By George Simmonds, Production and Administration Coordinator, Icon
In January 2022, I applied for an Administration and Production Assistant placement at a theatre and participatory arts charity called Icon, funded by Creative Estuary’s Re:Generation 2031 programme. Since then, I have worked with Icon four days per week, and have been able to contribute to several extraordinary projects and productions – I am incredibly grateful to have been given what has become such a rewarding opportunity.
When I first joined Icon in March 2022, the team was moving on from its first major show since COVID, If Not Now, and had already switched gears to begin working on its upcoming immersive theatre production The Ballad of St John’s Car Park. In those first few weeks, I was able to spend time getting to know more about the organisation’s past work and how much it values the communities and young people that take part in each of its projects and productions, but it was only when I began my work as Assistant Producer on “Ballad” that I really learned how successful and important these collaborations can be. Between taking minutes in every production meeting to drafting contracts for new additions to the creative team, it was an education in multi-tasking, as well as refining my attention to detail and showing me the ambition of everyone involved with the show.
The mixture of professional theatre-makers and performers with local participants was amazing to see, with each person giving everything they had to make the show possible. Not only did my role allow me to grow as a communicator, having to keep each of these parties up to date with their relative schedules, but it put me in the perfect position to see everyone’s commitment to the production. Whether it was in rehearsals or on stage, there was never any divide between the professional artists and the community performers, with everyone seeing the person next to them as their equal. They worked together, sang together and laughed together as they built the production together, which made the cast and crew’s celebrations after each performance all the more rewarding. I can confidently say that Ballad will always be one of the most fulfilling creative endeavours that I have been a part of.
Of course, Ballad wasn’t Icon sole focus over these months. The company’s young people’s programme, Theatre31, had entered its final year and was running what felt like an endless number of events and projects for the children of Medway and Sheppey, many of which I was able to support and capture on camera. Sheppey Shadows was the first of these projects that I assisted on, an audio-drama created by the school children of Sheppey and Applied Stories’ Fin Kennedy. Seeing Fin use his professional experience and knowledge to help those young people bring their ideas to this tale and giving them the opportunity to record dialogue for the characters they’d helped create was simply incredible, both due to how much these students were enjoying themselves and knowing what skills it was allowing them to develop at the same time. Photographing and filming sessions like these meant that I had the chance to not only see how much joy Theatre31’s projects were bringing the young people that were taking part, but also meant that I was able to grow as a videographer and become more adaptable, responding to how each different session played out in order to get the best footage possible.
My time at Icon has been truly eye-opening and instructive, and I can genuinely say that I feel like I have greatly developed as both a creative and administrator. There are many landmark moments from the last year with the company that I could delve into, like how Icon was selected to join Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, or how my role at the organisation changed in the new year, with my title changing to Production and Administration Coordinator. For now, I’m going to continue enjoying my time at Icon and working on all the exciting projects we have planned.