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Wakefield Cathedral Provides Setting for Backstage Academy Graduation

Wakefield Cathedral Provides Setting for Backstage Academy Graduation

UK – 'A spire higher than no other in Yorkshire' may not only be an accurate description of Wakefield’s majestic cathedral but the mantra of the 74 Backstage Academy (BA) students who graduated at the official ceremony held there recently.

Arriving as ‘graduands’ BA Students had their various production degrees conferred by Dr. Sue Duncan, assistant vice chancellor and registrar, University of Bolton (with whom Backstage Academy is partnered).

They were also honoured by their various course leaders as they prepared to leave academia and enter the production world. Johnny Goodwin (live events production), Graham Thorne (live visual design and production) and Claire Porter (stage and production management) in turn accoladed their respective students as they filed up to the stage. As Goodwin put it: “It’s always a great occasion to meet the families. They shake your hand and thank you for the guidance once they can see there is a job at the end of it, and that [students] are not simply running away to the circus.” And many have already found full-time employment within the industry.

The Ceremony also saw Backstage Academy’s first Honorary Fellowship conferred on Ash Nehru, co-founder of Disguise (formerly d3 Technologies) one of Backstage Academy’s enduring industry partners. Nehru was awarded the inaugural fellowship in recognition of his inspirational work and dedication to innovating the field of visual design and technology integration.

The formalities had begun with an introduction from the Dean of Wakefield, the Rev. Canon Simon Cowling. Adrian Brooks, Backstage Academy chairman and founder of Production Park, then set the scene as the facility celebrates its tenth anniversary. He noted that the first graduation ceremony had been held at his family pub, the New Inn at Walton, in 2013 with just eight students. This has now grown to over 200 students.

“What inspired the choice of tonight’s venue was that when we started Backstage Academy we wanted to deliver it out of Production Park but try and have a presence in Wakefield itself. We moved to Unity Hall but students didn’t like not being at Production Park so we moved back. This year we thought it was time to re-engage with the city,” he said, noting that BA had a close association with the Cathedral.

“For graduands this has been a special day, one of life’s special moments,” stated Dr. Duncan in her address. “We are delighted that 75% graduated with a first or 2:1. Our partnership with BA provides unique opportunities and conversion rates are high. Backstage Academy has earned a reputation as a centre of excellence and consistently secures [work] placements in key positions. We look forward to opportunities increasing year on year and our goal is to provide [students] with the foundation to start their future.”

Later, she re-enacted her registrar’s role for late arriving students for whom the wretched weather and long distance travel had proven too great to get them there on time, and ensured they were party to a proper ceremonial degree conferral.

But it was Backstage Academy vice principal, Rachel Nicholson, who had the final word. Addressing the students she said: “This is all about celebrating several years of hard work. Your projects have been fantastic but what has impressed me most has been how you have supported each other and those below you and that would not have been possible without industry partnerships, tutors and BA staff. You will continue to learn on every project you undertake.”

But if the success of Backstage Academy is about collaboration, it should be noted that the Graduation Ceremony itself had been produced by a student led production team backed with equipment and technology supplied by the institution’s numerous industry partners including A.C. Entertainment, Avolites, d&b audiotechnik, Disguise, Ethix Management, Green Hippo, KRS Rigging, KV2 Audio, Midas, Riedel, Roe Visual, Sennheiser, Shure and STS Touring.

8th November 2019

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