The Arts Ambassador so nice, he worked here twice! Ben McQuigg reflects on his second term working as an Arts Ambassador with Arts at University of Southampton.
After a great time with the 17/18 cohort of Arts Ambassadors, I was lucky enough to be successful in my re-application for the 18/19 team of Ambassadors. This year has been equally fantastic as the first and a particular highlight has to be the team I got to work with this year, we all gelled so quickly as a unit and it has been a pleasure to get to know Annette, Molly, and Hannah over the year.
I started off the academic year by reliving the amazing experience I had at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the Summer where I was the Musical Director for ‘The Trail to Oregon!’ a show taken up with Showstoppers under our collective touring company, Gone Rogue Productions. This was such an amazing experience and it was so refreshing being able to come back and document the whole process, from rehearsals in Southampton, two sold-out previews in an off-west end theatre and then a successful and nearly sold out two week run in Edinburgh. On top of this, I actually ran into fellow Arts Ambassador Molly Adams randomly when I was flyering on the Royal Mile!
Soon after this, we entered Freshers week, all the new students to the university were spending their first weeks on campus and as Ambassadors we attended many of the events, promoting the arts and culture of Southampton to all of the newbies. We were armed with pens and paper to get people to sign up to our mailing list and when there are free tickets involved, people are much more inclined to fill in a quick form!
With an ever-growing mailing list and the freshers armed with the knowledge of all the amazing things to do across the University , Southampton city and Winchester, we turned our attention to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Southampton and Arts Council England. Being at the event in the John Hansard Gallery was quite surreal but it was nice to see some familiar faces, such as Michael Ockwell, the CEO of the Mayflower Theatre whom I interviewed in my first year. Both him and chair of the arts council, Darren Henley, remembered me, which was lovely and meant I had nice chats with them both as well as many others.
Once again I took a stance on promoting the student performing arts societies within the union and with the designation of The Annex Theatre as a SUSU affiliated venue we found it much easier to get the student voices heard. I still can’t quite fathom that every single teaching week (minus exam season and about two weeks during freshers) there is a show on in The Annex Theatre. The more you think about that, and the fact that theatre is run entirely by students, who do degrees, the more impressive that statistic gets.
In a full circle way, I ended my second tenure as an Arts Ambassador with some good old video editing. Piecing together an interview series, Behind the Curtain, originally conducted by the summer ambassadors Katherine Wells and Louise Johnson.
It has been great to really hone in on the skills I had been developing during my first year and it is safe to say that this year has once again been a joy, Louise Coysh (Director of Arts and Culture) has been a fabulous mentor through my whole time in the arts department and seeing her passion for everything arts and culture in Southampton is inspiring. Once again my three fellow Arts Ambassadors have been a dream to work with and I cannot imagine this year without them.
Finally a special mention has to go to our line manager Jamie, he is very much the captain of our ship and frequently has to pull us back from sea if we find ourselves overboard, without him a lot, if not all of the stuff I have been a part of and been able to achieve over the past two years would not have come to fruition, thank you for your leadership and don’t worry, this is actually my last year now!
Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton