Liz Leck and Jane Claire, joint winners of Theatre Employee of the Year 2017, UK Theatre Awards. Photo: Pamela Raith
Last year, English Touring Theatre sent in an application nominating their employee, Jane Claire for the Theatre Employee of the Year Award. This UK Theatre Award, sponsored by Integro in association with Chubb, celebrates individuals whose contribution has made a real difference to their organisation and/or to the theatre industry. Jane was jointly awarded the accolade (with Birmingham Hippodrome’s Liz Leck) at a ceremony at London’s historic Guildhall in October 2017.
One year on and with the 2018 UK Theatre Awards applications open, we caught up with Jane to find out more about her career and why winning the Award on behalf of all those who “make touring theatre happen” meant so much to her…
When you work 'backstage' in the theatre the prospect of awards does not loom large - except for the hope that the latest production might win one and thus improve the sales for the show or the reputation of the company. I can honestly say that in all my 40+ years working in the theatre I had never given a thought to the idea that I might win one. It just wasn't something that happened. So, when last year I discovered I had been nominated for the UK Theatre Employee of the Year I think it would be fair to say I was somewhat surprised. Of course, once the idea had sunk in, I was very touched that my colleagues and friends at English Touring Theatre had thought me worthy of the nomination.
The first chunk of my career was spent in stage management, working like most freelancers in a huge variety of venues and locations from fringe to West End - regional rep to touring- finishing with a glorious 7 year run as DSM with The Unicorn Theatre based at The Arts.
When my two kids reached an age where they had their own lives (and needed a permanent taxi service) it became clear that I needed to move to a more predictable timetable. I applied for the job of Office Administrator with the renowned Shared Experience. Nancy Meckler and Rachel Tackley took a huge leap of faith in giving the job to an SM who could just about type! The rest, as they say, is history and my life in touring theatre began.
And what an adventure it turned out to be. Nine years with Shared Experience was followed by thirteen years at English Touring Theatre (ETT), again working with Rachel. So many wonderful projects that travelled all over the UK and overseas working with literally hundreds of fantastic, talented people. How lucky was I?
I always loved being part of a team so being nominated by the lovely people at ETT for the Theatre Employee of the Year Award made it even more special. I genuinely felt when I won it that it was for all of us who give our heart and soul to making touring theatre happen. Sharing it on the day with Liz Leck was an added bonus. She clearly has a similar passion and though we had never met before we instantly felt that we knew each other. The wonderful Award Ceremony was the icing on the cake!
Since winning the award I have stepped down from my role of Executive Producer at ETT, but I continue to work with developing and emerging touring companies and love doing it. Knowing I have been acknowledged by my piers has given me confidence that I still have something to offer. Some call it mentoring but I would rather call it encouraging. Perhaps I can be the first Encouragement Consultant?
Submissions are now open for the 2018 UK Theatre Awards. The deadline to submit your nominations is 31 August 2018.
The awards are open to UK Theatre members working in both the commercial and subsidised sectors of the performing arts.
UK Theatre members can apply for 4 award categories, including the Theatre Employee of the Year, sponsored by Integro in association with Chubb.
Find out more here.