Meet the Team – Laura Keeling

14 September, 2021

ICTheatre has some of the best faculty at it’s heart, student blogger, Charley Morgan is here to introduce you to some of them.

Next up from ICTheatre Manchester we have Laura Keeling, Manchester’s Head of Events & Guests, Industry Liaison & Admissions – basically she’s sort of a superwoman…

Laura started working with ICTheatre in 2019 alongside Manchester college principal Paul Ryder to bring ICTheatre Manchester to life.

She also Liaises with colleges in the Northern area that may have students wanting to join ICTheatre; organising workshops with them and finding people who want to be involved with the school.

“I love that part of the job. Going to meet potential students and getting a great reaction to the way we’re running things.”

“There is a lack of HE performing arts colleges in the North, so I get a great reception in these workshops and a lot of people are super excited about what we’re doing. Plus meeting our future students is amazing.”

Laura also organises all of the events for the school.
“This is fun because it’s quite creative! Of course, I organise our masterclasses and options, but I also get to organise events for our students.”

“When we were in lockdown, I organised Zoom events and things to keep the students engaged and happy – we want everyone to feel at home here, no matter what the situation looks like.”

“When we couldn’t have any freshers events, we gave everyone a little drink to enjoy safely; in lockdown, we sent out colouring packs as a new hobby to try. We want our students to feel like they’re being cared for when they’re away from home.”

Lastly, Laura also manages all of Manchester’s industry liaison – reaching out to professionals and creatives within our industry, so our students can start to form the connections they’ll need when they graduate.

Laura may work in our office, but she’s always had an interest in performance – including a stint as a professional singer.

“I totally went through the ranks – I wanted to perform from the age of seven! I went to Arts Ed in London and did my three-year formal training. On the day that I graduated, I signed a record deal with Mercury Records.”

“I was in a girl band called Kick Angel for two years, which was an amazing experience. It was at the height of the girl band era, so we had a tour manager and went on MTV, did a national tour – the whole shebang.”

“Unfortunately girl bands sort of fizzled out, so we didn’t carry on – and for a while, I felt quite burned by that. But it was all a good learning experience that I can pass on now.”

After that, Mia and I (that’s Mia Bird, Creative Director and Founder of ICTheatre – also Laura’s sister!) both opened our own performing arts schools, which eventually led to me joining ICTheatre.

So it’s been a journey, but I feel like I’ve done a bit of everything, and I can now pass on a lot of first-hand knowledge of the industry, of training, teaching and from an administrative perspective too.”

Such an amazing career – I never knew Laura was in a girl band! With so much amazing experience under her belt, Laura is bound to have some good advice for us.

“What I wish I could go back and tell myself, and what I can pass on to our students – is to just live every day; don’t waste a second of it.”

“Don’t get wound up in feeling like you’re not the best or that you’re not good enough, or worrying about the future. I think when you’re training, you worry so much about what’s going on day to day, that you forget the bigger picture.”

“Our students are now in what were the best years of my life, so don’t waste any of it.”

Very wise words – some that I think everyone needs to hear at the start of their training.

Time for those questions that give us an insight into the people behind the tutor, starting with my favourite one – what’s your perfect way to spend a Sunday?

“Oh, I’m gonna be really boring. The way I’ve been brought up, it’s all about Sunday dinner – whether that’s cooking Sunday dinner or going to the pub for one.”

“Let’s say cooking Sunday dinner, listening to Elaine Paige on Radio 2. Perhaps FaceTiming some of my family while I’m cooking. We usually have music on, dancing around the kitchen with the kids.”

“Then we’ll sit down and have Sunday dinner, play a board game with the kids and then watch a movie. I’m a mum of three, so with work and kids activities, Sundays are all about family time.”

Sounds like the perfect day – now I’m craving a roast dinner…

We moved on to talk about Laura’s favourite thing about working at ICTheatre.

“Getting falafels on a Wednesday – they’re amazing, I’ve never had anything like it! Only joking…sort of.”

“I love seeing students go from workshops at college, to then entering on the first day. Then watching their progression from there.”

“I think watching this journey is what I love the most – although we haven’t got to our first Manchester graduation yet, even the progression the students have made in a year is incredible.”

“Plus the team I work with are brilliant. We’ve progressed from just myself and Paul to nearly 11 people in the office, which is so exciting.”

“I also love being in Manchester, it’s a brilliant city!”

“I lived in London for 12 years, and then moved back to Stoke on Trent for 10, so I missed the city,  it’s nice working in such a cool one now.”

As always, I had to ask Laura for her advice for getting the most out of training at ICTheatre.

“I’ve got a few. Firstly, the students that really shine through to a tutor are the ones that go home and do the work, go the extra mile – you will not believe how much it speeds up your development.”

“So make sure you put the work in when you can. Secondly; just be nice to everyone. Don’t be rude, don’t be difficult – just be nice to everyone.

“Always look for the good in people.”

“My mum always used to say to me ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’ and that really helps me when I’m feeling stuck – so hopefully it can help our students too.”

What a genuinely lovely interview, with a genuinely lovely person! You know you’re in safe hands when Laura is in control – Manchester, you’re a lucky bunch.

Thank you to Laura for speaking with me. If everything Laura has to bring to the table sounds amazing? Discover more about #ICTheatreManchester here.


 

Author: Charley Morgan, ICTheatre Graduate 2020

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Institute for Contemporary Theatre