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Interview with The Old Vic's Naomi Lawson | Front Line Facilitators

Posted 22 Jul 2023 by Joe Duggan

We spoke to The Old Vic’s Young Person’s Programme Manager Naomi Lawson about the theatre’s facilitation training programme for over 18s, Front Line Facilitators 

I am one of four people in The Old Vic’s Education and Outreach team, between us we run around ten projects spanning all areas of education and outreach dedicated to increasing access to theatre. The Old Vic is an independent, not-for-profit charity in receipt of no regular public subsidy and every production or project we undertake, we have to fundraise for ourselves. The theatre has always had a social mission driving everything we do and the programme of project work that we do is central to this as we strive to offer opportunities to everyone.  

There’s Schools Club, our schools programme offering workshops and tickets to educational groups, to our community outreach work, to our employability projects including our paid work experience programme Front Line, our schools employability programme for 16 – 18s, Take the Lead, and our annual Summer School for 16-25s. 

Last year we launched Front Line Facilitators and we’re now bringing it back for a second year. It’s a free facilitation programme offering young people over the age of 18 the chance to be trained up as facilitators by The Old Vic, and explore the potential of a career in theatre facilitation. Facilitation is a really exciting field to work in, but often people just don’t know it exists or don’t know how to get into it – you’ll often find lots of facilitators are actors who have just happily fallen into facilitation. With Front Line Facilitators not only can we spread the word about facilitation as a career option, but we can also offer the opportunity to get training and forge a clear path into facilitation work. 

Facilitation is a really exciting field to work in, but often people just don’t know it exists

That said, it’s not all about going on and becoming a full time facilitator. What’s almost more important is recognising the transferable skills that come with learning to be a facilitator; the leadership, communication, and creative skills you learn are so useful in whichever field you go onto. 

Last year we worked with 12 young people over the course of 12 sessions – led by myself, our Education & Outreach Director Hannah Fosker, and visiting practitioners – giving them hands on experience in facilitating workshops. It was really important for us to give them the chance to work with lots of different practitioners so they could learn about the different styles and types of workshops (whether they be issue based or skills based) and leave the programme with a toolbox of skills and exercises. 

As the programme progresses and they start to hone their own facilitation style, the participants begin to creative and devise a workshop that they deliver at the end of the process – once to Old Vic staff, and once to one of our outreach groups. These are workshops which they’re paid to deliver so that they can get a full understanding of where this could lead professionally. 

We’ve actually gone on to work with and employ quite a few of last year’s participants, who have returned to work on our schools programme or assist on auditions for our Summer School, while others have gone on to get work with organisations like The Yard and the Donmar Warehouse. We want our Front Line Facilitators at the end of the sessions to feel connected to a professional network so that they can start making industry connections that they could build upon and get work from in future. 

We’ve had over 170 applications to this year’s programme which just shows how much interest there is exploring facilitation. It’s exciting that we have so many emerging young facilitators out there because we need new voices and more diversity in this industry, so that the young people who take part in theatre workshops in the future can see themselves reflected in the industry and know that there is a place for them. 

At The Old Vic we want to create a space where everyone can feel welcome; and if you’d like to get involved I’d really encourage you to check out our PwC £10 Previews scheme where you can get £10 tickets, our artist development workshops, as well as our Summer School and Front Line programmes. 

"If you decide you want to be involved in theatre, never let anyone tell you that you can’t"

For anymore out there who wants to explore a career in facilitation I’d say start trying to explore all the different opportunities open to you: sign up to theatre’s mailing lists, follow your favourite venues and artists on social media, get involved in the PAL Freelancers network, and don’t be afraid to ask people already working in the industry if they’d be up for a chat or meeting you for a coffee. You should never feel alone; by finding and talking to people who are interested in the same things as you, you can make professional and personal connections and create a support network around you. 

There’s a huge amount of support out there, so if you decide you want to be involved in theatre, never let anyone tell you that you can’t. 

This interview is part of National Youth Theatre's Young People in Theatre mailing list which you can sign up to here

See below for an offer from The Old Vic team 

The American Clock at The Old Vic
04 February – 30 March 2019

New York City 1929. The stock market crashed and everything changed. We meet the Baum family as they navigate the aftermath of an unprecedented financial crisis.  
Arthur Miller’s ground-breaking play is brought to life by Rachel Chavkin with live music, dance and a giant revolving stage.

Watch the teaser
Take a look inside rehearsals 

Book here and use promo code CLOCK15 to unlock ticket offers

*Subject to availability, valid on performances 09–16 Feb, maximum four tickets per person, offer ends 01 Feb.