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Rob Sayer – Bath Spa University

Personal statement

I started in theatre production at a very young age, assisting my father in local amateur dramatics with all aspects of backstage work, but already with a keen interest in lighting.

Joining the Stage '65 youth theatre at Salisbury Playhouse introduced me to the professional theatre world and I spent my formative years working on many shows with high production values and creativity. Aged 14 I had the opportunity to produce my first lighting designs in a professional theatre and, as soon I was old enough, my teenage gig was as a casual employee at the Playhouse working the flys, stage and electrics crew.

I attended the internationally acclaimed Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to gain an HND in Stage Management and Technical Theatre, studying a broad range of theatre production disciplines but taking a great interest in scenic construction and stage mechanics. Upon graduation, this progressed into the world of rigging and temporary structures with companies such as Unusual Rigging and Stage Electrics.

This was the beginning of a 15 year career as a freelance production professional working on shows throughout Europe and encompassing all genres from Shakespeare to international political summits, ballet to car launches and rock concerts both indoors and out. While originally starting out as a rigger, my early love of lighting design returned and my interest in the technicalities of modern lighting programming begun as I learned different consoles 'on the job'. I have built a reputation as an LD/Moving Light Programmer serving hundreds of shows a year in a wide range of venues. Using the latest in lighting and media control, I particularly enjoy lighting control as a live performer, not just as an operator.

Production management has taken me from outdoor music festivals to FA cup finals, bringing theatre production skills to large scale clients such as Microsoft, working with royalty and prime ministers as well as some of the biggest names in show business.

With such varied show experience from 20+ years, I started to write about the subject of learning the trade as a production professional.

In 2007, I founded On Stage Lighting, an article website bringing the reality of professional stage lighting in the 21st century to those eager to learn more. Now known as a significant body of work for anyone interested in show lighting, On Stage Lighting enjoys tens of thousands of visitors per month, high profile contributors from the lighting world and even a few big name readers too.

Being Editor of On Stage Lighting has given me time to reflect on learning the production craft. It has also nurtured my interest in helping the next generation of backstage professionals navigate their way into an industry that is becoming increasingly complex and specialised.

Since moving into teaching full time and now as Senior Lecturer, I have professionalised as an educator including gaining a PG Cert in Higher Education and am currently studying for an MA in Professional Practice in HE. Excellence in teaching and learning has been recognised via a BSU Teaching Fellowship and I have recently begun to link my teaching with other research activities to enhance student experience and further contribute towards subject knowledge internationally.

I also specialise in e-learning pedagogy and distance learning, something I am continuing to develop with a view to providing consultancy to the performance production industry including equipment manufacturers and other that need to provide learning to their staff and users. Businesses can benefit from this by contacting me through Bath Spa University to discuss partnering with myself and other educationalists in the discipline.

Academic qualifications

  • HND Stage Management and Technical Theatre Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
  • PG Certificate Learning in Higher Education Bath Spa.

Professional qualifications

  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
  • Bath Spa Teaching Fellow.

Teaching specialism

  • Lighting Design and Production Lighting Practice
  • Moving Light and Digital Lighting Programming
  • Commercial Live Events and Concerts
  • Rigging and Site Safety
  • Professionalisation in a Freelance Market.

External examiners

  • FdA / BA (Hons) Technical Theatre. University of Wales Trinity St. David 2014 - 2018.

Other external roles

  • External Advisor, Programme Reviews in Contemporary Theatre Practice, Live Music Production validated by Leeds Metropolitan University
  • External Advisor, Validation Panel. Fd/BA Stage Engineering and Automation, Backstage Academy / University of Bolton
  • Contributor, Mapping Technical Theatre Arts (Farthing 2013) Higher Education Academy
  • External Panel Member. Employability Research Group. Rose Bruford College
  • Association of Lighting Designers, Education Working Group.

Research and academic outputs

Go to ResearchSPAce

Re-routing performance: touring as creative force in technical artistry

Sayer, R (2013) Re-routing performance: touring as creative force in technical artistry. In: International federation for theatre research: re-routing performance, 21 - 28 July 2013, Barcelona.

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