Employee of the year Shaunagh Conway talks to us about her career highlights and why networking is so important.

Did you study? If so, where and what?   

I did!  

So, having grown up on the stage – I always knew I wanted to continue my studies in theatre. 

However, I got the bug for writing and directing. I’d been commissioned by a local company at 15 to write their pantomime and I loved it!!! and continued to do that for years, writing for other companies and schools too – I still loved the thrill of performing in front of an audience, so wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go! 

I decided to stay on at Wakefield College to do my HND in Theatre and worked in so many different venues and companies over the 2 years of the course to get a breadth of experience under my belt and then decided to do my top-up in Contemporary Directing at the Performance Academy at Newcastle College, resulting in a BA [Hons] in Contemporary Directing [Theatre]. 

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

So, I was employed at Production Park as Education Liaison and Outreach Officer in Sept 2021, a mouthful, right?! – which was my first experience of this brand new leg of the industry. 7 weeks in, I volunteered myself to produce a festive event for the local community – I wanted to showcase my skillsets and incorporate what I already knew I was capable of and challenge myself by working with new people, in a new environment and with all this brand new sparkly technology! 

We created a 40-minute walk-through immersive experience which took audience members on a flight to the North Pole, through a Winter Wonderland meeting Mrs Claus, through the chaos of the toy factory and then to meet Santa Claus – we got the Performing Arts students from Wakefield College involved who were dancing fairies and cheeky elves – it was such fun!! 

It was one of the biggest challenges I’d faced, but it was so incredibly rewarding – we got 1,500 young people through the doors over the 2-day event, and I learnt so much over the course of the 8 weeks we had to put it altogether.  

I wouldn’t have got this experience if I hadn’t been bold enough to stick my hand up and say – I can do this, and I want to do this! 

After that, my job role changed to Outreach & Events Officer – not so much of mouthful! and my next job was working on the Production Futures 2022 show at Production Park – where I met the wonderful Hannah!!   

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

Again, not necessarily part of my job role – there’s a theme here haha- but I was once asked to cover the studio at The Mill for ‘You Me At Six’. Again, I hadn’t been at Production Park a year – so, it’s safe to say I was quivering in my boots haha – but a challenge I was most definitely going to accept!!! 

I just remember one of the band members asking me if I wanted a cuppa – I was like, what even is this!!!  

Nothing set on fire, no one died – so, yeah – success!!  – thanks Sam & Ant for having annual leave at the same time, and for trusting me with your clients and the studio! 

It was a hoot!!!  

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

I am incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by a great support system throughout my career who have been the right balance of support and push, and in this industry collaboration is key – I couldn’t possibly say that there has just been one person, but throughout my time at Production Park people have invested their knowledge and expertise in me, and have supported my efforts – from staff to students – whether that be teaching me software and technologies, supporting me through the co-ordination of the projects and events I have executed or being a creative sounding board – which can sometimes be dangerous with the likes of Sam Wilkinson!! haha. 

I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve been on a team with the legend and oracle that is Miles Marsden – someone give that man a medal!!!  

I am always mesmerised by his experiences and the stories he has to tell – he is so admirably an advocate for our young people and their journey into the industry.  

He’s the guy you can go to for industry advice but equally, he’s the guy you can go for coffee with [Capaccino of course!] and put the world to rights – He always has time and a lending ear and he supports us all more than he knows and we’re incredibly grateful for his time and guidance – but seriously, lifetime achievement award? 

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

I just realised how old I’m going to be in 5 years – eek!  

I have great aspiration to make waves in the access routes to the creative industries and driving outlets for creativity! 

I want to incorporate my love of theatre and my hunger to master immersive experiences and put aspiring practitioners at the heart of it.  

I’m a big believer that the live events industry is very much a ‘show not tell’ industry and the way to break down those barriers and give the industry the credibility it deserves, in being a credible career choice, is to put the next generation at the heart of it, exposing and immersing them in a whole host of possibilities! 

I would like to be able to use my voice and experiences to inspire others and be an advocate for creative practices.  

Is there more industry should be doing for newcomers? 


We are a small industry and we should be trailblazing in terms of sharing our experiences – everyone associated with the creative industries should be shouting from the rafters about the incredible avenues that are out their waiting for young practitioners – no matter their chosen discipline. 

If you think of all the people you know who work in the industry, each one of those people has a story of how they got to where they are today, and with that comes an education for any outsider – I always find it fascinating hearing how people got into the industry and all the hurdles they had to overcome along the way, because like everything – it’s not always easy!  

But yeah, there’s a real treasure in knowledge and the power we house in empowering and inspiring others with that is what we should all be driving towards.  

How important is networking for newcomers? 

So important!  

Again to continue from what I just said about how important it is that those embedded in the industry share their stories – it only works if others are willing to lend an ear. 

To anyone in any industry – we can learn so much from our peers and those with years of experience, and the more people you can interact with the more opportunities you open up for yourself to be able to learn – everyone works differently, it’s important to understand variety – so, get out there! Get mixing and mingling – you never know where it may take you!!  

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

Absolutely, if there’s a seat for me – I’ll be there!! 

How did you feel when you won the award? 

Once I got over the initial shock! It was incredibly heartwarming – which sounds really silly, but – I’m not out in the industry working on big productions or festivals and I am not creating incredible experiences for audiences or working with the big wigs – like so many amazing people I know!  

But what I am doing, and what I pride myself on – is, I am working in the background as a very small cog to inspire the next generation of creative practitioners, and to expose the industry to as many young people as possible.  

I have worked really hard over the last two years, understanding the shortfalls in the education system that cause so many barriers for young people in  pursuing a career in the creative sector and I’ve used that as a driving force to create a programme of opportunity for young people to really get an insight into the industry. 

The best part was finding out that I’d been nominated by graduates who I’d worked with on their Backstage on Tour major project – it gave me satisfaction in knowing that I’d made a small impact on their experience while they were completing their studies – Thank you team!! You’re all amazing!!! 

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

Its given me food for thought, for sure! 

I’m about to embark on my next adventure and the award ties up all the achievements and developments I have made over the last couple of years. It signifies my ability to be able to do some really cool things and contribute to the industry we all know and love! and hopefully inspire a few on the way! 

It was the pat on the back I needed to give myself, because I feel we all often forget to take a moment and reflect and be proud of our achievements – no matter how big or small.  

I’m incredibly grateful of the opportunity and for the support I have received from Production Futures over the years – the work Hannah and her team do is amazing and I can’t wait to see where it goes!  

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

The caterpillar didn’t evolve by staying in the cocoon!!  

Don’t be afraid to spread those wings, get inquisitive, learn the importance of growth and never assume that you’re done with learning. 

Our industry is ever evolving, which means we have to stay ahead. 

And most importantly – have fun, and if it’s not fun – find your fun – life is far too short!!  

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

Now, that would be telling… 

You’ll have to watch this space! 

But I will always be an advocate for Production Futures. 

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