Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary?
I chose to study at Queen Mary for a number of different reasons. Its location is a huge ‘selling point’ particularly as I study Drama; being in London has been extremely advantageous to my studies and the wealth of different performance work that I have had the opportunity to see has undoubtedly enriched both my academic work and also me as a person. I was impressed by Queen Mary’s facilities and when I attended the ‘Open Day’ the lecturers’ knowledge and enthusiasm of their area of expertise was evident. Queen Mary is currently ranked as the best university for Drama and Dance on the Guardian’s prestigious university league table with an overall score of 100/100. This was a very influential factor for me as my degree will be highly regarded within the industry that I ultimately want to work within and the university are constantly striving for the highest possible standards in order to maintain their fantastic reputation.
What has been the highlight of your time at Queen Mary so far?
It is impossible for me to pinpoint one sole highlight of my time at Queen Mary. I have been able to easily visit places such as The National Theatre; attend cabaret shows; collaborate with professional arts organisations such as Cardboard Citizens; and continuously experience new and upcoming performance work. I have had some incredible nights out with my friends in Shoreditch, Covent Garden and Clapham. My modules have been engrossing and enjoyable, from establishing and running a hypothetical arts organisation in Managing Theatre, to delving into the history of one of our country’s most famous theatres in Performance and History. From start to finish, the past three years has been incredible, and an experience I would urge anyone to undertake.
How have you found life on campus?
Life on campus is a huge part of the ‘university experience’ and has really enhanced my time at Queen Mary. The atmosphere on campus is warm and friendly, with the other students always making you feel welcome. I made some great friends almost immediately and we take full advantage of the amenities on campus from attending a gym class together to having lunch in the Student Union ‘Drapers’. The general atmosphere on campus is perfect to flourish in; there is the opportunity to engage in activities which promote fun and relaxation, but also services dedicated to supporting your studies and further learning. Although leaving home and moving to University can be seen as a daunting prospect, I found that it really helped me to gain my independence and become my own person. With the help of the friends I have made, and the supportive yet liberating atmosphere on campus, I feel as though I have grown as a person and am more prepared for ‘the real world’.
What has surprised you most about your course?
I have been surprised most by the variety of different modules available on my Drama degree. The course allows exploration of the field through performance and theoretical based modules which encourage students to look at what drama is/does/looks like with as broad a mind set as possible. This diversity has demonstrated to me the multidisciplinary nature of the field and how it links and informs many other areas that I had not previously considered before studying drama at university, from the use of drama in the therapeutic field, to the study of drama as a societal barometer. We are encouraged to bring our own opinions and enquiries to the modules, and these can in turn shape the way that the group looks at a certain area, with students and lecturers working hand in hand to reach a further understanding.
Which of the modules that you've studied so far has been your favourite, and why?
In my last year I took a module called Applied Theatre which was definitely my favourite. As part of this module I was given the opportunity to undertake a placement working with an applied arts organisation. This experience was invaluable to me; it has given me a taste of just what it is like to work within this field; it has provided me with the opportunity to build connections within the industry which potentially will aid my progression into employment (something which I feel is particularly important in the current economic climate) and it has given me the chance to apply the skills and knowledge that I have gained during my time at Queen Mary into a real life work setting. This opportunity confirmed to me why I chose to study Drama in such a vibrant city as London and just how enriching my time at Queen Mary has been.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary?
A lot of reasons. I first fell in love with the campus, situated in its own little bubble along a canal within central London, one of the most vibrant cities in the UK. Academically, Queen Mary also performed well in research as well as teaching and it had an intriguing history. On top of this, it's a constituent college of the University of London which not only adds reassurance to the quality of my resulting degree, but also means I have access to many top quality facilities.
What has been the highlight of your time at Queen Mary so far?
Student societies. My course itself is stimulating and challenging, however the Theatre Company, of which I am a member, has allowed me to perform many different types of shows and has even led me to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which was an experience I will continue to carry with me.
How have you found life on campus?
Campus facilities are great at Queen Mary. It feels like a community - a safe village within the big city. As well as this, all the facilities are relatively near to one another, including the teaching facilities, library, student union bar, and the new student union hub. The most exciting prospects are, unusually, the more historic bits including the newly refurbished People's Palace which contains one of the biggest theatres in the East End of London which I am hoping to see being put to active use.
What has surprised you most about your course?
The depth and varied nature of the education. Queen Mary encourages you in both Drama and English to explore and research topics which you thought you already knew about. It suggests that you look at certain topics a different way, whether it would be with performance art's role in the wider theatre context in Drama or modernism's influence on current day realist texts in English.
Which of the modules that you've studied so far has been your favourite, and why?
The module 'Shakespeare' in first year English. As a joint honours English and Drama student, this was the perfect 'bridge' subject which allowed me to academically study the historical context of Shakespeare's plays and the effect that the particulars of the language had on the plot. However, unlike most academic Shakespeare teachings, it didn't forget the texts' roots as plays, as the module also involved watching a performance at the Shakespeare Globe theatre and later involved a workshop with the theatre's staff which entailed performing on the Globe's stage - in the sun.
After my relaxed and funny interview with a lecturer, I felt that Queen Mary offered an academic environment full of scholars and theatre practitioners who specialised in niche corners of the performing arts. Whilst living in Brighton I had become interested in fringe performance, cabaret, and alternative arts, and this department explores these facets of the creative economy as well as more mainstream West-End productions. Also, my mother was very happy that Queen Mary had finally tempted me back to my home town, London.
I am not one of life's joiner-inners, I try to stay under the radar. However Queen Mary seems to be a twister that sucks you in. In weeks I can transform from under the duvet hermit to an extra curricular queen. This term I am part of The Vagina Monologues, performed by one of the many university theatre companies, QMEquailty. I'm looking forward to our performance and being part of this production has spurred me to seek out voluntary work at a women's refuge.
I came into first year aged 21, and was apprehensive about being in halls, considering that for some this was their first time out of home. However, the years between me and some of my peers melted as freshers got under way. It's amazing to get an authentic campus experience whilst being in the centre of the capital. Being used to my independence, this suited me well. Luckily East London has more affordable housing when compared to other parts of the city, for second year we are living in Stepney Green. We don't feel like we have left Campus at all. Many of my friends at other London universities are not as fortunate.
Just how much the Drama department wants you to be interested. In first year I sent a terse email to my lecturer complaining about my lack of enthusiasm for a module. The next day they had emailed me back with at least three sides of information they thought I would find interesting in relation to the module. I was surprised at how detailed and just how tailored to my curiosities it was. I had been in university four weeks. This is just one example of a member of the department giving their time and expertise without hesitation. I really don't take advantage of this enough, but I know I just have to ask.
If you are fan of rabble rousing and civil disobedience, the first year module: Interventions gives students a wonderful opportunity to creatively intervene in public spaces. With artist speakers like The Vacuum Cleaner, we got to know the relationship between art and activism. Our group had a great time trying to make people smile on the tube (a harder job than we first thought!) and performing our practical essay. Most of the modules offered involve creating practical work or academic essays. I have always shown an interest in theatre design and fine arts, so the second year module Costume Drama: The Past Performed gave me the opportunity to gain a grade with the weapon of watercolours. If you have an interest in period drama, the meaning which clothes have socially, and what impact this has when they are used on stage, this module is just wonderful. Unluckily for me I missed out on the new technical theatre modules - Staging The Image and Action Design - however I am allowed to attend these modules if I want, I just won't be graded on them.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary?
From doing some extensive research about Queen Mary College, I knew that it was perfect for me; the only campus university in London - practically guaranteeing a buzzing social life - and the best university for my course, Drama. Queen Mary not only has an immaculate teaching staff, but so many available academic resources for when I need to do my own research. The people and possibilities seemed widely diverse, and Queen Mary appear to take a fresh approach to education.
My highlight at Queen Mary so far consists of my participation in a number of plays, not only on my course, but also part of the Queen Mary Theatre Company and Players. I also enjoy occupying the role of Drama Course Representative - knowing that I can structure the course positively in response to feedback from my fellow peers.
Life on campus is exciting! Constantly evolving, with fresh opportunities arising all the time. The proximity between everything is wonderful too; with the local Italian restaurant being across the square from the library. So I eat pizza while dreaming of study...
The most surprising thing about my course is the overwhelming balance between independence and support. We are always encouraged to do our own reading and research, but the amount of office hours provided by our mentors to take our questions is so convenient and encouraging. The Drama facilities are amazing as well, containing a wide range of rehearsal spaces and an adaptable black box theatre; The Pinter.
Which of the modules that you've studied so far has been your favourite?
My favourite module at the moment would have to be Writing Now; focusing on literature published within the last three years, we learn about the modern tropes of writing, while learning to develop our own reading lists. Students are also able to cultivate an idea as to how to write the modern novel, through surrounding ourselves with contemporary texts.
I chose Queen Mary because I knew it was going to be somewhere where I would experience new things unlike anywhere else and it's surrounded by the East End of London where incredibly exciting and innovative art is being created right now which I definitely wanted to be a part of.
There really has been so many because of the way the course tutors point you to work you should see all the time but if I were to pick one, it would definitely be getting the opportunity to have one to one sessions and perform to some of the artists and playwrights I have studied during my time at university such as Mark Ravenhill, Martin Crimp, and many more.
Life on campus has included some of the best nights of my life; because the accommodation is put together like a student village, it really does build a community and meeting new friends is almost unavoidable. You go out together, you come home together and for those lazy days, the fact that there's a shop on campus, you barely have to move a muscle!
For me, it has been how helpful and insightful the course tutors have been. I couldn't ever have imagined having a cup of tea and discussing essay plans and practical techniques with any tutor at college or school. They really do care about your degree and ensure you get the most out of it and most often sit there waiting for you to knock on their door!
Without a doubt, it has to be a third year module called Madness & Theatricality. The subject matter was so interesting, I found myself going out of my way to do the suggested readings just for my own personal gain! The aspect I particularly enjoyed is the way the module reads into historical research and deploys it into practice-based workshops.
How has Queen Mary prepared you for life after university?
Queen Mary really helped me craft my own degree to give me the most insight and practical experience so I would be able to explore my craft in the Performing Arts industry and even further afield. In terms of progressing to acting school, it really has allowed me to gain the theories into my performances. And aside from my degree itself, the media outlets available at Queen Mary such as student radio, gave me the experience to get outside of campus and really take the opportunities available in London.
I decided to choose Queen Mary because of its course flexibility (I take Joint-Honours English and Drama) which allows me to structure my course in the 2nd and 3rd year according to my interests. I also liked the balance promised by Queen Mary with regards to learning theory and making practice, and how the university constantly pushes its students to work with the two in a constructive manner.
My highlight of my time at Queen Mary would have been my first semester and performances both within the modules, and as part of the Queen Mary Theatre Company. In just one semester last year, I ran tech for a full-length play, performed in an ensemble performance of Bryony Lavery's 'It Snows', and made a Bunraku-styled puppet performance for the module Making Theatre Work.
Campus life has been exciting, friendly, and amazing. Queen Mary is known for its diversity not just in terms of demographics but also in terms of its students' interests and activities. The students constantly engage in events and projects outside of their curriculum and this makes Queen Mary a really special place to be.
Though I did expect university to be challenging and difficult, my course surprised me the most with its engagement with its students. The modules that I have taken often push its students to develop themselves to create, adapt, and adopt methodology which they can then frame their personal styles around. The teaching staff and student culture here help a lot in creating an atmosphere where students are given support and courage to develop themselves in the way that best suits them.
My favourite module so far has been Costume Drama. The module engages with costumes in period dramas as well as in other mediums such as theatre performances and museums in an interesting and exciting manner. The portfolio assignment was extremely fun and rewarding to make as we each became mini-experts in a particular type or period of costume and then had the opportunity to design for the stage as well.
Katharine is currently a Project Manager at Phakama, a resident arts organisation at Queen Mary
When did you graduate, and what was your final-year undergraduate research project on?
I graduated from Queen Mary with a BA in Drama in June 2012. In my final year of university, I chose to incorporate my interest in Latin America with my research project, titled ‘Translating Shakespeare for a Spanish-Speaking audience: A case study from contemporary Argentina’. It examined the challenges of translating Shakespeare into Spanish for the stage and the ways it can be can interpreted in international contexts, specifically Argentina.
Originally, I had wanted to study History and French, but was persuaded otherwise on reading about the Drama programme at QMUL, and the opportunities it offered to further my experience in theatre and prepare me for a future career in the arts, which was my ultimate aim. The lure of London and the sheer quantity and diversity of opportunities and theatre on offer cemented my decision. The location of the campus in East London truly enriches the university experience for young people studying Drama, exposing them to a wealth of arts practices that undoubtedly influence and inform their artistic and academic development.
What was the highlight of your time at Queen Mary?
Although first and second year provided a solid and varied framework with which to explore my interests in the different aspects of Drama, it was my final year that I found the most fruitful, challenging and rewarding. I relished the vast scope for creativity and structured practical modules such as Managing Theatre, in which I and four other students launched a new theatre company, Wasteland. It was the module Applied Performance however that proved to be the most eye-opening module, demonstrating to me the social impact of the arts across different groups, and allowed me the opportunity to do a placement with Project Phakama UK, the youth arts organisation I now work for on a full time basis.
What have you been doing since graduating, and how did studying at Queen Mary prepare you for it?
On graduating from QMUL I took up the position of Project Manager at Phakama, an arts organisation in residence at Queen Mary. During this past year I have been managing Spotlight- a year long training programme in the creative and cultural industries for 18-24 year olds not in employment, education or training. It has been very inspiring to work with a theatre company producing such a high calibre of creative performance through shared experiences, and that does so democratically. It has also allowed me to retain strong links with the Drama department at QMUL, with whom in June 2013 we co-produced the Spotlight Symposium. The symposium ‘How to Feed Creativity’ looked at youth employment in the arts and the ways in which young people can access opportunities in the arts, and what we can do collectively to combat the obstacles young people might face when trying to enter this notoriously competitive industry. My time at QMUL proved to be an invaluable experience that, particularly in my final year encouraged more practice based research which continues to inform my current work at Project Phakama.
Rebecca secured a place in the BBC production Talent Pool and since graduating she has worked as a Production Management Assistant and Personal Assistant to an Executive Producer in the BBC's Factual, History Department
I studied English & Drama and graduated in July 2012. My final year dissertation was a research project on mental health and performance, focusing particularly on the work of performance artist Bobby Baker.
The interview and open day I attended really made up my mind. The staff were lively and engaging, and the interview was challenging in a good way. The students who showed me around were lovely and helpful - I could tell they really enjoyed life at Queen Mary. Both the English and Drama departments offered an amazing variety of module choices: from more traditional modules like Shakespeare, Modernism or Chaucer, to the more experimental avant-garde, performance art and visual culture ones - so there was no doubt I would find modules that I liked. I chose a mixture of both and really enjoyed them all. It’s a cheesy thing to say but I can’t imagine having studied anywhere else and have never regretted my decision!
Many of my best memories come from my experiences with societies, sports clubs, volunteering and my part-time job working for the Student’s Union cafe on campus. I highly recommend new students to get involved with societies, sports and the Student’s Union in general. It’s a great way to make friends, build up your skills and enjoy your time between lectures. If I was pushed for a specific answer... winning QM society of the year, becoming cheerleading national grand champs and meeting royalty (Princess Anne opened the new Arts Building) are probably in my top three highlights though!
How did you find life on campus and in London?
I really enjoyed it. My halls were great and the East End of London is such an interesting place to live; there’s a lot of creative stuff going on so it’s a really fun place to be at the moment. And of course being so near to central London makes it a dream location for English and Drama students – there are so many arts venues and theatres, as well as endless opportunities to find relevant part-time jobs, internships or volunteer alongside your studies. For example I stewarded at Shakespeare’s Globe, helped run the Theatre Company, performed at Edinburgh Fringe, was a course ambassador and performed in the Olympic Ceremonies – all of which were relevant to my degree, boosted my CV and allowed me to meet lots of interesting and creative people. There's a huge diversity of opportunities for English and Drama students in London; it’s really the perfect place to be.
Just before graduating, and after a 4-month rigorous application and interview process, I secured a place on the BBC Production Talent Pool: a scheme that hires 100 people around the country and fast-tracks them into entry-level jobs in BBC Television and Radio production. I’ve been a Production Management Assistant and Personal Assistant to an Executive Producer in the London Factual, History Department for 8 months now and am really enjoying it. I’ve already been on two research and filming trips abroad and am currently working on a feature-length film that will be shown on BBC One later this year.
Studying at Queen Mary helped to prepare me in lots of ways; in fact the only reason I found out about the BBC talent pool was because the manager of the scheme came and did a talk at QM! During my three years at uni I went to lots of career events organised by QM and the University of London Careers Group: everything from networking events with people in the media, to interview and presentation skills workshops. Along with improved writing and communication skills developed throughout my degree, the career workshops helped improve my confidence when it came down to applications and interviews in particular. I also volunteered for the charity Nightline (whom QMSU supports), working 14-hour overnight shifts every few weeks. The extensive training I received for that role was invaluable and I use the skills I acquired from it every single day; I’d highly recommend volunteering for Nightline, or one of the many other charities based in London or on campus.
However, it was being part of the Queen Mary Theatre Company (QMTC) though that was the most enlightening and rewarding experience. Every year QMTC takes 30 students cast in 4 student-written and directed plays to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as hosting 3 sold-out drama festivals and 30 plays throughout the year. I was lucky enough to be elected co-president in my final year which was such a fantastic learning curve and an amazing opportunity to organise these festivals, as well as make links with local East-end art venues, engage with other societies and be in charge of the budgeting/admin side of things - something I had never done before, and something that has become very useful for my current job.
Rebecca completed her MA in Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary and subsequently co-founded, with four other Queen Mary alumni, the theatre company Figs in Wigs
When did you graduate, and what were your final-year undergraduate research project and MA dissertation on?
I graduated from the BA in Drama in July 2011 and went straight on to do the MA in Theatre and Performance, which I completed in September 2012. My BA final year research project explored the phenomenology (big word) of sound walks – a practice in which the audience member listens to a recorded soundtrack on headphones while walking a specific route. In my MA dissertation I further pursued my interest in sound by looking at the relationship between voice and text and questioning how words do things. Alongside this my practical work mainly involved fruit, sequins and 80’s power ballads.
I originally picked Queen Mary as an option after someone recommended the Drama degree to me. Its location was also a key selling point, being in London but also being a campus you get the best of both worlds. However, for me, it was when I visited the university that I suddenly realised this was where I wanted to be. It was down to the attitudes of both the staff and students who greeted and spoke to me on the Open Day. They were as excited about the course as I was about picking my destination. They were welcoming, interested and, perhaps most importantly, honest in their descriptions of their experiences at Queen Mary. Ultimately, institutes are just reflections of the people who go there, and, having met some of the best friends and most intelligent people I could ever have imagined, Queen Mary is certainly equal to the sum of its parts.
It’s hard to pick just one highlight of my time at Queen Mary. However I did have a lot of hilarious experiences when carrying numerous set and props down Mile End Road to the University campus for use in different performances. These included a cake trolley, a wheelchair, an enamel bath (rescued from a squat), a fridge freezer, the skeleton of an upright piano and a homemade coffin. The latter produced a lot of strange looks. In terms of the courses my favourites were, in no particular order, Offstage London, Beyond Acting, Independent Practical Project and Making Contemporary Performance.
Campus life was fantastic. It’s great being by Regent’s Canal where you can walk up to Victoria Park in the summer. London can be daunting at first and it is expensive, especially travel, but I think the culture and opportunities available in the capital far outweigh the extra cost for living here. Being able to see performance regularly is a must when studying drama. If you’re concerned about money remember, a lot of theatres operate a pay-what-you-can scheme and all the museums and galleries are free. If you’re still worried, get a bike. It’s the cheapest and quickest way to travel. Wear a helmet though. And be aware that all London drivers hate cyclists.
Since graduating I have started my own theatre company with four other girls I met at Queen Mary (we’re called Figs in Wigs and are available for public events, private parties, weddings and bah mitzvahs: www.figsinwigs.com). We’ve recently got Arts Council Funding and have performed at venues such as The Roundhouse, The ICA, and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Queen Mary opened my mind artistically to what performance can be, what it can mean and what it can do. Personally I believe the only thing that can prepare you for life after graduation is you, your hopes, desires and also hard work. However Queen Mary made my preparation so much easier by providing creative inspiration, emotional support and pushing me to go further than I thought possible. The local Wetherspoons is also great.
Since graduating, Liam has completed an MA in Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary, and has worked as a technical manager at Chessington World of Adventures. As of September 2013, he will be a teacher and technician in an independent school just outside London.
When did you graduate from the BA programme, and what was your final-year undergraduate research project on?
I graduated in 2010, with a First. My written research project was on the history and future of the People's Palace, the building/institution that grew to become Queen Mary. It was a really interesting project because I was able to do a lot of first hand research in the QMUL archives, and in others throughout London.
When I came to the interview day I felt the environment, staff and students were really friendly and welcoming. Plus the Pinter Studio has an amazing technical rig that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on!
The performance module ‘Staging the Screen’ in the first semester of my final year. We created a really ambitious piece that had around 30 screens and was performed simultaneously across 3 spaces using all 12 of us as actors. By that point we all knew each other really well and it was a great experience led by dedicated and interesting lecturers.
Queen Mary offered the perfect balance between and campus and city university. I loved the area, and being able to live so close to my seminars. (Especially when you have to move out of halls for the 2nd and 3rd years). The campus is really lively and there is always lots to do. It’s also really pretty, especially by the canal in the summer!
After completing the BA, I took the MA in Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary. Straight after the MA I started working as the technical manager of the Entertainment department at Chessington World of Adventures. Many of the practical courses helped with the production elements but I was surprised that I was bringing in a lot of the theory elements to shape the ‘guest experience’ and increase satisfaction.
In September I’m about to take on my next challenge as a teacher and technician at an independent school just outside London. I’m going to be bringing some elements of the courses I was taught during my time at QM to the students as I get to design my own schemes of work.