Staff spotlight: Erin Carter

By Kath Hartley

Updated Posted

Erin Carter joins Leeds Conservatoire as Programme Leader for our newly launched BA Acting and BA Actor Musician courses. Here we chat to Erin about her career to date, and the exciting plans for the development of our brand new degrees.

We’re thrilled to have you join us at Leeds Conservatoire as Programme Leader for our brand new BA Acting & BA Actor Musician courses! What are you looking forward to most about the year ahead as we start to develop the course content?

A real challenge in developing existing models of training is the continuous nature of the programmes. So having an entire year to develop the content of these new programmes in Acting and Actor Musicianship is fantastic.  What I have been given is the gift of time, and as a theatre maker I know that time and space allow for innovation - I am excited to start creating.

Erin Carter 2

I am also looking forward to working with industry professionals, practitioners, graduates, venues and partners in the North to identify exactly what innovative, vocational, contemporary training in the region looks like.  My intention is to take all of those ideas and respond with course content that readies graduates to engage with the creative industries as they are now but also to challenge and shape their future.

Tell us about these new courses – what are they all about and who are they aimed at?

The new courses are aimed at individuals who consider themselves storytellers by design, creative people who want to turn their instincts into craft.  The programmes offer high contact, intensive, skills training in the disciplines associated with their subject alongside the opportunities to collaborate, perform and originate new work. I am keen to work with individuals from all walks of life, who have their own stories to tell and am developing a programme that can be student responsive in order to support that. 

Why is Leeds a great place to study an Acting or Actor Musician course?

Leeds has always been something of a creative hub in the North, it has a long association with innovation, challenging the status quo, prioritising audiences, with a “let's try it and see” attitude.

Geographically, Leeds Conservatoire sits in the heart of that hub, with Leeds Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Opera North, Phoenix Dance and the BBC buildings our immediate neighbours. We are very fortunate to have fantastic relationships with those neighbours and are geared up to welcome more; namely Channel 4 and The National Film & Television School's satellite hub. These two arrivals reflect the current climate in Leeds, which has palpable creative energy and momentum. If students are interested in what is happening right now, living in a vibrant, inexpensive city and in being  part of the creative change that city is driving there is really nowhere else to be. Having relocated recently myself, I can also confirm the quality of the Yorkshire food and craft beer scenes! 

How can one of these degrees set you up for a career in the industry?

The nature of art and the creative industries is such that it constantly evolves. We can no longer train creatives to be solely industry responsive; by that I mean focusing all their energies on securing representation and hoping their casting number comes up. These programmes of course, ready students for that scenario, providing quality skills training that prepares them for professional work, but they go beyond that. They also prepare artists to use their skills in other contexts. The courses are designed for actors and makers, artists who are skilled enough to work as performers but who can also make their own opportunities, ensuring a consistently creative professional life.

Tell us about your journey to this point?

As a working class kid from Glasgow, I discovered drama first, in community centres and church halls. When a TV company came to one of those and I landed a television gig aged ten, I was astounded to discover that 'make believe' was an actual job and that someone was willing to pay me to do it. If memory serves, I took my whole extended family for a Chinese meal, paid the bill and felt like King of the World for about a week, much to the dismay of my siblings.


Erin Carter 3

Later I went on to train in music theatre, mostly because I liked telling stories in multiple theatrical languages, something that has remained. I worked as a performer for about a decade and was very fortunate in my career.  However, on longer jobs I found I missed the rehearsal room and yearned to be making, so I started writing and then directing. Writing wise, I had the support of the Royal Court Theatre's writing programmes and managed to make a relatively easy transition into being a creative as a result.

In the next chapter I wrote plays, screen plays, radio dramas and begun collaborating with other artists. I now pretty exclusively make my own work alone, or in collaboration with other artists and I work for theatres as a Director, Writer, Choreographer on re-imagined revivals when I can. I started teaching because I felt compelled to connect with the next generation of artists. I wanted to be able to say to artists, "look, you don't have to be pigeon holed. You are the only storyteller that is like you and you can have a wonderfully eclectic career should you choose it."

What have been some of your career highlights?

To be honest, given where I started, it all feels like one unending highlight. It's odd because when I was younger I thought it would be the West End gig or national tour that stuck out, but having done those I discovered it was the more personal, passion projects. When one of my earliest short plays was performed at The Public Theatre in New York, when my graduate student landed Harry Potter and called in tears, when my Radio 4 drama about incarcerated women played to them on Prison Radio. These are the things that moved me and so stick out. This year I have made work I am incredibly proud of, for The National Theatre of Malta and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I am currently creating a piece with Broadway performer Forrest McCLendon, which is my most personal project and so perhaps that will be my next major pinch me moment.

What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?

I have learned to embrace every opportunity and not to be beholden to plans made by a younger version of myself. I think we sometimes set off on a path and miss a really exciting opportunity because we're afraid to veer from it. In my experience, the best opportunities are unexpected and unscheduled. I have learned to embrace the chaos in that.  I have learned how to fail and have witnessed first hand how much better this has made me when next I have come to try. I have learned the importance of being practical as well as creative in order to sustain an artistic career. 

What advice would you have for anyone looking to get into this field?

Always do your best work, ask for help, be kind and remain the most authentic version of yourself. That person is most interesting and absolutely enough.

Find out more about BA Acting and BA Actor Musician.

Book your Open Day now. 

By Kath Hartley

RT @LeedsDrama: One day left to apply for our Projects and Productions Coordinator. Who wants to join our Acting & Actor Musician Team #Pro…
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