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SBTD Members News Letter: February

News, 23 February 2021

SBTD Members News Letter: February


News & information for members of the Society of British Theatre Designers

Chair’s Message /  Fortnum & Mason: Make Joy / Staging Places / AAPTLE Survey / Theatre Recycling Facility Survey / SBTD Web Gallery / World Stage Design / ABTT Mental Health & Wellbeing Resources / Navigating Brexit / The Scenographer: Leslie Travers / Unconscious Bias Training reports / Working Group Updates: Education, Mentoring & Sustainable Design / Vectorworks Invitation / OISTAT meetings & website /  Blog Roundup / Further Reading: Ascending / Support SBTD
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are all having to dig really deep now, I think, to find the motivation to keep pushing forward into the Spring. The start of the year seems like a challenge at the best of times and who would predict this time last year that we would have worked our way through those piles of a receipts for our Tax Returns with a nostalgia for plane and train travel we took for granted along with a large Pret bill!

Thrown into this mix we now have home schooling and most universities remaining in online delivery for the foreseeable future while pandemic figures so no sign of decreasing yet…

And yet 2021 also began with Amanda Gorman, a 22 year old young woman holding her own to broadcast her poetry to the world, a piece written in the time between the storming of the Capitol and the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. With all that stress and turbulence going on in the world, she dealt with it and met her deadline to produce a piece of work she completely owned and with it, in the best possible way, she upstaged Kamala, Michelle, Lady Gaga and J-Lo.-no mean feat- with her message of joy, light and hope.  Each of these women dressed with boldness and intent, holding their moment with dignity, strength and grace on the world stage.

We are living through a moment in history and in its mundanity we perhaps understandably forget to document that but drawing, journaling, photographing, filming your responses to this lived experience will be the source of all sorts of future work made about this time.

Here at SBTD, we value your voice and your contribution. We are looking forward to beginning our Student Ambassador programme very soon.

Among our team are parents that are home schooling, adult children caring for elderly parents, full and part-time educators, designers in the early stages of their careers, very established ones and retired ones who have just received the vaccination.

If you are a student right now, particularly in your 2nd year when you would be about to embark on a block of industry placement, or your final year when, even without a pandemic, you would be experiencing a natural level of anxiety heading out into the unknown, it is hard I’m sure not to compare present circumstances with what might have been but please be proud of your resilience and your adaptability. By embracing this circumstance, experimenting with technologies, owning these new virtual spaces we find ourselves in and being an active participant in your local surroundings, you will be ahead of the curve as you go out into the ‘new normal’ of what this profession becomes. Not only our intentions but our aesthetics will need to be more inclusive, accessible, sustainable and representative, not because we think they ought to be but because this is the most exciting and inspiring way to make new work in new ways.

As a design community, we are all doing enough right now in stretching our creative thinking to capacity to deal with this life situation as best we can. For some of us that might mean combining getting ourselves and our families and friends through the days and weeks with the re-imagining of pieces of work that might happen very soon, sometime before too long or just sometime we know not when. It’s stressful and we are all doing the best we can.

We are making exciting plans with our Working Groups and we will be re-launching Regional Hearts before too long.

We are always glad to hear from you and happy to listen,

All my very best,


On behalf of the SBTD team

Have you got news to share or something you’d like to see in the newsletter? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us at:
Fortnum & Mason’s window by Alex Berry

Fortnum & Mason’s “Make Joy” windows

Fortnum & Mason has partnered with six theatre designers for its latest collection of window displays.

Labelled the Joy Window Takeover, this initiative aims to support and provide a creative outlet for designers in who are out of work while theatres remain closed.

The designers who were each given creative control over one window are: April Dalton, Jean Chan, Alex Berry, Sam Wilde, Tahra Zafar and Jon Bausor, many of them drawing on assistance from their friends in theatre design to create the models.

Find out about the designers and their installations on the website of Fortnum & MasonCreative Review and Design Week.

Fortnum & Mason’s window by Sam Wilde
Fortnum & Mason’s window by Jean Chan
Fortnum & Mason’s window by Tahra Zafar

Staging Places

We will be de-installing Staging Places from the National Centre for Craft and Design at the beginning of March. Though the time that the exhibition was physically open at NCCD was short, reactions to it have been inspiring and the team at NCCD have continued to share SBTD’s work, the challenges being faced by our sector, the work of exhibitors and the Staging Places website across their social media citing it clearly and proudly within their advocacy for excellence in craft and design. We will be contacting all exhibitors to arrange safe collection/return of your fantastic work.

NCCD used some of the themes of Staging Places as sources of inspiration for their Art Club and the selection of work shown here in response is extraordinary and humbling in its range – a true reflection of the kinds of connections we can make with communities around the country.

The whole of our Staging Places website is an incredibly rich resource and our Regional Heart conversations here have been an incredibly exciting, dynamic and future facing source of inspiration which can only develop and grow.

Emma and Giuseppe Belli, our Regional Design Champions were sustaining their careers remotely long before the rest of us even had to think about what a remote meeting, let alone remote designing would look like. Living in rural Lincolnshire, bringing up a family, working as associate designers for others, designing nationally and internationally in their own right, we are really grateful that they found a sliver of time to make the video below.

You can find other short videos from many of the exhibiting designers here


Have you been back to work yet? Do you have experiences of working during the pandemic… this survey is for you!

As some of you may know, SBTD is a part of the AAPTLE (the Alliance of Associations & Professionals in Theatre & Live Events). AAPTLE would love to hear more about your experiences of heading back into the workplace. Our focus at the moment is on the GOOD and safe working practises that you might have experienced, but please share any experiences if you feel able to. Your response to this survey can be totally anonymous if you would prefer, or you can opt to provide us with more information if you feel you can!

Please take the time to fill out this short survey.

It is incredibly useful to AAPTLE and us here at SBTD to know what is happening to keep our members safe at work.

Thank you.


A Theatre Reuse and Recycle Facility for London: survey

The Green Book project for making theatre more sustainable has achieved support from across the theatre community. Among its findings is the need for theatre to develop a far more extensive infrastructure for reuse and recycling.

London, which has by far the UK’s greatest concentration of performance spaces, is much the most likely region to be able to sustain an operation and facility of this sort.

To explore the concept further, they need to gather data and listen to what London’s theatres and theatre-makers, most need.

  • Should the Facility store set components, recycled materials, or both?
  • Should it also provide costumes and props? How would it work? Where should it be located?
  • Should it be a private business or a joint venture?

They would be very grateful if you could fill in this questionnaire online by Sunday 21st February.

Reminder: SBTD Web Gallery

The gallery on on our website showcases the amazing creativity of SBTD members. You can add or refresh the images and details of your work in the gallery at any time, and we would love to see your favourite projects – especially if your entry on the gallery is showing a blank space at the moment.

This handy video by David Farley and Katie Scott shows the step-by-step process of logging into the website and uploading images and details of your work to the gallery, as well as how to be listed on the Assistant Designers Register if you wish to:

World Stage Design

WSD, the four-yearly exhibition and events programme organised by OISTAT which was due to be held this year, has been postponed until 6 – 16 August 2022. Individual student and professional designers are invited to submit their work for the exhibition in Calgary, Canada, or propose a masterclass, workshop or performance for the Scenofest programme of events.


The deadline for submissions to Scenofest is:
1 June 2021

The deadlines for submissions to WSD exhibitions:
Professional: 15 June 2021
Student: 30 July 2021

The WSD Planning Committee would like to acknowledge achievement in three specific areas: Indigenous Design for Performance, EcoScenography and/or Sustainable Design and Mixed Reality Scenography and Design. Details of how to submit your work, as well as further information on the event themes and categories can be found on the WSD website

Navigating Brexit

The Brexit deal that came into effect on 31st December 2021 has various repercussions for freelancers working in the EU including restrictions on freedom of movement, different visa requirements and the new GHIC health insurance card amongst other issues.

With so may theatres across Europe remaining closed due to the pandemic, the full effects of Brexit on designers working in the EU are only beginning to emerge. These sources offer information to help you keep up to date the situation: is a site for for arts freelancers working between the UK and EU with regularly updated information to help the continuation of working in the EU.

IPSE guide to what the Brexit deal means for freelancers
IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) regularly publishes information on Brexit, including this short guide for freelancers.

If you can recommend any further sources of information on working in the EU post-Brexit, please let us know.

ABTT: Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources

ABTT have collated a series of useful resources on wellbeing in the workplace on their website and will be hosting s series of three sessions on mental health and wellbeing.

The sessions are open to anybody in the theatre industry who might be feeling isolated in their experiences and who wants to explore, check out, and connect with others who might share their feelings. The ABTT have partnered with Katerina Georgiou – a counsellor and psychotherapist to deliver and facilitate these sessions.

The three events are:

  • 25th February: 1st group session facilitated by Katerina Georgiou
  • 11th March: Peer-led session facilitated by Mig Burgess.
  • 25th March: 2nd group session facilitated by Katerina Georgiou

You can find out some more information about the sessions here. If you are interested in attending please email

The Scenographer: Leslie Travers

This month, SBTD member Leslie Travers is featuring in a dedicated monograph with The Scenographer International Magazine. Leslie trained at Wimbledon School of Art and since has been recognised worldwide for some of his most distinctive stage designs in our generation from his poetic landscapes, sculptural grandeur, characteristic colour palettes to opulent costumes.

This edition would make a special keepsake with interviews and contributions from David Pountney (Director),  Jo Davies (Director), Emanuela Finardi (Head of Stage Design at La Scala), Thomas C. Hase (Lighting Designer / CEO: Hase & Associates Ltd.), Tim Lutkin (Lighting Designer), Laura Wilde (Soprano), Giselle Allen (Soprano), Wasfi Kani (Founder Chief Executive of Grange Park Opera) and Tracy Dunk (Costume Supervisor at the Royal Exchange Theatre).

For a glimpse into February’s monograph, visit:
To get hold of your copy, please visit

Illustration from Chickenshed Unconscious Bias training

Unconscious Bias Training with Chicken Shed

SBTD offered to contribute towards the cost of Chickenshed Theatre’s unconscious bias training for committee members Liz Wright and Rosie Whiting, who both took part in a workshop in December.

Chickenshed is a theatre company for young people with an 800 strong membership, running an outreach programme and a training division specialising in inclusive practise.

Liz and Rosie reflect on their experiences of the unconscious bias workshop below. You can find out more about Chickenshed’s unconscious bias training and workshops here.

Rosie Whiting
Going into the Chickenshed unconscious bias training I felt pretty self-conscious. As a self branded, open minded liberal I was worried that in this (virtual) room of theatre designers I would be revealed to be full of hidden prejudice. The reality is that we all have prejudices and it is only by examining them that we can move forward.The training session has been created to “empower us to have unexpected learning” and was made up of participatory exercises in which we responded to imagery, video or text and we were asked to share our responses, initially this was anonymous but this built to sharing in the chat box and then spoken to the group. This built trust among the group taking the session so that by the end I felt everyone was willing to be open.I found the session incredibly useful both to begin to unpick my own unconscious biases as well as giving me tools to have difficult conversations in my personal and professional life. Thankyou Chickenshed!
Liz Wright
The thing about unconscious bias is that we’re always forming opinions – and sometimes making assumptions – about the people we meet. This not only applies to the “big” issues like race, class, gender and physical differences but it can also influence our impression of someone’s hidden characteristics like their personality or capabilities. Until you acknowledge and reflect on these prejudices, it isn’t possible to consider the effects they’re having and make changes.The online training with Chickenshed took place over three hours with a group including designers and other theatre professionals. We took part in exercises prompting us to think about what excluding behaviour can look like in our profession, how our own world view has been created and how we respond to different people, images and words. The workshop built an atmosphere of trust by first asking us to respond privately and gradually building towards sharing with the group. This made it possible to deal with some confronting topics and supported honest self-reflection. I found the training really useful – thanks to Chickenshed for developing this brilliant workshop.

Education Working Group

Performance Design Education: future graduate skillsets

On 2nd December 2020, SBTD held the fourth in a series of dynamic dialogues with practitioners based in the East Midlands (and further afield), connected to the Staging Places exhibition.

The event, Performance Design Education: future graduate skillsets was led by the SBTD Education Working Group and facilitated by Nadia Malik (London College of Fashion, UAL). The aim of the three 2-hour seminar sessions was to invite dialogue touching on some of the pressing issues in Performance Design education, with no speakers, only provocations, guided discussions and ‘what ifs’ in a forum for performance practitioners, educators and students alike. The open call for participants was based on this premise:

Performance practice is morphing into a new realm where creative boundaries are porous: practitioners will be able to harness the power of physical proximity and the reach of remote practice in symbiosis. Now is the moment to be to be curious about and playful with the full range of tools and opportunities available to us, to learn to speak the language of other disciplines and to take risks. As we move forward, graduates with expanded perspectives will pioneer fresh forms of storytelling. Through the continuous exchange of industry and education, young practitioners will invent new practices for a future industry that embraces and celebrates the diversity of performance design and making into the future.

The three seminar sessions captured thoughts on:

  • Flex: embedding emerging technologies (session 1): Embedding technology within artistic practice and how to enable this in Higher Education.
  • Flux: remodelling the landscape (session 2): Shaping performance-relevant HE structures and departments.
  • Fly: imagining the future (session 3): Potential jobs in performance (as-yet non-existent) and the skills needed for these.

At SBTD’s blog the full PDF report can be found, which is a summary of the wide ranging discussion between a shifting group of academics, practitioners and students over the course of the day. Those themes are further abridged below as an encouragement to visit the longer PDF report and an invitation to join the conversation:

  • The value and perception of Design for Performance courses at HE in the ongoing ‘vocational’ versus ‘academic’ debate.
  • Where the idea of ‘private until perfect’ might have come from in terms of a general reticence in sharing the ‘mess’ of working processes, the effect this might have on wellbeing / the imagination / collaboration and ways in which HE Design for Performance educators might approach or think about their roles.
  • The many ways in which emerging creative technologies are changing / will change HE design courses and industry along with the value of and challenges in embedding creative technologies into Design for Performance courses.
  • Ways to rethink HE structures so that they might serve the practice of Design for Performance more appropriately.
  • The importance of community and communality.
  • Preparing design for performance graduates for realistic 21st century future pathways that do not perpetuate a mythical or unachievable career trajectory.
  • Ideas and initiatives that the SBTD might consider in support of some of the discussion points.
  • Some summary thoughts about the need to educate for analogue and digital versatility and cross-disciplinarity.

Many thanks to all those who attended and contributed, in particular the co-hosts and ‘provocateurs’: Helen Davies (Nottingham Trent University), Emma Donovan and Jason Wiggin (University of Lincoln), Kate Lane (Central Saint Martins, UAL) and Rob Halliday (freelance Lighting Designer).

Designers Mentorship Network ‘Launch Zoom’ for participants, with 41 people in attendance

Mentoring Working Group

The Mentoring Working Group are pleased to announce that the first round of the Designers Mentorship Network has recently finished, with 24 mentors and 37 mentees involved. For the past 3 months an impressive 52 set and costume designers across the U.K. have connected up via video chat and generously shared their experiences. They are a broad mix of ages, career stages, backgrounds and interests. Many thanks to all the participants and the Working Group members that made this possible. Here are just a few examples of our feedback so far:

“By engaging in the mentoring programme, I had a feeling of belonging to a community of professionals that are caring and nurturing the new generations.”
– A Mentor

“It has given me a plan to get back into work when theatre life resumes after the pandemic and hope that there will be a way forward, at a time when my career feels like another lifetime.”

– A Mentee

Jamie Vartan’s mentoring session with PJ McEvoy
“It helped to remind me that I have acquired valuable experience, worth passing on to others and helped me focus on my work at a time when there is not a lot of opportunity in the industry.” 
– A Mentor“I have felt highly supported by my mentor and have built a great professional relationship with her. I feel like a much more confident, able and qualified designer.”
– A MenteeWe look forward to the next steps: acquiring funding for another round of mentoring later this year and developing the scheme’s structure through participant’s feedback. Would you like to hear more about the programme, and our other fabulous projects in the pipelines? Perhaps you have an idea you’d like to try out? If so, please get in contact with the Mentoring Working Group. We meet 1-2 times a month to brainstorm ideas and develop the projects.

Sustainable Design Group

The Sustainable Design Group’s first meeting of the year had a focus on materials, and we got to try a range of samples from manufacturers and suppliers. Or at least a one of us did, while the rest watched and asked questions over Zoom! We’ll be looking at how best to share this info more widely, and we’re also on the lookout for more samples: please shout if you have any handy contacts.

Meanwhile, we’ve started work on putting together some designer-friendly training, our costume subgroup is investigating possibilities for shared storage, and next month we’ll start the process of gathering and sharing regional knowledge and resources in tandem with SBTD Regional Hearts.

The Sustainable Design Group is open to all members, from committed ecoscenographers through to people right at the start of their sustainability journey.  Drop us a line if you want to get involved:

Vectorworks: Moving to 3D for Set Design

2:00pm – 3:00pm, 3 March 2021

Set designers are faced with numerous challenges from uniquely shaped venues, small spaces with big requests, and making sure each seat has clear views of the stage.

Join David Farley, theatre set and costume designer, as he goes through real-world examples of how moving from a 2D workflow to a 3D workflow has helped him overcome these challenges and enhance his set designs.

Find out more and register here.

OISTAT Architecture Commission & New Website

The OISTAT Architecture Commission welcomes SBTD members to attend its 2021 series of online meetings.

Please contact Architect Commission Vice-Chair, Peter Ruthven-Hall if you would like to attend to a specific meeting or to be added to the mailing list.

Friday 5 Mar 2021, 15.00 ‐ 17.00
Presentations of recent work by 3 or 4 members (depending on number of candidates)

Friday 4 Jun 2021, 15.00 ‐ 17.00
Official meeting confirm yearly schedule

September 2021, time TBC
Lecture – subjects and speaker to be confirmed

Friday 19 November 2021, 15.00 ‐ 17.00
Presentations of recent work by 3 or 4 members (depending on number of candidates)

OISTAT has a new website where you can find out about the different Commissions as well as the latest news projects and events. 

Find out more about the work of OISTAT in this short film

If you’ve been enjoying our blogs, how about creating one for us to publish?

It can be text, images, video, audio or a combination of any of these. Maybe there is something you are passionate about or exciting work you are creating that you’d like to share with the membership?

Do get in touch

20 December 2020
A Georgian Lost Theatre

27 January 2021
CAD for Theatre Designers

20 January 2021
DYCP Application Advice for Designers

15 January 2021
New Year Resolutions

New writing on design: Ascending

Launched in 2020, Ascending is a global platform for the work of emerging artists working across performance disciplines seeking to give voice to the dynamic work of the next generation of designers, artisans, makers, and storytellers.

New editions of this online publication will be published every 6 months (in April & October). Find out more about Ascending, read the first two editions and sign up for the mailing list here.

Support SBTD through the AmazonSmile Program 

If you (and friends and family) use Amazon, please consider this, it’s a simple way for SBTD to increase its funding to allow us to more for you.What is AmazonSmile?

AmazonSmile is a program that donates 0.5% of your eligible purchases on Amazon to a charity of your choice, (SBTD is a registered Charity!) and it costs you nothing.

Every item available for purchase on Amazon is also available on AmazonSmile at the same price. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages.

How does AmazonSmile work?

When you first visit, you are prompted to select a charitable organisation, just search ‘Society of British Theatre Designers’.

Amazon will give 0.5% of the net purchase price (excluding VAT and other shipping fees) of eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organisations selected by our customers.

Friends of SBTD

Stage Sight
Association of Sound Designers ( ASD)
Stage Directors UK (SDUK) 
Association of Lighting Designers (ALD)

Creative Industries Federation
Equity Safe Space Campaign
UK Theatre Producers

Useful sources of support

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