Live Event Production Newcomer of the Year Becky Barwell talks to us about her career highlights and why networking is so important.

Did you study? If so, where and what?    

I studied at Academy of Live Technology (before they changed their name from Backstage Academy!) and the course I studied was Stage and Production Management.  

What was your very fist industry role and how did you get it? 

My first industry role was a volunteer Artist Liaison assistant, at Wilderness Festival in 2021. I think the way I got this role was pretty typical of how a lot of younger people get into the industry! Someone that was two years above me at university, that I knew of but wasn’t friends with, messaged me to ask if I was free and wanted to work at a festival, assisting the artist liaisons. I said yes because I wanted to get some ‘real world’ experience in the industry and things were starting to open up again after Covid, and it progressed from there!  

What has been your biggest achievement or ‘pinch me’ moment so far? 

My biggest achievement so far is definitely being offered the job role that I’m in now. I graduated from university last summer and after freelancing at various festivals throughout the summer, I was struggling to find industry work in the autumn and winter months, and so I went to work for the NHS on an agency basis. I was actually on a shift when my now-boss rang me and suggested we meet for a coffee, and then later offered me the job I have now.  

Two years ago I was entering the industry with no experience or real knowledge of how the industry works, and now I’m in a solid, full-time position where I have the potential to keep on networking and continue to build my experience and confidence. 

Is there one person who has helped or pushed you, been a support? 

There hasn’t been a particular person that has pushed and supported me, but the family and friends that I surround myself with have encouraged me to pursue a career in the industry and to keep going, despite the fact that none of my family members work in or have much knowledge about our industry, so I think they often struggle to see the appeal of long days and being away from home a lot!  

However, the majority of my friends work in events, so we can all relate to a lot of things, and I would say that we provide each other with a lot of support and encouragement, even more so since graduating from university.  

Where would you like to be in 5 years from now? 

I always struggle with this question, even though I’m definitely a ‘planner’ kind of person in that I plan as much as I can, whether it be work related or life related. Planning for the next five years in our industry is so difficult because there’s so many job opportunities and different branches of events to go into, and I would say that no one can predict what the industry will look like in five years. Having said that, I would like to continue to progress in my current job, and then eventually get into Tour Management for a few years.  

Is there more industry should be doing for newcomers? 

The industry needs to continue to be accepting of newcomers, and willing to give people with little to no experience a chance to prove themselves, and gain understanding of what the industry is like. I also think newcomers need to be open to the idea of volunteering for the first couple of shows they do. The first role I did was a volunteer position and whilst I wasn’t paid, my expenses were covered and most importantly, I gained a lot of experience just from doing that one show, which I took forward going into paid roles.  

I can understand why newcomers are hesitant to take unpaid roles, especially in the current economic climate, but I think there comes a point where you have to prioritise gaining experience and networking, which will in turn result in paid job roles further down the line. However, I think the industry as a whole could receive more governmental funding and support to help companies offer more paid roles to newcomers who don’t have as much experience as others.  

Experience isn’t everything, but from the job I do now I can see why people with more experience are offered the paid roles more often than newcomers – prices are rising but budgets from promoters aren’t increasing with that, and shows are getting bigger and more demanding. This means that roles are given to those with more experience more often than not, because the increasing demands of a show require someone with more knowledge, which in turn means that job opportunities for newcomers are unpaid because there’s less money left in the pot. More support from the government would help to bridge the gap between those that are new to the industry and those that have been in the industry for most of their career.  

How important is networking for newcomers? 

Networking is SO important! I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for networking with different people from a range of backgrounds and sectors of the industry. I can’t count how many times I’ve turned up on site and I know someone in the production office, someone from the stage crew and someone from the site office. Not only is it nice to see familiar faces, knowing people throughout the industry often comes in handy when you’re on site somewhere!  

Will you come back to the awards as our guest next year?  

I’d love to!  

How did you feel when you won the award? 

I wasn’t able to attend this year as I wasn’t well, so I found out that I’d won via text! I haven’t won an award before so it was definitely a surprise.  

What made you want to work in the production industry? 

How many characters do I have?! I was studying my A levels, which were completely unrelated to the events industry, and I went to an open day where there were several university stands, and came across Backstage Academy. I’ve always liked music and going to gigs but I never knew you could study a course in anything like Stage and Production Management, so when I came across it at Backstage Academy I applied, and long story short here I am! Since I was young I’ve always had an organised and planner personality, so the course I picked was well suited for that. I like working in the production industry because it’s so interesting and there are so many moving parts that have to come together, from various people and companies, to make a show complete.  

How has winning this award affected your personal or professional life, and what are your future goals? 

Wining this award has definitely made me think more about the future, and what I aspire to do. I have a lot of goals, most of which are longer term. I would like to eventually get into touring for a few years, and then get into more venue-based work.  

What advice would you give to other newcomers who aspire to achieve similar recognition? 

Be that person that says hello to everyone you work with, have the mentality that no job is too big or too small (whilst knowing your limits!) and have the desire to want to progress.  

Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives that you’re excited to work on and why? 

I can’t go into detail about what it entails, but I’m really looking forward to the shows we have next summer! The autumn and winter months are spent doing admin and preparing for the next summer season, but my favourite thing about my job is being on site and with everyone during the summer months, so I’m excited to get back to that. 

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