Brit @ 30

You may have heard of The BRIT School- the leading performance and creative arts school in the UK - but did you know about its history? Funds were raised for the BRIT Trust to set up The BRIT School at a Knebworth gig 30 years ago – could there be a better way to fund such a school? The school is indeed one of a kind and one that I’m proud to have attended, and feel privileged to return to as a teacher.

I studied at the school back in 2006 but it was much smaller then; back then there were only 15 of us in my year of the Production Arts Department, but now there are 18 students just in my tech class – and that doesn’t include the other production students studying stage management, costume design, set design and set construction. Production arts now has roughly 50 young people per year! Other strands such as music, community arts, dance, theatre, musical theatre, visual arts & design and many more have also expanded.

In the fifteen years since I left, they have built two new buildings and added many more studio spaces. There’s been a lot of investment and involvement from major music industry players too – with Nile Rogers funding a music suite, Motown sponsoring a show and the ‘Fifth Beatle’, the late Sir George Martin was a governor and has the recording studio named after him.

Most recently the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has got involved supporting backstage students - “We are excited to continue our support of BRIT School as Principal Partner of Production Arts, helping to inspire and train the next generation for the vital roles required behind every theatrical production.”

Many famous performers have come from the school, but for me the real USP is the number of people who went there and who now work behind the scenes in very established roles and key positions as lighting and sound designers, engineers and technicians working on major tours with some huge household names. I’m always meeting people who trained there; it has a well-deserved reputation of delivering the best in the business. The majority of my close circle of friends came from my days as a student and many of them, including Dan Fathers (sound systems engineer), Rob Ogilvie (moving light technician), Max Reynolds (rigging project manager) and the multi-award-winning Luke Jackson (event manager), have gone on to do amazing things.

The links that the school has with the leading production companies, designers and producers really is astounding and the resulting opportunities for work experience is another thing that really sets the school apart.

I’ve been involved with the school for a number of years as a teacher, initially as a guest lecturer helping them out on shows etc. and then last year I was invited back in a steady position to cover for illness. I had to teach remotely through lockdown, which when you are very hands on like me was a real challenge.

Coming back in a teaching capacity actually made me feel quite old, I watched as the kids went through identical situations and tackled similar issues to the ones that I did, but with the added pressure of social media. As a teenager I didn’t always relate to the adults trying to give me advice – how could they understand what I was going through? And as an adult I could see history repeating itself with the roles reversed! Some of the teachers that taught me are still at the school - including a few, like me, who teach part time whilst still maintaining industry careers.

The wonderful Olivia Chew is the director of production at the school (my boss when I’m there). Liv’s experience speaks for itself; before coming to BRIT Olivia was a costume supervisor at BBC Eastenders, another example of true industry experience at the heart of the school. I asked her for a few words about the course and here's what she said:

“The Production Arts Course gives entry level students the opportunity to work alongside exceptional staff with outstanding industry level equipment in the country’s leading performance and production school. Our diverse and committed students are obtaining places at the country's leading universities, apprenticeship schemes and working in the best companies as freelance professionals.”

I couldn't agree more. The BRIT School is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and everything about it is worth celebrating - from its inception via a gig, to its long-standing reputation of delivering the industry’s finest. Here’s to the next 30 years and the amazing talent that will no doubt be creating the amazing gigs, festivals and theatre performances for many, many years to come.