Flynn Clark, who is on a scenic carpenters apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House, discusses how his opportunity came about
Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
A good friend actually told me about the possibility of doing my apprenticeship in backstage theatre. I was looking for apprenticeships in carpentry at just normal joinery firms but she asked me if I had thought about set building and it all really clicked together.
What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
I’ve always been interested in carpentry and just basically tinkering with stuff and making things. When I applied, I really didn’t think I would even get close because of my lack of experience, so I actually saw the whole application process as an educational tool. Even if I didn’t get the apprenticeship, I was going to learn as much as possible during it.
What’s ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
A typical day would be hard to define. I mean it starts at 8.00am, but apart from that, I couldn’t tell you. When work starts, if you aren’t already on something you’re given a job or piece of work to do. This could be anything and is never boring.
How do you find the workplace/college balance?
I love the workplace/college mix, which really surprised me. Personally, I didn’t get along well at college. It just never grabbed me, which just made me bored and apathetic. I remember talking about the college part of my apprenticeship and worrying that I would go back into that frame of mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After being at the Building Crafts College, I realise what it’s like to actually enjoy and engage with education. I go to college for two-to-three week blocks every six weeks or so, which means that I can really get into something and focus on getting the technique really spot on. The way the college blocks work means that you get real one-to-one guidance, but also a freedom to learn independently, which I thrive on.
What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
It’s not just the fact I get to work in a cutting-edge workshop that is high tech, organised and safe. It’s not just that I get to make sets, designs and projects that are beautiful, crazy and engaging. It’s not even that I get to learn from and work with an entire group of the most skilled, inspirational people in such a positive atmosphere. But the most enjoyable aspect of this apprenticeship is it has given me the opportunity to care about the work do. I love the pride that comes with each project/job and the ambition to learn and have new challenges in my career. This work gives me a huge sense of involvement in each project I do and extreme personal achievement.
Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
Not at all. It completely exceeds whatever vague idea I had on any apprenticeship. It’s daunting the idea of it, especially if you’re like me and had very little experience in the field beforehand, but with a drive to dive into every aspect of it. I love my apprenticeship—I wake up every day glad to be a part of it. That’s not to say it’s not hard—there have been times that are physically and mentally exhausting, but they are always rewarding.
What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?
I think about this all the time and it’s constantly changing, because of this apprenticeship. It has meant I can do so much. I’m very interested in traveling afterwards while working in the theatre and maybe one day looking into furniture construction and design.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?
My advice is actually something someone told me, which is: attack it, just go for it, and everything is a lesson. If you’re genuinely interested in this field of work, just apply and ask all the questions you can. No question will ever be rebuffed, and never turn down any lesson. You may know how to do it already but you can always pick up new techniques and find ways that suit you personally. No one has any problems with going through anything, so make the most of it.