had

phonecalls and emails when necessary. The Mentor probably would have done it for

free, but the session member felt that she then wouldn't have had the amount of

access to the Mentor that she needed.

We talked about money and it really depends on the situation. Don't, however, get

caught by signing up for a certain number of sessions. One of the session members

works as a Mentor and said that sometimes you only need one meeting with someone

- it's so variable and will depend on the needs. Formalising the set up is a good idea


It is also good to think about Mentoring yourself - it activates your knowledge and

makes you realise how much you know. Collaboration could also do a similar thing.

What can you bring? We can all help and support each other.

Other things that came out of the session:

-Build relationships with people rather than having the equivalent of a one night stand

with them, although that can also serve a purpose sometimes too ;)

-If you've come from an acting background and sometimes feel like you're at the

bottom of the food chain: smash your perceptions and shake up your values and your

old goals. People want to help!

-Almost every theatre company has been mentored by another theatre company.

-Some think there are rules for contacting people - bollocks! Use your gut and


-It is important to like and have a connection with your Mentor.

-A Mentor can hold you to account.

-Sometimes taking no action on your ‘homework’ can also bring up things - for

example, the reason you didn't take action may be revealing.

-A Mentor can sometimes just purely be a sounding board - the act of just vocalising

your wants can make things clearer in your head.

www.catchingfireworks.co.uk - this is a session member's website! Go here for free

stuff and advice!

So, there you have it. Thanks to all of the people at the session! I hope you find this

useful. Please do add any comments about your own experience and advice.



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