Interview by Lyla Johnston

“Find value in the work you do”: Sadler’s Wells’ digital and content coordinator, Angharad Mainwaring

With a passion for the performing arts, Angharad Mainwaring initially joined Sadler’s Wells as an apprentice in 2019. Now a full-time digital and content co-ordinator at the London-based performing arts venue, she’s since helped to create engaging digital content, underpinned by the belief that “accessibility should never be an afterthought”. Having been diagnosed with a chronic illness, Angharad has also had to face both physical and mental challenges while working – though she credits the pandemic for making these challenges less stigmatised. Here, we speak with Angharad about learning on the job and finding value in tasks, no matter how small.

Angharad Mainwaring

Angharad Mainwaring


Job Title

Digital and Content Coordinator, Sadler’s Wells

Based

London

Previous Employment

Bar staff and performing arts teaching assistant

Social Media

Instagram

What I do

How would you describe what you do? And specifically what you do at Sadler’s Wells?
My role sits within the digital team, while also providing assistance to the content team. I help support artists and colleagues to make and share digital experiences for audiences and participants. That could be through maintaining the Sadler’s Wells website, offering digital solutions or helping to create in-house digital content. A lot of the work my team does is driven by evidence, so I use a variety of digital tools and analytic dashboards to create reports for both colleagues and stakeholders.

What recent project at Sadler’s Wells are you most proud of?
Recently, I got to work with my team on creating an exhibition for choreography photographer Camilla Greenwell, using Google Arts and Culture. I felt really proud of this project because the platform itself felt so new and different for us. It was exciting to explore how dance can be consumed in ways outside of live theatre, which has been so meaningful – especially since we’ve had to close our doors.

I am also super-proud of how many accessible formats were created for this exhibition, including an audio described version, an exhibition catalogue and a large text exhibition guide. I always say that accessibility should never be an afterthought and accessible formats need to be thought about when you start any project. We shouldn’t be telling audiences who need various formats that they are less important than anyone else.

Angharad Mainwaring digital marketer creativelivesinprogress 03

Online exhibition for choreography photographer, Camilla Greenwell on Google Arts and Culture

Angharad Mainwaring digital marketer creativelivesinprogress 05

Online exhibition for choreography photographer, Camilla Greenwell on Google Arts and Culture

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Online exhibition for choreography photographer, Camilla Greenwell on Google Arts and Culture

“Accessibility should never be an afterthought. We shouldn’t be telling audiences who need various formats that they are less important.”

What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
Beginning my role as an apprentice before becoming a coordinator meant that I learnt most of my skills on the job from both my manager and training provider – this includes HTML and using a content management system. It’s also good to have an analytical approach to things and be able to understand data. I’m not someone who is great with absorbing numbers, so I really tuned into my visual learning style and turned my work output into a format that I could understand and absorb, like graphs and charts.

What’s great about learning a role in digital is that there are so many great online resources. I’ve done free courses on Google Analytics and Data Studio on Hubspot Academy and YouTube is great for free Adobe tutorials.

However, the most crucial thing for starting my role was that I had a genuine passion for dance and performing arts, and I think the same rule goes for any industry you want to be in.

Screenshot from the image-described guide for Camilla Greenwell’s exhibition, available on Issuu

If you could pick one video (below) to describe what it’s like to work at Sadler’s Wells, what would it be and why?
This whole video (below).

How I got here

How did you land the job?
I found my job listing through Arts Jobs; I knew I wanted to do an apprenticeship so I could get a qualification and earn at the same time. Before working at Sadler’s Wells, I worked with a performing arts school and the director – who has also been my dance teacher since I was six – made me aware of the website. In the creative industry it’s so helpful to network and ask for advice because there are so many resources, like Arts Jobs, that you can learn about just by speaking to people.

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly? 

Sadler’s Wells was my first real “grown-up” job; so it was daunting at first because I had never worked in an office before. I didn’t understand basic norms like kitchen chat or emails or meetings. It’s very different from zero-hour contract jobs where you are used to doing the same routine everyday on your shift. I also started right before a season on-sale, which is a very fast-paced time where a whole batch of shows are getting ready to be announced to the public – I had a lot to learn about dance and the internal processes very quickly.

I did find my feet though because my manager, team and colleagues were all so fantastic and welcoming. My manager especially has been such a great mentor and taught me so many things. It’s an environment where I’m never scared to ask a question at the risk of feeling penalised because I didn’t know something.

Angharad’s desk: “I’ve had to make the best of my desk situation in the midst of moving home.”

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
My three top things are:

YouTube: There is so much free, educational content on there. I can’t count how many times Premiere Pro hasn’t been working for me and I’ve searched my exact query into YouTube and someone has a video walk-through.

The Instagram account @higher_priestess: She creates really informative posts about accessibility and I think it’s meaningful to hear these narratives from disabled people themselves.

Online courses: Through my apprenticeship, I did loads of free online courses. I didn’t go to university so I’m educated up to Level 3 [equivalent to A-Levels] and completing these courses meant I had more to add to my personal portfolio and LinkedIn.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
A few months before I started my job I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and was still recovering from surgery, while also adjusting to a new treatment. I suffered chronic pain, chronic fatigue – all new sensations from my treatment which I had never felt before. I didn’t know what to expect from my body; some days I would be sitting at my desk with a hot water bottle on my front and my back, and my chair laid as far back as possible.

Not only was the physical side challenging enough, but mentally I was so worried about people judging me, or feeling like I was a disappointment if I had to take a sick day. But my team has been so understanding of my chronic conditions, and since the pandemic, I have seen a massive shift in culture towards appreciating people’s personal circumstances.

Whether that be a disability or chronic condition, being a working parent or being in-between living situations. I’m very grateful that, instead of forgetting about all that now we are coming to the other side of this pandemic, it’s become the norm to offer flexibility and be understanding of one another.

“I was so worried about people judging me, or feeling like I was a disappointment if I had to take a sick day.”

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I have learnt to take it more slowly with my creative endeavours and spend more time being thoughtful and practical. I have a tendency to get carried away with my ideas, only to end up with half-completed projects that I got bored of and lots of money out of pocket.

In the last year I have launched my own shop on Etsy, which took a few months to get up and running while balancing my work and personal life. Spending much more time on it meant I could spread the costs, learn the full ins and outs of running a business, and spend time making stock I am proud of.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Early into my apprenticeship, my people manager, who has been extremely supportive, told me to always find the value in the work you do. So if you think a task is meaningless or being handed to you just because you’re the most junior level, ask why the task is meaningful.

Adopting that mindset has been so helpful in feeling important to my organisation. Plus, continually asking questions is always beneficial to further your learning and appreciation for the industry you’re in.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
If you know the industry you want to be in, whether that’s performing arts, hospitality or tourism, take any opportunities you can within that industry. Once you’re in then you’re in; there will be so many opportunities to explore different roles and move throughout the sector until you find what is right for you.

No one ever knows what their dream job is, so taking chances and exploring lots of different things that come your way is the best thing you can do to gain experience and make connections.

Mention Angharad Mainwaring
Interview by Lyla Johnston