A career as a Lighting Designer in the theatre? What a bright idea.

Let’s flirt with the idea some more

Good lighting. The reason for loads of fruitless Tinder dates. The pictures sold you heaven-on-a-stick dreaminess but the reality wasn’t even halfway there.

And guess what, there are people making other people look better for a living, amongst other things. They’re called theatre lighting designers.

So if you want to light up the world of play-pretend and fantasy – and make actors and performers resemble their moody-black-and-white-publicity-shot best – then a career as a theatre lighting designer could be for you.

Grow your capacity for love

We’re betting you’ve already got a passion for lighting. 

But are you empathetic?

Might not be the first quality that springs to mind if you want to light theatre – or even music – productions for a living but it’s an integral part of a job that’s all about pressing emotional buttons in the audience.

You must also respond to the director’s vision. He or she may want to set a Shakespeare play in a sausage factory and it’s up to you to help transport the audience beyond the bangers.

Working to deadlines is also a key attribute that every good lighting designer needs, likewise flexibility, because things change constantly in a theatre environment – especially when it’s a new show.

Last-minute alterations, even the introduction of a whole new part of the set that requires lighting, are not uncommon.

Learn to love those that love themselves

The other major consideration, and we mean this respectfully because we all have one, is that there are a lot of egos in theatre-land, some of which you’ll have to massage, including on days when you’d rather stuff a Satsuma in the offending mouth.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that directors and set designers usually have a lighting vision in mind, thereby dictating what the lighting designer must work with, which is why there may be wrestles with your own ego too at times.

It’s also a good idea to contact theatres should you feel like asking to shadow a lighting designer because everybody likes to show off. They might be a frustrated performer.

But don’t forget about YOU

Lighting designers have signature styles of lighting that they create in each show, little motifs if you like, and so will you if you pursue this career. Lighting design is a terrific way through which you can express your own creativity.

Help bring the house down by keeping standards up

There are technical theatre courses available which include a lighting design element. This will give you a wrap-around understanding of theatre and good basic training.

But you can’t beat getting in amongst it.

Here are some possible inroads.

Some people start off from a purely technical background. The production electrician’s job is to rig the show, hook up the dimmers and patch all the circuits, from which they might get a gig as a lighting designer’s assistant.

Then there’s the touring production electrician route. Part of this job is to re-create the lighting design of the original lighting designer, like inputting all his or her cues into the desk. You would be re-producing their work as sympathetically as possible while also assessing whether it does the job, lights the actors and makes the set look pretty.

This is a good place to learn and to make mistakes.

Now, go forward into the light.

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Don’t write off a career as a writer

Let’s talk reincarnation for a moment.  Were you Elizabeth l in a past life or were you a flea on her dog?

What the hell does this have to do with you wanting to write for a living and us lighting the way for you?

Good question, and curiosity may have killed the cat (or Elizabeth l’s dog), but it’s also what every good writer needs truckloads of. Likewise an imaginative ‘hook’ into the article, first line of the book, etc. that paints a picture with words and capture’s the reader’s interest.

Writing also requires a healthy dollop of self-belief.

There are oodles of courses out there if you want to learn how to write creatively, or the strictures of journalism and producing online content. You can research them yourself though, because ain’t nobody gonna spoon-feed you in the real world.

Plus research is every good writer’s undercoat beneath the brushstrokes of their masterpiece.

Feed that hungry empty page

Editors are always looking to fill editorial space and it’s amazing how few wannabe writers actually have the gumption, nerve or whatever to get their fingers out and approach them.

Starting your own blog. Tick. Haranguing feature editors with what you’ve written. Tick. Being doggedly persistent. Being a charming pest. Tick. Tick.

You can’t beat some experience at the coal face, working to tight deadlines and learning not to be precious about your work, (irrespective of which writing discipline you’re aiming for) so start writing, writing, writing and ping as many pieces off until your fingerprints have worn away.

Practice makes you practically perfect in every way

Everybody reckons they’ve got a book in them but can they write it?  Ghostwriting is something else you may want to consider because writing is a skill that even some of life’s natural orators don’t possess. 

Writers must also be good listeners if they’re in the business of interviewing people and getting them to trust them enough to open up. It’s also often one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, so there’ll be lots more deleting than usable words going down on the page.

This is as natural as the weather. Writer’s block happens. Get over it.  Have your meltdown, smoke a fat cigar and then get back on the horse. Licking dead flies off of a number plate is often entirely preferable to reading what one assumed was a brilliant few paragraphs written the day before.

Imagine there’s a heaven

A worrying mind is often the comfiest bedfellow to the type of active imagination that fuels the urge to write, and other people love to read personal things that you’d perhaps rather keep private.

But what you feel is bearing your soul to an excruciating degree is perceived as you having a heaven inside to those readers that it chimes with.  

Don’t go easy, Tiger

Writing for a living can be tough and as solitary as a tiger’s existence, especially if you’re freelancing, which you may have to be prepared to do in a world where increasingly fewer staff writers are employed full time.

And if you work from home you’ll have the cleanest place for miles because even wiping skirting boards seems preferable to getting those words on the page on off days.

Now stop reading and start writing!

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Accountancy is more than just numbers

When she wasn’t riding her horse, being all enlightened or (allegedly) locking her hairdresser in a cage to keep her wig a secret, Russia’s Catherine the Great, born to an insolvent father, was being bat-shit generous towards her lovers once she’d conspired with one of them to throw her no-good husband Peter in the slammer so that she could place the crown atop that wig.

Titles, lands, palaces, people – was there no end to CTG’s generosity to keep her lovers sweet?

Sounds like her accountant knew their onions.

Wannabe accountants need to have a head for a whole lot more than numbers though. They need to know how the law works. They must be the one to demystify, provide counsel, and dole out tough love.

Then there’s the skills needed to handle those whose financial fortunes may be in danger of a downturn as well as dealing with life’s success stories – and all in a profession where discretion is key. 

Or you might find yourself caged like that Barber of Blabbermouth.

Accountancy is fun

Despite connotations to the contrary, working in accountancy is varied, fun and a hive of new learning.

It’s likewise a great leveller.

From MDs and CEOs to those just starting out in business with about as much financial acumen as a hedgehog, you need to be a people person that can deal with prickly situations and people from all stations in life.

The corporate world often entails a whirl of social events and if you start out at a large practice, like working for one of the big six – BDO International, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young Global, Grant Thornton International, KPMG International Cooperative and PricewaterhouseCoopers International – you’ll learn your craft, and then either remain or leave to work for other outfits, depending on your developing interests and talents.

You might become a Chief Financial Officer, or perhaps your prospects will bloom elsewhere, like branching out on your own to service self-employed clients.

Accountancy is a gateway

Another accountancy selling point is its flexibility. You can choose to join any number of businesses and then really get to know how they work from the inside out  – so you couldn’t really ask for a better springboard from which to start your own successful business in the future.

Accountancy is never having to say ‘Get your finger out’

Whether in a corporate setting or on your own, accountants must be unflappable and patient. You’re going to be dealing with the professionally secretive, weekend millionaires with no regard for what Monday will bring, as well as the eternally frugal. But it’s not up to you to pass judgement or to lose it, and the more impartial you seem, the more successful you’ll be.

Accountancy to the death

Taxes and death are the only certainties in this life. That’s why a career in accountancy is up there with funeral director in the Rock-Steady Professions Club.  Ironically you might be a bit strapped for cash when you’re training, but the eventual financial rewards mixed with job satisfaction make this one potential career gold.

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To act or not to act? That is the question…

What’s the Swahili for ‘Bungalow’?  Can you water-ski while flossing your teeth?  

You need as many strings to your bow as possible in the acting game, which you already know, yet you remain undeterred.

That’s the spirit.

As far as you’re concerned the world needs to see your name in lights, and ‘lights, camera, action’ are the only three words that are gonna get you out of bed in the future because you know that this aspiration won’t always be in your dreams.

You really are determined, aren’t you?

Eternally driven, there’s also a masochistic, attention-seeker inside every actor  – as well as a terrific honesty in wearing these not-so favourable traits (that we all of us have) on their sleeves for the world to see and continually punch holes in.

We’re not trying to put you off or anything because we know that you want this more than the taxi driver with Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet all in the back of his cab wishes he had an ‘eject’ button.  

All we’re doing is preparing you for the slings and arrows that’ll inevitably come your way.

There’s also bravery and nobility in pursuing such a notoriously insecure career that can lift you up to the gods one minute and then drop you into the cheap seats the next. 

Once you have a qualification under your belt is when you really start learning how to act.

All the world’s a stage and that world’s your oyster.

Lady Luck, don’t fail me now

Half of you being successful depends on whether Lady Luck likes the cut of your jib.

Who you know and being in the right place at the right time have their parts to play in the story of your road to success that will eventually become a musical in its own right that’ll run and run in London’s west end and Broadway.

And the ability to bounce back from stinging rejections when less talented/deserving candidates get the gig as you cry into your chips on the bus on the way home is also required.

Or chips and bus fare might even be too much of a stretch for a penniless wannabe.

That’s why a financial cushion helps, or a job that pays you enough to have enough spare time to focus on honing your craft and adding all those strings to your bow.

Audition after audition is a costly exercise.

Get digging

Acting’s not just about standing up and reciting a load of other people’s words. It’s a skill. University courses can help you get to grips with Stanislavski, Brecht and all those other clever clogs, but you can also help yourself by mastering the art of research because being an actor and an auditioning actor are two different things.

You need to know how to nail an audition and how to read the auditioning panel.

Most of this comes down to researching the role as well as researching the director you’re hopefully going to be working with: it always helps to know a bit about their previous triumphs etc.

Your name’s your fortune

Your name can make or break you too.

The actors’ union, Equity, rules that no two actors can have the same name, which is one reason some actors insert a middle initial or go for a completely new identity, and the name you choose could be your passport to fame or obscurity.

So choose wisely.

Break a leg.

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From bar-tending to Global Brand Ambassador domination in the drinks industry

Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ‘til noon, said Mark Wright.

Perhaps you had to read that sentence twice over because you had a late one.

It was actually Mark Twain that said it.

And speaking of late nights, a career in bartending means that you can sleep until noon if you like and not give a flying fruit punch what anybody else thinks because you earned it baby.

But as Lord Fontaine Preachy of PreachyFields Manor once said, it’s the early bird that catches the worm (at the bottom of the tequila bottle). Yup, those that put their daytime downtime to good use likewise stand a greater chance of becoming a global brand ambassador for a drinks company.  

Here endeth the first lesson.

Sounds like quite glamorous job though, eh?

The tips

Breaking into the bartending industry can be pretty simple if you have the type of personality that’s outgoing, you like making drinks, and speaking to hotties.

But this short-changes this industry. Mixology isn’t a load of old Hogwarts. It’s real.

Once upon a time all it took was one whiff of the barmaid’s apron and punters were happy. But bartending these days requires skill, application and knowledge because people are generally drinking less but more demanding of quality drinks.

They expect bartenders to know about the provenance of the ingredients and the history of the brand right down to whether the grandfather of the founder preferred crunchy peanut butter or smooth.

People are far more brand-aware full stop. Just look at what’s happened to gin. The bar-call ‘G&T’ is fading fast in favour of ‘I’ll have an ‘X’ and ‘X’ please and you must balance a jug of water on your head and eat cream crackers as you pour it.’

The plan

Those that are savvy plan ahead for which direction they’ll sail their ship before it ends up on the rocks when they reach the stage where the shaking, muddling and straining gets boring and they start every shift feeling like a wasp with toothache.

You may get a part time job while you’re studying and then decide to go full time thereafter. But show any type of promise in this industry and the time will come when you’re moved onto the fiscal/organisational side, i.e. counting money and doing rotas.

These are transferrable skills of course, but one of the best things you can do is network by doing your own PR, like speaking to trade industry magazines and entering cocktail competitions and bar apprenticeship programs where brand ambassadors with contacts lurk.

Where will it all end?

The life of a global brand ambassador entails being a good communicator and equally as good a host. You’ve also got to be fond of hotel elbow-banger shower cubicles.  

Plus there’s also mentoring and problem solving too, as well as being a natural orator and a good storyteller.

Boutique drinks companies as well as the bigger drinks companies are forever on the lookout for those that tick all of these boxes, as well having bar experience under their belts too of course.

We can’t guarantee it’ll be quite as shiny and as glamorous as the Ferrero Rocher ambassadors’ reception (some of you may wish to Google that reference) but it’s defo a bit of a bobby-dazzler career nonetheless.

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Meet the Parents: Astrology and Parenthood

mum
There’s no available manual for being a good parent. No blueprint. You just have to get on with it. So all the signs respond differently to this life-changing responsibility…

Aries

A big kid at heart, that’s the Aries parent and he or she likes to think that they are ‘down with the kids’, much to the embarrassment of their teenage children. But this is mostly just to make mischief because they actually understand the needs of their offspring very well. They’re great at engaging with them on their level without condescension and they also know when to allow their children space, and make teaching them the value of independence a priority. Aries mums and dads aren’t ones for overblown displays of affection, preferring to keep emotions as managed as possible in order to prepare their kids for the challenges of life. This doesn’t always work, as this is Aries we’re talking about, so emotions aren’t too far below the surface!

Taurus

Kids of Taurean parents will feel eternally loved and nurtured, as Taurus prides itself on being able to provide at all times, in both an emotional and material sense. The parent-child bond is immensely strong for this sign although possessiveness can be a problem, but the Taurean parent will probably be unaware of their love being cloying at times. They are essentially peaceful people who will gladly teach their kids about the value of love, as well as money, and the importance of working hard to achieve stability in life. This is also a sign that likes to spoil their kids with what they never had when growing up.

Gemini

Gemini parents are the coolest, by their own estimation anyway, and possibly in the eyes of their own kids’ friends. They are relaxed and easy-going and like to be thought of by their sons and daughters as a friend as well as a parent. They may not take to parenthood all that easily at first though, because if they’re honest, they themselves never feel all that grown up as adults. This is a fun parent to have around and one with a mind quick enough to rival that of anybody younger, and they will continually surprise and amaze their children with just how much they know about the world. In this way, Gemini encourages the development of their children’s mental faculties.

Cancer

They say that the family that eats together stays together and Cancer parents tend to demonstrate their love with food, so meal times are important family time. This sign forms an incredibly strong bond with its kids so the dreaded empty nest syndrome hits Cancer parents incredibly hard. Seeing their babies all grown up and living their own lives can be a difficult adjustment to make for them to make. That’s because family is everything to Cancer and they’d quite happily construct their whole world around their children. When that fateful day does arrive and their kids leave home, the Cancerian parent’s bittersweet feelings are often tempered by the massive pride they feel at the well-rounded individuals their kids have become.

Leo

Leo is the sign creativity and a child is the most wonderful creation of all. Leo is therefore the sign of the parent and they direct a tremendous amount of their energy into raising their young, to the point where they become the centre of their universe. This isn’t a parent who takes criticism of their kids at all well, because in their eyes, their kids are a cut above. Leo parents teach their children the importance of taking pride in themselves and in being creative. They love for their kids to pursue a glamorous career, and live vicariously through them if they weren’t able to realise their own dreams doing something similar.

Virgo

The Virgo parent isn’t easily moved in any direction but looking forward, not being particularly prone to sentimentality. Their cool personas and calm way of doing things can be adopted by their children, who are usually well behaved and neatly turned out. The Virgo parent is excellent at being impartial and is mostly logical in the way he or she views situations, even if this means taking the side of others over their own families, if they believe it to be the right thing to do. They prefer the gentle art of reasoning rather than dogma, although they can be extremely hard to please. Too much criticism and not enough praise can erode their children’s self-confidence in later life.

Libra

Libran parents naturally want their children to reflect well on them and so they are brought up to be polite and sociable. However, Libran parents also like their children to form opinions, and to develop their intellects, but in the privacy of the home. This will be the intellectual battleground where healthy debates are lost and won. Libran parents aren’t comfortable with the idea of their children being single as adults, even if it’s through choice, because to them a life alone is a life half lived. Therefore they might take it upon themselves to play matchmaker at every given opportunity.

Scorpio

The children of Scorpios learn from a very young age not to try and hide anything from their parents. This is perhaps the most interventionist sign of them all when it comes to parenting, and the one that regards their children as an extension of themselves, so any slight against their child is taken extremely personally. They wrap their children up in so much love and make them feel so secure at home that the outside world appears as more of a threat. But life soon teaches their kids the importance of trusting the unfamiliar, and this can rub off on the parents as the kids get older, making for a more relaxed relationship.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius sees humour in most things and they don’t like coming down too heavily on their kids, plus freedom doesn’t necessarily have to come at a price for the kids of Sagittarian parents. They can learn the value of finding their own way, developing strong friendships, and a pastime that can enrich their lives. Like Gemini, Sagittarius can struggle with maturity, and with being viewed as the most responsible person in the room. This can make them want to toss their head back in defiance and relive their youth through their kids. Sagittarius likes to encourage physical activity and being outdoors as much as possible, espousing the merits of a healthy lifestyle, although kids don’t always respond positively to their preachy style.

Capricorn

Responsibility is never a tragedy for this sign, and like Leo, they were born with an abundance of parenting skills. They feel it’s their duty to mould the young minds of their kids so that they make a positive contribution to future generations. Capricorn can harbour colossal ambition for their kids that might not go down too well if their sons and daughters are born under headstrong signs. In fact, they can often find that they have a teenage rebellion on their hands, but once their kids grow up a bit, Capricorn parents learn to be less rigid and relax a bit more into enjoying the special bond of friendship with the responsible adult they’ve created and shaped.

Aquarius

There are certain boundaries that the kids of Aquarian parents know not to cross, because Aquarius likes to remain an enigma, even to their children. For such a cerebral sign, there’s quite a lot of second-guessing on the part of the kids, who learn to grow up very quickly and always with an eye towards being their own person. The Aquarian parent is quietly proud of their children and watches from the sidelines a lot of the time, and without ever being too effusive. This kind of thing makes them uncomfortable. All they really want to know is that their kids will have the ability to stand on their own two feet and to stand up for what they believe.

Pisces

The kids of Pisces’ parents will be encouraged to paint, laugh, sing, dance – whatever they want, and so their environment will be a relaxed and sometimes chaotic one. But like all the water signs there is a deep emotional attachment going on here, and the occasional power struggle too. Their kids will feel that they can pursue any career that makes them happy, and pick any partner, because their Pisces mother or father encouraged them to be open minded in all things. An artistic ability is often inherited in families with a strong Piscean tradition.

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