Richard is in his 4th year at the University of Leeds, studying MBChB Medicine.
“It’s all about the money, money, money” (that’s a lie, we don’t have any).
This year has been a year of firsts for me! First year on committee, first year in the ‘new’ Riley, first set design and first PM. I decided to hang my metaphorical microphone up this year and explore the other aspects of being in backstage. I started the year from a different perspective, finding myself at the wrong end of the multicore in the band pit for Little Shop of Horror’s as Co-MD with our very own (HRH) Chris Morris. Moving straight from Little Shop, I took up a role as Set Designer for SMS’s production of Cabaret which was a great new challenge! The main lesson learnt from this forage into set building was not to leave your door frames lying around the workshop, or else they will become part of the Union Upgrade… The partition wall between the backstage toilets if you are wondering.
“With back-to-back shows and collaborations with multiple different performance societies, it is more akin to being treasurer of six societies than one! However, being involved in every show is one of the rewards of the role.”
Being the treasurer of Backstage is a unique role in both its challenges and reward. With back-to-back shows and collaborations with multiple different performance societies, it is more akin to being treasurer of six societies than one! However, being involved in every show is one of the rewards of the role. I am continually impressed by the creativity of PMs and designers to create shows of an outstanding production value with very modest budgets. It involves lots of spreadsheets, communication and multitasking. A large portion of the role involves distributing the budgets of each show to the right people at the right time, whether it is paying suppliers or reimbursing members. Maintaining good relations with our regular suppliers (3D and Zig Zag), the activities office and the cash office are also key part of the job. Concurrent shows mean good organisation skills are a must, especially as you need to show societies a breakdown of exactly how their budget was spent.
Because I hadn’t had enough of show finances, I decided to PM one of my favourite shows of the year: Exposé. Some would say that PMing a dance show with very little lighting knowledge is a bold move, and they would be correct. However, I had a fantastic team to work with and the omnipotent (HRH) Chris Morris on hand as a lighting advisor. Exposé offered me one of my stand out moments of the year. Finally being able to use the motorised scenic bars was an exciting opportunity that was fully utilised by designers Sarah Lewis and Richard Wells. The lightboxes looked incredible, and as treasurer the fact they were so cost effective made me happy too (sad, I know). Lessons learnt; 4m goalpost truss structures are heavy and confetti doesn’t sweep up off the seats too well.
“Investing in Backstage is one of the most exciting parts of the role, as it is a chance to bring a real positive change to the society and to offer members the opportunity to try new things…”
In addition to organising the financial aspects of shows, the treasurer looks after Backstage’s own money and is responsible for budgeting the year ahead. This includes budgeting for training sessions, safety qualifications, consumables, and investments. Investing in Backstage is one of the most exciting parts of the role, as it is a chance to bring a real positive change to the society and to offer members the opportunity to try new things, such as using a white cyclorama in lighting design. The highlight for me this year was securing funding for 12 radio microphones, which has really helped to make using higher numbers of radio microphones more affordable for shows. Managing the hire of our equipment, both internally and externally, is very important as it is one of our few sources of revenue.
As an exec member you also pick up lots of other odd jobs that are needed to be done to keep the society going, such sitting on the Theatre Upgrade Group in a bid to make a dent in the Riley ‘snagging’ list. The depth and breadth of these additional jobs are always surprising and the variety keeps the role interesting! At times it has been challenging, and I have learnt a lot whilst in the role, but being treasurer for BSS has been an absolute pleasure.
With our AGM looming, if you have any questions about the role – please come and ask me any questions or drop me a facebook message or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Richard Wells
Posted on 14th March 2017