Nathan : The Diary of an Awesome Work Placement Hero

August 2, 2019

We have had the absolute pleasure of welcoming local student Nathan to the Polka Team this fortnight. Sadly, it’s time for him to go and enjoy his summer holiday (sob for us) but he’s left us an awesome blog to give you a sneak peek into what he’s been up to.   

For the first week of my work placement with Polka Theatre,  Marketing Officer  Carla Kingham took me under her wings and showed me the ropes. Early in the week I was taught how to use various digital programmes that are widely used in marketing across the theatre industry.

First up- Hootsuite, used to schedule social media posts across different platforms so that they can be planned in advance and will be sent as scheduled, eliminating the need to actively send each post across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in ‘real time’. I was shown how to create a plan for an organization’s social media scheduling, considering factors such as ‘P.S. posts’ (where there is an exchange between two groups and each agree to make a post on behalf of the other, to reach a wider total social media following). I was also advised on which times of the day would be most useful for different types of posts, such as scheduling twitter posts for the early afternoon when parents and carers are waiting to pick their children up from school and could be scrolling through their Twitter feed as they wait.  

Canva was the next digital programme Carla taught me how to use. Using this digital design software, I was tasked with creating posters to be used to advertise Polka Theatre’s upcoming weekend events in Morden Hall Park. Once I had completed these designs, I travelled to Morden Hall Park where I was given a tour of Polka Theatre’s exhibition there and where I dropped off the printed posters. I learnt about ‘in situ’ social media posting once in Morden Hall Park, which gaps had been allocated within the week’s social media scheduling to account for. More specifically, I created my first ‘Insta Story’ on Instagram, about the Polka exhibition. 

One of the highlights of the week was when I was allowed to create the next ‘edition’ of the much-anticipated Polka Picks. After reviewing the entirety of the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe family show catalogue, I selected five ‘Polka Picks’ which I felt best represented Polka’s ethos and the Polka audience following their social media would be eager to see. After a quick refresher on the social media scheduling programme Hootsuite, I scheduled the relevant Twitter posts about this edition of ‘Polka Picks’ and later in the day I saw them sent out from the official Polka Theatre Twitter feed to over seventeen and half thousand followers. It was wonderful to see the responses to these posts as they came through throughout the day.  

To help advertise the Polka exhibition, I was tasked with giving out flyers for shops to advertise up and down Sutton High Street. I had to independently select the shops I felt were most likely for families to visit, so Polka’s relevant audience group would have exposure to. Once selected, I had to request if flyers would be allowed to be left in the venues for patrons to see, by explaining about Polka Theatre’s family friendly summer exhibition and its importance to the local community. Using the advice that I was given for successful flyering, I was lucky enough that none of the venues I approached declined to advertise any flyers. 

was also lucky enough to be allowed to sit in at a number of Polka meetings across the week. A branding meeting tying in with Polka’s 40th year building redevelopment proved invaluable in providing advice on how to ensure a website design is accessible to all, how to make sure a website shows your online visitors the relevant information and even how to assess the financial inputs of a company. Later in the week, sitting in a marketing meeting about an upcoming campaign provided a useful insight into creating company-wide fundraising strategies.  

As well as this, I was able to watch the next Polka Theatre newsletter be designed using the Dotmailer programme. This was a chance to see how collected data regarding how many people have opened previous newsletter emails and how many people have clicked on each link within them in the past can be used to tailor every detail, even as seemingly unimportant as the newsletter email subject, to ensure the maximum possible percentage of users read the newsletter in its’ entirety and follow through the links to information on various Polka Projects. 

With the first week of my placement approaching its’ close, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand a Polka Theatre collaboration: ‘I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole’ at Theatre Peckham. Having helped to schedule posts about this show earlier in the week I couldn’t wait to see it. My first Polka Theatre experience, I could already see that the children in the audience were actively engaging with the show, with one girl repeatedly asking her mother whether the titular character was now going to appear.  

Over the course of the second week of my placement, I worked across a wider range of departments, starting off with Development. Instructed to transfer data to the ‘mothership’ Spektrix programme, I cross-referenced, edited and added information so that the records were up to date. Later in the week, my tasks once more involved raw data when I worked alongside the Creative Learning department and was uploading the results of a collection of feedback forms to an Excel document. Sorting through pupils’ responses after Polka had visited their schools as part of the Polka40 Project was a joyous experience; ‘[I want Polka to] stay here forever’ was a recurring sentiment amongst their comments. During my day with Creative Learning, I then carried out thematic research for Polka’s afterschool club and for the Polka Practitioner in charge of this to use to design activities. I collected a selection of books on the theme of ‘outer space’ that I felt were suitable to be read with the students and created some interactive concepts that could be used to develop games and activities. 

I returned to Morden Hall Park twice in my second week, to assist with some of Polka workshops that were being run. I helped Polka Practitioner Dani to run the ‘Box of Characters’ workshop whilst also using the official Polka Camera to capture the smiles of those taking part. I was even allowed to run a couple of games during the workshop. As Polka’s residency at Morden Hall Park came to a close, we didn’t want to shut the exhibition as the second workshop took place so I was juggling workshop assistance with invigilating the exhibition. Although I found it a bit challenging, it was definitely worth it, getting a unique opportunity to speak to the public about Future Polka and their past experiences with children’s theatre. A highlight that stood out to me was running a light show in a scale model of the main stage at Polka, in the exhibition, captivating some of the younger attendees.  

I would like to thank the entire team at Polka for giving me a quite frankly awesome two weeks. I could not have asked for a more welcoming group of colleagues who have made me feel as if I am a part of their team. Any questions I had over the fortnight were answered and everyone took time out of their busy schedules to explain my tasks to me so that I was never confused, and I always knew what was happening. Thank you for this opportunity to experience working at the UK’s leading children’s theatre.

Hope to see you soon guys,

Nathan Livingstone