Stellar Quine of the Month: Claire Dow

How would you describe your current work and what do you like best about it?

I’m a creative producer for theatre and events. I enjoy the variety of shapes that they can take, from coming up with my own creative projects and making them happen, to facilitating and supporting others to deliver their projects through coaching, consultation or management.

I’m currently standing in for Jemima Levick while she’s been away on maternity leave. It’s been an honour to work with the Stellar Quines’ team and support them through an exciting time of change. Next I’ll be leading on the Theatre and Dance Touring Research for Creative Scotland with Lisa Baxter founder and Director of The Experience Business, due to be published in February 2017.

What was your first ever job?

My first job was with a t-shirt printers, I loaded wet printed shirts into the conveyor dryer. Then I folded and packed them. At my best I could fold and pack 4.5 shirts per minute. It was a fantastic small company which took long lunches and played Jimi Hendrix too loudly. I worked there part time along with crewing shows and being a technician part time, they were fantasic at letting me come and go when it suited me.

What made you decide to work in the arts and what role have you enjoyed the most?

I remember vividly the moment I realized that theatre could be a paid job. I was on a youth theatre placement with Druid Theatre Company in Galway, and it was the opening night of Poor Beast in The Rain by Billy Roche. I had finished setting up on stage, I turned and saw all the seats and realized that people would be coming to see it in real life. It was so exciting, I was hooked. I managed to hang around long enough to get work with Druid and never looked back.

My favourite role to date has been producing the People’s Tower; Dundee’s Royal Arch. It was something I instigated and drove through and it was a wild success. The arch was made out of 1200 cardboard boxes and took all day to build! My favourite moment was toppling the 17m high arch and trampling the cardboard boxes with hundreds of overexcited kids who couldn’t believe their luck.

Has there been a particular person or an opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?

Early in my career, a production manager called Tony Kileen in Druid allowed me to go on tour for a week, if I swore I wouldn’t miss my uni lectures or classwork. I went on tour and never went back to uni! He later directed me to degrees in stage management in the UK which brought me over to Scotland. The opportunity to study here changed my life and I am grateful to have been welcomed in to study without tuition fees, and without a thought to emigration or free movement issues.

What do you like the best about working within the arts?

Without doubt the people. You get to meet and work with such articulate, clever and talented people. Its surprising and inspiring. I think that the theatre sector in Scotland is blessed with a generosity of support for each other and an ecology that shares information and encouragement. I love the moment when the lights go down and an audience are present, in the moment, sharing an experience together that exists nowhere else. Its magic.

What advice would you give women looking at a career in the arts today?

Take the time to think about what is important to you. What are the projects you’ve seen that have excited you most? Find people doing work that gives you energy and inspires you and work with them. If you can’t find that, then make it happen yourself and others will come to you.

Be truthful and generous with others, find ways to build your communities of support so you have a place to share your successes and challenges with peers. It’s the most valuable thing, to know that others are there and can help, and that you can help others.

 Who would be your Stellar Quine of the month and why?

Julie Ellen, she’s had a huge influence on me and my career in terms of development and moving into arts management. Working with her at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland she taught me how to be a leader and a manager, by being an example of what a generous manager and leader can be. We learn from the people who are our bosses, and I hope to emulate her ability to challenge and support people to reach their potential.

SQ of the Month