The Technical Training Course for unemployed 18-25 year olds offered six months of full-time training in lighting and sound and, from 1993, stage management. The course aimed to:
The Half Moon ran its first vocational training course in 1986 with a pilot Entertainments Technician Course. That year, the course recruited ten trainees, all residents of Tower Hamlets, and on conclusion, seven took full-time employment, two went on to full-time further education and one set up her own business. The Technical Training Course began in earnest in 1987 with a three-year funded programme. In the first of those three years there were eight trainees with 2 CSEs between them. Five gained regular employment and two went onto higher education. This high rate of employment was maintained throughout the course’s history with between ten and fourteen students on every course, averaging 70% employment (when the national average was 40%) and 20% moving on to higher education.
The structure of the course combined practical ability and theoretical knowledge with structured work attachments through partnerships with the entertainment industry to provide high quality valuable training. The respect the course gained from the industry was achieved through the company’s unrelenting efforts to maintain high quality training and to meet the needs of the industry. Students also received support from Half Moon in job-hunting, application writing and interview techniques.
Placements were at venues including: Albany Theatre, Barbican, Battersea Arts Centre, Hackney Empire, Hampstead Theatre, Kenneth Moore Theatre, The Place Theatre, the Royal Court, Royal Opera House, Sadlers Wells, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Waterman Arts Centre. Half Moon’s 1993/1994 Annual Report noted that many venues took Half Moon trainees “even when they instigated a company policy not to take trainees from the Training for Work (a government initiative) or BTEC courses (from local colleges)”.
Recruitment to the course was done through the local press and working in partnership with local agencies. In 1993, there was a two-day exhibition about the course at the Davenant Centre in Whitechapel, providing opportunities for potential trainees to see and operate technical equipment. 53 applications were received that year and 43 interviews were carried out to select the 14 trainees.
Steve Harris was Associate Director at Half Moon Theatre in the 1980s and as such was responsible for the young people’s programme and policy. He talks about the accredited technical training course for unemployed young people from Tower Hamlets, which was run in the 1980s. Interviewed by Alexia-Pyrrha Ashford.
Keith Edgehill talks about doing the Technical Theatre Training course at Half Moon Theatre on Mile End Road in the 1980s and how this led him to a new career in the theatre. He reflects upon the importance of getting young people involved in theatre and how a practical technical training course of this type was unique at the time. Interviewed by Daisy Snooks.
Technician, Stuart McKean took part in Half Moon Theatre’s Technical Training Course in the 1980s. Stuart describes how the course was the beginning of a long career as a theatre technician. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Technical Theatre Training – Course Proposal (1993-1994)
Technical Theatre Training – Report on 3 year Development (1987-1989)
Technical Theatre Training – Resource for Trainees prepping for work experience
Technical Theatre Training – Short Course programme, Colour in Theatre Lighting
George Panait: I have very fond memories of the Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. I was a young 24 year old when I arrived from Romania and wanted to continue my career in theatre (I worked in Bucharest at the Comedy Theatre for four years before coming to the UK)! I came across the course by pure fate as my best friend was working at New Horizons Training Centre in East London and he mentioned to me about the Theatre Technician Training Course that would commence in the autumn of 1990. (So long ago!)
I went through the interview procedure, and although my English wasn’t up to scratch then, my enthusiasm for the job was good enough to get me in. (Hooray for that!) Three months of intensive technical course and English studies followed, as well as my final exams. The tutors were excellent and I will always appreciate their patience with me as I was trying to get to grips with both technical and English language. The course tutors were impressed by my final results, despite my deficiency with the English language, and helped me to get a placement in the Lighting Department at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
There, due to the nature of the way the theatre was operating, I was supposed to do only five hours a day, five days a week. But I approached the then Head of Lighting, Paul Watson, and I asked him if I could do a fifteen hour a day shift, six days a week for the following ten weeks. He gladly agreed and the rest is history.
At the end of the ten week period I was offered a full-time position in the Lighting Department and never looked back.
Half Moon will always be in my heart and I will always be grateful to Half Moon for opening the doors to a wonderful career in my beloved arts industry.