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I went on the Theatre Set Design for Performance short course at Central Saint Martins in July 2018. It was such a wonderful opportunity and one I will be forever thankful to AN Bursary for enabling me to take. As an educator, I find it so rare that I’ve had an opportunity to become a student again, especially in such a creative but unpressured environment. Stepping out of my practice and the anxieties of the studio, and trying on another discipline, was incredibly enriching and has really given me a whole wealth of tools and methodologies that I will absolutely take with me.

Artists block is something I continually struggle with and often my practice involves long stretches when I fill my time with ‘useful’ procrastination; answering emails or obsessively re-tidying my studio. This is (in my better moments) followed by a short sharp period of making, usually in response to an exhibition or commission deadline, but I have very little tools to help me find, record or explore that ‘way in’.

I refer to my practice as extended; I include writing, curating, social engagement and a whole wealth of other outputs when I describe it, and in the considerable drought of making that I have gone through this year, these elements have provided a welcome breaker. However, I am at heart a making kind of person and I’ve increasingly been looking for a way to tie these more practicable activities into the studio work.

The body in relation to objects has always held a particular poignancy for me, and my hope was that by stepping into another discipline, I would findthe tools to develop a way of working that draws from my own family history, as well as the wider contexts of theatre and participation.

Theatre Set Design for Performance promised:

An introduction to the creative process of set design for live performance: site-specific work, theatre, musical or opera. We explore the designer’s vision, creative and practical skills, effective communication and how to develop a critical eye for performance.

You will finish with a combination of practical understanding of the requirements for set design and a portfolio of project work reflecting the designer’s creative process.

Project work will include:

  • analysing a script, libretto or synopsis to establish a scenic breakdown
  • historical research
  • 2D and 3D creative interpretation and concept development,
  • storyboarding and the scaled 3D model
  • roles and responsibilities in pre-production and in production

The course did not disappoint: although in practice it has taken me a while to start assimilating the methods I was shown during this week, I’m still incredibly excited by the potential they have as a tool for visualising my thinking and drawing together the different strands of my extended practice.