Lighting Newcomer of the Year Peter Bird talks to us about his career highlights and why networking is so important.

Did you study? If so, where and what?   

I am currently studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts for a degree in Theatre and Performance Technology, specialising in lighting design, electrics and programming. I’m really enjoying the course and feel I have learnt a lot from it. The opportunities and people I’ve had the chance to meet thanks to this course have really started my career off from the ground running.

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

Shortly after starting university, I was lucky enough to get a placement to be a followspot operator at the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool. It was a magical experience and something that was absolutely life-changing for me. Besides being able to work and contribute to the event, which was a real honour, it gave me the ability to meet a whole new group of industry professionals and make a lot of new contacts.

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

Winning the Lighting Newcomer of the Year award was quite a surprise, something I really didn’t think would happen. It wasn’t just a personal achievement, but a testament to the support I’ve received along the way.

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of support through every stage of my journey, from college, through university and now from mentorship with some industry professionals whist still studying. Some of the people who have inspired me and given me great advice through Q+As and one-to-one conversations are Tim Routledge, Ashley Lewis and David Bishop.

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

I’d like to think I’d be continuing my lighting design work, perhaps working with a lighting designer as their assistant or associate. Maybe working at a lighting design agency, or some more freelance lighting design work. 

Although I would be excited to be working anywhere as a Lighting Designer, my dream job would be to work in television, learning from lighting designers like Nigel Catmur, Gurdip Mahal, or Al Gurdon, etc. I know that there are so many career options including working with a lighting design agency or working as an assistant or associate that I am really open to everything.

Is there more industry should be doing for newcomers?

It’s great to see some companies coming into universities and colleges to hold training events and show off their latest gear, but it would be great to see more collaborative projects between established professionals and newcomers, allowing for hands-on experience and practical learning with additional placement or work experience opportunities.

How important is networking for newcomers?

I believe it is very important, it’s all about people. You never know what talking to people might lead to, and what might come of it. For anyone, at any stage in their career, networking is of fundamental importance. Take advantage of every opportunity you’re given to make industry connections.

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

I would love to attend next year. It would be another great opportunity to network and meet lots of industry professionals.

How did you feel when you won the award?

Very surprised! Couldn’t quite believe that it was happening at the time, but made me very excited for what this might mean for the future, and for the opportunities that it might open up.

What made you want to work in the production industry?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of theatre in the sense of creating something that can be experienced. Using the word ‘theatre’ quite loosely, but something that tells a story. I think there’s something magical about that, that the production industry can bring to life. All of this is part of my inspiration for also wanting to explore the television industry, because you have an opportunity to reach a wider audience. Without the production industry, a lot of things would be very boring indeed, so the ability to make moments and make memories, not just for the crew, but for the people experiencing a show or event, has always drawn me to this industry.

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

Winning the award has definitely made me feel more confident about reaching out to people and has given me some self-assurance.

I am hoping that this award will broaden my network, which will allow me to have additional opportunities to develop my lighting design career. Winning this award has helped me start conversations, and opened up a world of exciting new ventures that will hopefully materialise. But it’s great to have the mentorship that this award provides, and the advice from industry experts that I’ve been able to collect.

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

The one piece of advice I can give is to not be afraid to talk to people, there’s never any harm in starting a conversation and sending emails. You need to put yourself out there. You tend to find everyone knows everyone, so getting your name out there is quite important. Making connections and being able to communicate well is essential. In terms of lighting design, being creative and coming up with new ideas that might not have been seen before is a really exciting concept. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

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

I’m currently working on LIPA’s next dance show which has a concept that I’m very excited about as a lighting designer, although as I write this we are still in the very early stages of production. There are a few other things I’m working on at the moment that are unconfirmed but will be quite exciting future endeavours. I’m really looking forward to the shows that I will be designing in my third year at LIPA.

Related Posts