Our new Trainee Arts Administrator describes her few months at Extant, and the effects of moving from participant to professional.

Lucy Hayward writes: In October 2014 I started in position as Extant’s Trainee Arts Administrator. This is a part-time role which requires the applicant to be unemployed and either blind or partially sighted. It is part of RNIB’s Extending The Reach (EtR) Programme which works to provide unemployed blind and partially sighted people with work experience opportunities.

Since being diagnosed with Macular Degeneration employment has become very difficult for me, I am an honest person but when I state that I am partially blind employers tend to become less interested in employing me. Employers are new to the idea of employing a blind or partially sighted person and unaware of the support available and how once this is in place not much more needs to be done. When I saw this potion advertised with Extant (the only visually impaired performing arts company in the UK) I knew I could not pass this opportunity up.

Having never worked in an office before I became quite nervous about starting and not being the person that they were expecting to employ. Though on my first day I walked in the office, shown to my desk which had my computer on it (ZoomText included), talked through what would be happening that day, asked if there was anything I needed other people in the office to take into account, given a cup of herbal tea and felt completely at ease.

Since then I have become responsible for communicating with Extant followers and providing relevant information via social media, email and phone calls, updating and developing various databases and keeping track of everyone in the office and how I can provide extra support when needed. It has been a steady learning curve for me, I am becoming more confident in the work I am producing, more organised and after the introduction period am starting to understand why there are certain processes for particular tasks and how effective they are.

Being part of the RNIB outreach scheme, every few months RNIB check up on me and how I am progressing. At first the idea of this meeting was nerve-wracking but it is also an opportunity to see how Extant are working with me and after I have left, whether it would be a good place for another trainee to take up position. I found this really useful . They are looking at how I respond to the tasks set and if I bring new ideas to the table whether that can boost the next person’s experience. Due to this I started to understand how useful it is for me to log everything I do, ensure that I make notes so that they will have detailed instructions for the next person in this position. This has in turn helped me gain more confidence in my organisation and helping me focus on what I want to achieve in the future. I was asked about my commute-I travel from Birmingham to London three days a week. The position is part-time so I only have to do it three days a week and the staff at Euston station have been brilliant, helping me find the right train.  The inaccurate information provided by transport for London (buses) has made the journey more tiring but I have found a bus that takes me directly from Euston to the Extant office. It is a 2 and half hour commute each way but opportunities like this are worth travelling for.

Now, I am feeling confident. Considered part of the Extant team, I am able to discuss with visitors to the office and people outside, about Extant, how we are working towards understanding and acceptance of blind and partially sighted people in theatre and how these people can help us reach that goal. I am able to provide my opinion and direct experience as a partially blind person in the office knowing that it will be valued and appreciated. I have been given the opportunity to work in a supportive role on an Extant project and am very excited to have met the team and be working at Extant for our forthcoming project, Flatland. Check out @extantltd for exciting news in 2015

Lucy's role is supported by Unlimited Impact; supporting artists and venues to celebrate the work of disabled artists, funded by Spirit of 2012.

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