Backstage at the Folk Festival

By Charlotte Taylor, Year 12 student

Over the Easter weekend, five senior technical drama students volunteered in the opening and closing night of the National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park in Canberra.

Whilst we weren’t in our normal routine of running lights, adjusting sound, constructing a set or designing costumes (just to name a few areas), we all assisted in one of the biggest roles of the festival - venue management.

With our high-vis vests, earpiece walkie talkies, labelled passes, protein bars and filled water bottles, we were prepared for what would be an eventful and long weekend.

In our role of venue management, we had to ensure that every performance ran smoothly. We worked closely with the venue management coordinators, sound and lighting technicians, and MCs to manage resources in each venue and keep the locations clean and tidy. We were also responsible for the safety of audience members, techies, and performers and ensuring that work health and safety requirements were met.

Our 'safety senses' really kicked in during the opening and closing night of the show in the Budawang (the biggest venue at the festival that holds up to 4000 people). Personally, I didn’t really know what to expect as a venue manager as it was different to my experience as a stage manager or any other technical role in a theatre show. I was quite fortunate to already know the ropes and complexity of the festival as I grew up camping there every year with my family. However, it was certainly strange being on the other side and seeing the surface of an iceberg of the amount of preparation, flexibility and organisation (including some spontaneous action) that goes into the festival.

I asked the other seniors to describe their experience of volunteering at the festival in one word. These were their responses:

  • "Chairs!"
  • "VeryBusyAndLotsOfWalkingAndChaos"
  • "Exciting"
  • "New"
  • "Valuable"

Although this was an engaging experience, we couldn’t have been prepared nor equipped without the teachings of Mr Nick Akhurst. We are so fortunate to have him as a teacher, and to benefit from his 30 years of experience in theatre making and management and, not just in the technical theatre world - we are also transferring these skills of problem solving and adaptability into real-life situations. I also wanted to thank our venue management coordinators, Sami Cain and Lucy Crawford, as well as our mentors, Anna Davis, Bill Bruce (Class of 2007) and John Nicholls (Class of 2007).

If you’d like experience in general management or technical theatre, I highly recommend joining the tech crew and/or technical drama in Year 11/12 - it is a BSSS recognised T, A, M, R subject at Radford. Get involved in a Radford Theatre Company show, or simply sign up to volunteer at the next National Folk Festival.