April is a Designer for Performance, creating sets and costume for theatre, opera, dance and film. She also works as a Bespoke Milliner, creating headpieces for a variety of events and performances.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The thing I love about my work is that no two days are the same. One day you can be at home model making or reading through a script, the next you could be measuring an opera chorus of forty in Cardiff or fitting a headpiece in London. It is pretty much impossible to ever be bored!
I also love the amount of skills it combines and the reward that comes from seeing your work on opening night and knowing that you’ve been a huge part of the audience’s experience.
What have been your career highlights to date?
One of my career highlights so far has been creating the headpieces for English Touring Opera, in particular the principal headpiece for ‘Ottone’. The headpiece was huge and ornate and entirely beaded. It was very daunting as it was the first professional headpiece I had ever made, and definitely the largest, but to this date the one I am most proud of.
Another highlight was the role of Costume Designer for ‘The Voyagers’ with Restoke, a company in Stoke-on-Trent who create community based work performing in derelict and historic buildings in the local area. I love sight-specific and immersive theatre and I am looking forward to taking on the role of Set and Costume designer for their next work.
Have you met any interesting people through your work?
I am lucky to have worked with some extremely talented directors, actors, musicians and singers and was surrounded by incredible individuals at university who I’m sure will go on to be hugely prolific in their respective fields. Very early on in my career, I turned up in London to fit a few headpieces that I had made for Royal Theatre Bath, not realising that my main crown piece was to be worn by Alun Armstrong from ‘New Tricks, ‘Braveheart’, and who had also starred in Downton Abbey. I have also met some interesting people through work with ‘Restoke’ Company in Stoke-on-Trent. We are at the ‘research and development’ stage for a new project and recently held a ‘culture exchange’ where people living in Stoke, originating from thirteen different countries in total, came to share their culture’s music, dance, food and stories. An incredible quality and range of talents!
Did you do anything extra at school to aid your choice and application for university?
I attended and pursued lots of extra curricula activities. I was in the choir and the orchestra, learned to play the Bassoon. My Bassoon teacher’s son happened to be a very prolific designer so getting advice on the route to take from him was invaluable! I also played in the Wolverhampton Youth Music Orchestra which toured around Europe and I trained as a Ballerina as an Associate with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I also helped backstage at my local amateur dramatics company – all great things to put on personal statements and talk about in interviews. I also worked on personal design projects at home to increase the variety in my portfolio when applying for courses.
What are your favourite moments/memories of School?
The trips and visits at WGS have always stuck with me – from ‘First Year camp’ in Wales, French Exchange in First Year and French Work Experience in Lower Sixth, Geography trips waist-deep in a river, Art visits to museums and Llangollen to have a days sketching, going with the School Choir to the Birmingham Symphony Hall to be taught ‘Carmina Burana’ and the Theatre Studies trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I have very fond memories also of all of the school concerts with the choir and orchestra and of music lessons. I also thoroughly enjoyed Sixth Form as all my subjects were ones I loved! I loved the fact that the Art and Music blocks were little worlds of their own to escape to.
My favourite memory would have to be creating and performing our devised Sixth Form Theatre Studies piece ‘Falling Through A Sea of Green’. I found it really satisfying to be part of the process devising a piece and designing something that had been created from scratch by myself and the group. It was incredibly rewarding on performance night to receive great feedback from the audience (people were quite moved) and knowing that it was entirely our own work. It definitely cemented my desire to pursue designing professionally.
What made you decide to come to WGS?
My brother studied at WGS prior to me so I got an impression of what the school was like. I decided that I wanted to go there by attending concerts and events as I really liked the atmosphere. The quality of the Music and Art Departments was something that particularly attracted me. There seemed great passion amongst subject staff and also an interest in knowing students as individuals and working to ensure that they achieve their personal best.
Where do you think you career path will take you?
I hope that my career takes me to design for companies like The Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre and dance companies such as Rambert. I would also love to do more work with smaller companies, community projects and devising companies where you can really feel involved and immersed in the process and rehearsals. I am currently designing set and costume for the Welsh National Opera’s Spring Season 2017 that tours the UK and then tours to a venue in Switzerland. I hope that this will allow me to design for them again in the future as it is a company that I really admire!
Did any particular teachers inspire you?
All of the teachers in the Art, Music and Theatre Departments were inspirational. Mr Millichamp, Mr Perkins, Mrs Ward, but also the guest artists that we had – Mrs Trafford and Derrick Jones. All had a tremendous passion for what they do and pushed everyone to achieve their potential and beyond. They never once doubted my career aspirations and helped and pushed me in any way they could to get me there! Of course, staff in the Theatre Department were an incredible inspiration to me – Mr Tyler definitely cemented my wish to continue professionally and again, I didn’t feel he ever doubted my ability to get there – which gave me great assurance and fuelled my determination. I also absolutely have to mention Mr Proverbs who gave me great confidence in my abilities, not just in music but beyond. He encouraged, whole heartedly, following what you were passionate about and that will forever stay with me. It was particularly valuable to have a supportive network as it wasn’t a particularly usual subject to aspire to do professionally after studying at WGS, and something I didn’t know a lot about studying post school, so the belief that it was still something I could achieve was essential.
What advice would you give our current students?
My main piece of advice is to pursue what you enjoy and are passionate about! If you are genuinely interested and passionate about something and prepared to put the work in, you will naturally be successful. Not only that but your work will be more of a ‘love’ that you happen to get paid for, which is fantastic.
Once you’ve found what you want to do, find out about people that have got to where you want to be in the future and find out how they got there. Research the best courses and find out what the entrance requirements are – then go above and beyond! In an interview situation, when everyone is more or less on the same level after meeting the requirement grades- it is great to have something that makes you different or memorable.