The importance of making time for learning 

One of the reasons why I joined Extant was to expand my knowledge and grow my practice in theatre and accessibility, and since I joined 8 months ago as Administrator and Project Coordinator, I have certainly been doing that!  

The staff team at Extant each have access to a training budget, which is used to develop our skillset individually within our role, alongside ringfenced budgets for full staff training sessions. 

Whilst working at Extant, I have had the opportunity to undertake a free FutureLearn training course on Creating Audio Description: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, attended online Skillshare sessions at Kings Head Theatre, was a fly on the wall at our VIAT training led by our first TAD (Ben Wilson) and a Brand Values workshop led by Julia Mazorodze, one of Extant’s board members. I’ve found it invaluable to, even within my varied and busy day, to stop and think about my own learning whilst prioritising and applying that learning within context.  

For example, part of my role involves running Extant’s socials, so the FutureLearn course on audio description has really developed my understanding of writing image descriptions. I’ve learnt that as the world (and technology) shifts and changes, it’s important that audio description does too. Ensuring representation within description (including people’s ethnicity, gender and disabilities) means that visually impaired people have greater access to the world when a description is provided. Failing to use ALT on social media platforms means you’re blocking an entire community’s access to something important. Every social media post from Extant that I’ve written, ALT is always present to ensure everyone can read the post. This also means that when Extant are tagged in posts without ALT, we won’t share, because posts such as those, can’t be read by everyone.  

Another part of my role is to coordinate Extant Theatre Club trips, and all the shows we see are either audio described or are Enhanced. The FutureLearn course further aided my understanding of an audio describers’ role and audio described shows within theatre. I learnt that not only having an audio described show makes it more accessible for VI audiences, but providing self-descriptions, allows for greater connections with identity. If self-descriptions are not provided, VI people may default to heteronormative, white representations, therefore by using self-descriptions it enables accurate representation and a better understanding of other’s identities. 

It was also important for me to learn about ‘agency over one’s own self-description’ so checking in with the people that you are describing, being mindful, not writing descriptions that are full of microaggressions and of course – being concise (I’m still working on the concise aspect). After completing the course, I certainly don’t envy an audio describers job, but I can still apply the knowledge learnt to create accessible social media content and to take ETC members on fantastic theatre trips!  

As part of the SkillShare workshops at Kings Head Theatre, these sessions have allowed my theatre practice to develop that little bit further and to consolidate my current knowledge. From workshops on PR and writing press releases to understanding and managing budgets. What’s nice about the Zoom sessions is that artists, administrators and producers can come together, listen, learn, ask questions and it’s really relaxed. Our Extant Connect sessions also have a similar vibe.  

I have always enjoyed roles which challenge me, but also provide an opportunity to learn new ideas. At Extant I’ve been able to learn on the job too, gaining a greater understanding of communications, marketing, board governance and accessibility. Areas like these have been training sessions in themselves! By throwing myself into tasks, even when they have felt unknown, it has meant that I have developed unexpected skills.  

So even when we are packed with pressurised tasks and to-do lists coming out of our ears, it’s still vital to make time for learning and training, because otherwise, how will we develop? I know I certainly have.  

Ellen Jupp, Administrator and Project Coordinator, May 2024  

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