Blog: 8 Things I’ve Learned whilst Interning at Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Creative Learning and Marketing Intern Tasnim reflects on the last 4 months of working with us.

1. Marketing is so much more than tweets and flyers

My knowledge of marketing in theatre before was limited to my front-of-house and independent theatre-making experience. My first job in theatre was as an usher at Arcola Theatre, I then went on to usher at various theatres around London and in St. Andrews, Scotland.

In these roles part of my job was to hand out flyers at the end of performances. I never really stopped to think and appreciate that the flyers I was handing out was a marketing decision. That they even exist was a conscious effort in someone’s campaign plan. The design, the copy, the logos, the logistics of dates and times and locations, all was part of marketing. It’s not just about increasing sales and making a show look attractive, it’s also about communicating key information. This is only one aspect of the incredible insight I have gained in the last four months of working here!

2. Communication really is everything

For the first time I really felt like I belonged in my team and this is primarily thanks to clear lines of communication. When you spend 8 hours a day, 5 times a week, in the same building, with pretty much the same people, it is so important that you are happy and healthy. In order to be happy and healthy I have had to be honest and in turn have welcomed clarity from my managers and colleagues.

For example, every time I started feeling stressed about workload or about my physical or mental health, I communicated this with my line managers, and they listened. They reassured me that my feelings were valid and that they were there to help. Often nothing really needed to happen. Just saying it out loud was enough to remind myself that I wasn’t alone.

3. It pays to put yourself out there

I love public speaking and I wasn’t shy to tell my colleagues that. So when one day I heard a colleague say that she could no longer chair a post-show Q&A that evening, I expressed how much I would love that opportunity. A few hours later, she had the thumbs up from our head of programming, and that evening I found myself chairing my first ever post-show Q&A.

4. Never say out loud that you are ‘just’ an intern

I might have been told that and I may have thought it, but I checked myself from saying it. I am part of a programme called STEP which aims at increasing underrepresented groups’ accessibility to the arts industries. I was told at my first group interview by Lesley Owusu, the HR manager at Sadler’s Wells, that I should not only consider the fact that I need this job, but also that these organisations need people like me.

The arts industries need young people to tell them how to engage young people. They need local Londoners to tell them how to include their local communities. They need BAME employees of different religious backgrounds to point out that the food needs to be halaal or that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or to utilise their second language to translate to those who cannot speak English fluently. So, with that clear in my mind I was set on taking up space and give my opinions where appropriate. When I was present at external conferences on behalf of Stratford Circus, I introduced myself proudly as the Creative Learning and Marketing Intern.

5. Each and every department has a function and is of great value

I spent a day shadowing one of our technicians for a get-in and then watched the show from the operations box. Simply by being part of a relatively small organisation sitting in the office I learned what programmers, fundraisers and directors did day-to-day. By attending and giving a hand with events for my colleagues I saw what our Creative Schools programmes achieved by tailoring creative projects for local schools. I learned the importance of hires in the financial sustainability of our business. And of course, as my internship is across two departments, I have learned a great deal more about participatory arts and marketing.

I went out of my way this placement to speak to people from different departments and learn about what they did and how their work contributed to the running of the organisation and I am so, so glad I did.

6. The industry is smaller than you think

The pandemic has proved that we really are connected by just six degrees of separation. A few months into my internship I quickly learned that this is only too true of the arts industry. I interviewed for a job at an East London theatre. I didn’t get that job. I have seen and conversed with the director of that theatre, who was part of that interview panel, twice since. Both times in a work capacity.

7. How many people’s lives an art centre can affect for the better

I have had the privilege of working directly with our older participants as part of our Stratford Art Social programme. I have built relationships with them over art and coffee. I have listened to their epic life stories; I have sympathised with their struggles and we have laughed together at their anecdotes and their unique perspectives that come with maturity.

I have also had the privilege of writing out feedback forms for our other projects which include Every Child A Theatre Goer and Full Hearts Full Tummies and have been deeply moved by their words. I feel so blessed to be a part of an organisation which brings so much joy to so many people.

8. Our office loves Greggs

So much so I brought one of my managers a Greggs gift card for her birthday!