Class of 2018 performing arts alumni come back to uni as staff
Sharron Taylor and Amber Gibney both completed their BA (Hons) performing arts in 2018, they enjoyed their time as students so much they couldn’t keep away from us! A year later they find themselves still at the University of Cumbria but in very different roles. Amber has remained at Brampton Road and is working as a theatre technician and Sharron is based at Fusehill Street, working in internal communications.
Amber, 21, is originally from Stockton-on Tees, which is a two hour drive from Carlisle. It was important for her to be near home, “moving away was a big step for me, I was the youngest in my year group. Knowing home wasn’t far made me feel at ease”, she explains. By contrast Sharron was the oldest in the year, now age 30, she had studied previously at Brampton Road from 2007 to 2009 for her BTEC national diploma in dance, then sadly having had to leave due to a broken ankle. “I decided to come back as I felt I would regret it if I didn’t” adds Sharron.
On attending an open day, Amber knew UoC was right for her, “I was instantly hooked’ she explains, “staff at the open day and audition took time to listen, I was learning before I even started my degree, I felt like they wanted what was best for me. My parents were happy too, they had been made to feel at ease about their daughter moving away to study.”
The BAPA course
The diversity of the course was hugely important to both, “You get to choose what you want to specialise in” explains Sharron. “During my first two years I quickly realised my love of marketing and I knew that it was what I wanted to progress into after university and this course enabled me to specialise, it is 100% tailored to the students’ needs.” Amber adds; “the three performance disciplines explored on the course were a vital factor. I wanted to learn new skills and gain a more rounded understanding of how a theatre works, on and off stage.”
The pair met properly during a first year performance project at Muncaster Castle where they had to live and work with each other for two weeks. They were then in the musical Girlfriends together in second year, this is where they got closer, rehearsing for 12 hours a day sometimes six days a week. Sharron says; “I always found it interesting that Amber was the youngest in the year and I was the oldest, yet we shared the same work ethic and I was really impressed with her ability to jump into anything without any fear. She is one of a handful I have kept in touch with since we graduated, she is just a genuinely nice person.” Amber adds; “I can honestly say that I laughed every single day across my three years at university. Even after a 14 hour day in a small dark sweaty theatre with the same people I couldn't help but smile.”
“University of Cumbria changed my life, Sharron explains, “I made lifelong friends and made a complete u-turn in my career. I finished with a 1st class honours despite major health conditions and for that I am really proud. Before uni I was a successful hotel manager with amazing opportunities for growth and now I have taken a different direction, but I am so thankful for that as I am now where I want to be.”
Amber says: “Being surrounded by incredible people and doing what I love everyday, that was my university experience. When I look back, however, there has been many times I didn't give myself enough credit for my achievements. I worried about post grad life and how I was going to survive, but I am proud to be able to say I walked out of my degree and into a full time job that I love within the industry I studied to be in. As well as my role as theatre technician at Stanwix Theatre, I am self employed and accepting work in other venues and performance roles.”
Careers and future ambitions
Returning to the university as a member of staff, Sharron explains, “has been eye opening, there are a lot more people running things that I would take for granted and there is a lot more work required than I thought. I am so happy to have returned to Fusehill and not back to Brampton road as it is almost like a fresh start. Working in internal communications and marketing has been a step in the right direction for the career I want to pursue. I came into the office at a time of change and had to hit the ground running and I love it.”
Speaking about her role, Amber says; “I gain a great amount of satisfaction from seeing everything come together. I love working as part of a team and being able to assist in all areas. I am enjoying being able to mentor and teach students and seeing the moment they finally understand something, knowing I have helped them in that journey.”
“When I first started studying I wanted to be a dancer” Amber explains, “throughout my course I realised that the industry has so much more to offer than that. I learnt so many different skills and I want to put them all into practice. I now aim to be able to make a living within the theatre industry, to create enough contacts across different areas of the arts to sustain a career of self-employed work, plus learn and try new things, meet new people and be happy while I do so.”
Sharron would now like to pursue a career in marketing, “preferably in a theatre or in a university theatre.” She adds. “I am also using my degree and actively seeking auditions, I am currently in Rocket Theatre Group’s production of Little Shop of Horrors which is playing in July. It is important to me to keep my love for the arts going, I don’t think I will ever stop performing.”