There's more to world of opera than the stars

Millennium Centre aims to show pupils there are other careers in arts

Isabella Kaminski

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Young people visiting the home of the Welsh National Opera may be starstruck, but very few are likely to see their name up in lights.

To tackle this mismatch between pupils' expectations and reality, the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff has employed a learning and participation officer.

Jane Collins' job is to convince the hundreds of hopefuls who visit the centre every year that a career in the performing arts is not necessarily about celebrity.

Instead, during sessions arranged by teachers, the former art teacher presents design or arts-related business as an alternative to a career on stage.

"I think the big problem for secondary pupils is that no one has ever informed them what's out there," she said. "You hear about being an actor or a dancer, but not about jobs such as marketing."

Mrs Collins joined the centre earlier this term after four years at an English secondary. She is passionate about giving young people "realistic" options.

"You get so many young people doing degrees in arts, then the vast majority are absolutely stumped for what to do as a career," she said.

As well as offering work experience to keen students, she tailors school visits around the requests of teachers, which vary according to the ages of pupils and the subjects they are studying. For example, one group wanted to know about health and safety at the centre, so Mrs Collins showed them around.

"I also had a rush a few weeks ago when groups wanted sessions on customer services and marketing," she said. "It turned out there was a module we didn't know about, so we had staff running around doing it."

Mrs Collins also has a remit to increase arts participation. The centre has strong links with poor areas, such as Butetown. "We're trying to build bridges," she said.

"We try and visit groups to explain what we do. There are so many children who might not have that engagement with the arts. You can't really beat having live musicians . and it's something that can't be replaced with TV or video."

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Isabella Kaminski

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