I'm Eleanor Mottram, and as the Theatre and Events Manager at Cutty Sark, my role is to book performers to perform at the spaces across the ship, as well as create events that encourage a wide variety of visitors to come to the ship.
The main part of the job is to programme and produce the regular seasons of events in the Michael Edwards Studio Theatre. It’s a stunning space that transforms from a daytime museum space to an evening performance venue. The tea chests aboard the ship contain additional chairs as well as lights, speakers and other equipment we need for the turn-around.
A typical evening begins at 5pm when the ship closes; the Visitor Experience team begin by moving the tea chests so we can access the staging hidden behind. The team build the stage and put in additional seats speedily so that the AV Technicians can start setting up the light and sound to the artist’s requirements.
Once the artist arrives, we do a sound and light check – this can take anything from 30 seconds when a comedian, like Katherine Ryan (pictured), is doing a work-in-progress show, or up to 90 minutes if it is a complex musical set-up like Kings of the South Seas with Tim Eriksen and Philip Hoare.
The Even Keel Café beneath the ship opens to the public an hour before the show starts, usually at 6.45 pm, so the audience can enjoy a drink and see the incredible space.
Doors to the theatre open at 7.30pm, by which time the AV technicians have ensured the artist is happy with the technical set-up and I make sure they are comfortable and happy in the dressing room. We use the Tween Deck as a dressing room; we think this might be the largest dressing room in London! It’s definitely one of the most unique.
A show usually begins at 7.45pm, I have a sigh of relief as the show begins and this is my favourite part of the job – seeing the artist and the audience interacting and enjoying the experience within the hold of the ship. It’s a real privilege seeing an audience in fits of laughter because of a comedian I’ve booked to come and perform at the ship. I’m particularly excited about the upcoming Edinburgh Season, we’ll be welcoming back performers like Josie Long and Nish Kumar, and bringing stars like Shappi Khorsandi and Seann Walsh aboard for the first time. Being able to use ship puns is another personal highlight of the job.
I spend about 45 nights a year working events in the ship, the rest of my time is spend working from an office getting in touch with artists and performers about future seasons and talking to colleagues across the museum about future programming.
With my colleagues in the Learning Team, we are looking at the public programme at the ship and how we can develop a really fascinating programme for a whole variety of people to enjoy – this is starting with a fantastic life drawing event we are co-producing with Art Macabre called Draw Aboard, where the ship will come to life with shanty singers, operatic figure heads and a knotted-up mermaid and give visitors the chance to capture the images with guidance from the Art Macabre team.
I’ve been in the role for about six months, and am the first person to hold it full-time, I’m really enjoying bringing my background in festivals and arts programming to the ship and creating a distinctive, high-quality and intriguing year round calendar of events.