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Meet Fellow and Stage Management grad Sarah Hemsley-Cole

Sarah was awarded an RWCMD Honorary Fellowship in recognition of her ongoing and generous support of the College, and her championing of the next generation of stage managers, designers and creatives, with a particular focus on supporting women.

Technician of the Year 2020

In 2020 she became only the second woman ever to win the Association of British Theatre’s Technical Award, making her the Technician of the Year.

The founder and company director of total events management company SC Productions Ltd, we caught up with Sarah ahead of her summer site-managing global megastar Taylor Swift’s Wembley and Cardiff shows.

Sarah showing the students how to make sure the planning line is correct

What are you most proud of as a woman in the events industry?

It’s important to show the positive journey we can take. In the live event world particularly, focusing on site management and production-based work, there are fewer females, and there were even less when I started in the late ‘90s: the world of rock and roll was not an obviously woman’s world.

Over my 30 years in the industry, I’ve championed the visibility of women in the sector - it’s important for young women to have role models to aspire to and be influenced by. We've had to be trailblazers and pass our hand down to the women coming up behind us. 

That’s why I set up NOWIE (Network of Women in Events) with my colleague and friend Zoe Fox. It's a gathering, a connecting of women and gives us real strength and voice, challenging the status quo to make sure that we redress the balance and that, even if we’re there doing the work, we are represented.

Ed Sheeran at Cardiff Principality Stadium

Tell us about working with our students and graduates

To me the College has been integral to everything I’ve done in my career. The College was really good to me; it gave me those skills and that training. And I recognise that in the generations that have come after me.

It’s been really important to me to maintain that relationship and that network of support, learning and mentoring.

Over the years I’ve employed around 200 graduates, as well as those I’ve recommended to others in the industry. I give lectures and work with the students every year, which means I know each cohort and what particular skills they have. As well as Stage Management (SM) and Design for Performance students I also work with the Arts Management course and take on graduates from there as well.

I see it as part of my role to mentor and recommend my fellow Royal Welsh College colleagues. Our stage management world is very like that, there’s a lot of networking and mutual support.

'In my role I often have to put together teams and my first port of call is always Royal Welsh College graduates because I know I can trust them to do the best job.

I know what training they've had. I know what's going to work. I know where their skills and their passions lie. And for me, it's a guarantee.'
Sarah Hemsley-Cole

Tell us about some of your recent favourite projects

We production manage CBBC's annual panto, and often I’m working with other grads from Design for Performance for example. I've done a lot of work with National Theatre Wales over its tenureship. 

We’ve been involved particularly with the major outdoor productions, Michael Sheen’s huge and ambitious site-specific ‘The Passion’, which involved around 30 students and grads working for me. 

And the ground breaking Roald Dahl, ‘City of the Unexpected’, which was an extraordinary production across the whole of Cardiff, involving hundreds of actors and local volunteers. But whatever we do, there’s always a strong, working relationship with the College.

From Cardiff’s City of the Unexpected, a city-wide celebration of the centenary of Roald Dahl

I was the lead producer for the Coventry City of Culture 2021 opening event, bringing the City together for a celebration and create an event for broadcast, while Covid restrictions were still in force. I brought together a relatively small team of 40 working on this event with grad Anthony Field, (who’s recently been Company Manager for the West End’s ‘Moulin Rouge’) as Company Stage Manager, working with more recent SM grads in the sound team.

This is another example of showcasing talent and inspiring and showing the local young people involved what's possible within this career path.

An aerial view of the Urdd Eisteddfod

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