By the time you read this, I will have finished two of my twelve weeks at Fuel, but, obviously, I can’t write my blog posts while I’m at work, so this was written before right now. I should start by saying that my first week at Fuel was really great. That will be the biggest sentiment flowing through this post: I had a great time, learned a lot in just three days, and am so grateful for this opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills. This will be quite a long post, because I want to record as much of what I did as possible for myself (so I can go back over these posts and remind myself of what I learned when I graduate in a year or so). I hope you enjoy it!
I arrived on Wednesday morning for 11.30am (my normal working hours are 10-6) as I’d been asked to by the administrator. (Well, to be fair, I arrived at 10.53am, for an 11.30 meeting, and waited in the foyer. But I was nervous, and preferred to have given myself lots of time to get lost in London and still be there on time…) Robyn, the administrator, came up to the foyer to meet me, and brought me downstairs to the office to introduce me to my colleagues. (Every time I use that word I feel ridiculous and pretentious, but that is the appropriate term, so I’m going to force myself to keep using it, and hope that in twelve weeks time I will feel legitimate in using it.) The office is a large room, with a big square desk which all the members of the company sit around, with a smaller meeting room off to the side. The setup is very friendly, and also incredibly useful to me, because a lot of discussion happens in the shared space, meaning that I can listen to problem solving happening while I work, and learn from what other people are doing, as well as what they’re asking me to do.
Robyn then showed me around the building (where to find the fire exit, post room, kitchen, toilets…) before I had an introductory meeting with Ed, the Executive Director. Ed gave me an overview of how the company functions; who is responsible for what, how the company works with its artists etc., which was fascinating, and really useful to know. He was also very kind, and encouraged me to ask questions regularly, even if I feel I have the basics for a task I’ve been given, in order to get the most out of my time here. Once I’d had my introduction to the company, Robyn gave me some paperwork to fill in (emergency contacts etc.) and suggested I watch some pending trailers for productions (including one for An Evening with an Immigrant, more on that in a minute). She asked me what I thought of how they compared to one another and we discussed their various merits. By this point it was 1pm and I took a lunch break.
After lunch, I was asked to do the research for the document circulated around the company before a show they have produced and are going to see, which contains a picture of, and any important facts about anyone important the company knows is going to see the show that evening (e.g. people who had won prestigious awards, or directors of notable companies). Several members of the company were going to see An Evening with an Immigrant, a show Fuel had produced with poet Inua Ellams, that evening. I had a list of names of guests and google, and eventually had at least a little information about all the names on the list. I was also invited along to the show, and once I’d double checked with the family I was staying with that they didn’t mind my returning later than planned I agreed to go. I finished my information document, and Hattie, a projects co-ordinator at Fuel, had some thank you gifts to send to donors for a recent production (Opera for the Unknown Woman), and sent me the list of those and the gifts, which I wrapped, wrote the notes for, and popped in envelopes.
By then, the work day was over, and I’d finished my first day for Fuel, and was about to go see the end result of some of what they do, at the Soho Theatre downstairs space. An Evening with an Immigrant was wonderful. I laughed and cried, and wrote my thoughts about it for the Fuel website on Friday, which you can find here.
On my second day at work, I arrived feeling a little less nervous and a little more confident. Everyone had been incredibly nice the day before, and I’d managed the relatively simple tasks I’d been given successfully. When I arrived, the first thing that needed doing was taking the packages I’d prepared the day before to the post office around the corner. I was given some money from the petty cash tin, and walked over to the post office. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I discovered that the envelopes we’d used were half an inch too wide to qualify as letters, and were classified as small parcels instead, meaning I’d only been given enough petty cash for half of them. It was sunny and warm, so I had no problem making the second trip, once I’d got a little more petty cash, and the second trip was opportune, as Hannah, a projects producer at Fuel, needed some glue picking up.
My exercise for the day complete, Hannah had some tasks for me to get on with. She was in the process of completing a report for the Arts Council (ACE) about a past production, and needed box office reports from several theatres to which the show had toured. I spent my morning calling the theatres and asking if they could email me their box office reports, which was, of the things I did in the first week the thing I found most stressful, but still went well. I’m always a little nervous on the phone (by contrast with email) because I feel more put on the spot, and I feel a little bit like a cold-caller when I contact people who may be busy. However, the reminder that I am entirely capable of calling lots of people I don’t know to ask them to do me a favour was useful.
I then spent my afternoon filling in an application for funding from the Arts Council for a future project (by contrast with the post-event report I’d worked on in the morning). I was given the budget which had been prepared for this project, detailing the various funds expected, and where these would come from (including the ACE grant being applied for in this form) as well as the various expenditures expected. I copied all these figures into the ACE portal (which was easier to navigate than I’ve sometimes heard it described, but still a little tricky, so I would recommend leaving yourself a lot of time to do this the first few times you need to do it for yourself) and then spent the last fifteen minutes of the day proofreading the online application (the only mistake I found was in the schedule of things to do, one thing appeared twice).
On Friday, there were more things to add to the application for funding for the project I’d been working on the day before as well (on a side note, this looks like an incredible project. It’s not scheduled til 2018, but it looks fantastic and I really want to go see it. I obviously can’t tell you any more about it now, but keep your eyes open for Fuel’s projects in the next few years – this isn’t something you will want to miss. Just saying.) and I spent my morning completing the application.
I then met my cousin, for lunch, which was very lovely. After lunch, I had a few more things to do, including helping to set up a schedule for the actors involved in The Lost Palace project (I’ve never created such a massive spreadsheet. It had 469 rows. 469!) which is an exciting project happening in London at the moment. On discovering I write a blog, I was also asked to draft their bi-weekly news announcement (which is linked above – it’s my thoughts about Inua Ellams’ An Evening With An Immigrant) which I did.
I learned a lot from just being sat and listening to everyone’s conversations about their various tasks and longer term projects and from reading through the budget for the ACE application. Seeing the application, and how it was constructed and what was involved in each of the sections was alo incredibly useful and interesting, and I’ve finished my first week feeling incredibly rewarded and excited about what is to come!
The only stressful moment the whole week (other than the 37 minutes waiting in the foyer when I arrived early) was getting the train back to the friend I was staying with’s home on the first night. I had assumed that because I’m relatively competent at using the tube in London, and because I understand the national rail service, I would be absolutely fine with a local train service, which was presumably just half way between these two. I was absolutely wrong, and it took me three and a half hours to get back (the normal commute time is between an hour and fifteen and an hour and half). Please learn from my experience (I know I have) and look up the practicalities of travel in a new location BEFORE you have to try them.
That’s more than enough for today, I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post (and congratulations if you’ve made it this far – thanks so much for reading!). Feel free to like it if you enjoyed it, leave me a comment if you have any thoughts or questions (or anything you’d like me to make sure I tell you about if I can for next week) and subscribe if you haven’t already and you want to follow me through my internship.
There will be a brief advice post on Monday, about making Master Spreadsheets (which is a really useful skill) and I’ll see you on Friday to tell you how this week went!
P.S. I need to extend all my gratitude to the wonderful family who hosted me this week and for the second week of my internship. You’ve been incredibly kind, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all you’ve done for me. Thank you.