15th July 2014

Graduate Emily Monaghan on her time as a Backstage Academy student

Gigs and festivals have always been something that I enjoy going to and reminiscing about for sometimes years afterwards. It’s this passion and excitement that lead me to consider a degree and career in live events.

During my time at Backstage I was the subject of a friendly joke or two while on the course for doing all of my education within a mile’s radius of South Kirkby. I used to walk past LS-Live every day on my way to school and college and I had always been fascinated that a rehearsal arena could be based here in South Kirkby.

There were so many benefits to learning on site at LS-Live, as opposed to a university campus, as it meant we were kept up to date with the latest technologies and working practices. We also got great opportunities to talk to and be lectured by professionals who are working in the industry today, and the benefit of tutors with a wide range of events experience. For example, during the sound module we had Dave Swallow – sound engineer to the likes of Amy Winehouse and author of ‘Live Audio: The Art of Mixing a Show’ who had flown in especially from Amsterdam to talk to us about the creative side of mixing sound.

Vista training masterclass


Another fairly surreal lecture was led by the drummer of The Prodigy, Leo Crabtree who came to talk to us about in-ear monitors and ear protection. As well as the information he gave us, it was great to be able to find out his perspective of touring and concerts.

The great thing about the course was that it was so diverse and we covered a wide range of industry subjects in such a short space of time. From basic qualifications and certificates in the first module to lighting, video editing, stage building and rigging. Although I’m not particularly fond of heights (quite scared actually), I found the rigging course to be very helpful when taking into consideration other elements of stage construction and working practices.

Setting up lighting rigs in the LS-Live Studio


Aside from the academic side of the course, the hands-on experience opportunities are one of the best parts of the FdA in my opinion. We were at a great advantage at Backstage with having access to the LS-Live rehearsal arena where we were occasionally able to help build house stages. During my time there I was able to help build house stages for the likes of X Factor and JLS as well assisting with the set build for a Dragon Force video shoot, just to name a few. Work experience is also encouraged outside of the studio; I was lucky enough to help out in the theatre at Manchester Central for a UCAS event and work on Long Division, which is a multi-venue festival in Wakefield City Centre.

Building the stage for the X Factor tour rehearsals


Overall my time at Backstage Academy was a brilliant experience and one that I would do all over again in a heartbeat. Without the Academy I wouldn’t have known where to start trying to get into the industry with no experience or knowledge. However, now I have the contacts, relevant skills and support to be taken seriously in the events industry and find further work experience and paid work.

At my graduation ceremony!