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  • Elin Schofield

NSDF and Emerging Artists

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

"NSDF gave me the opportunity to try and fail and try again with boundless encouragement...."

From the age of eighteen, I knew that I wanted to work in theatre in some way. Which way that was, I was none the wiser. I planned to use the next couple of years to try my hand at as much as possible, from Lighting Op to Movement Director, in the hope that something would clearly stand out amongst the rest. 

The National Student Drama Festival gave me the platform to test out being a range of different things in a professional environment. Over the space of four festivals, I road-tested potential future pathways for myself. I was an actor in a humongous ensemble piece, a technician building the venues that twelve shows would later be performed in, a producer of a verbatim three-hander, a movement director on an immersive family fairy-tale and finally a director of my own company’s devised work.  It is safe to say that I will never act again, I am hopeless when it comes to plugging in cables and producing wasn’t for me personally. However, yards away from the beach in sunny Scarborough (where the festival was hosted until recently), I stumbled on what I wanted to do and am lucky enough to do it today. NSDF gave me the opportunity to try and fail and try again with boundless encouragement, support and enthusiasm until I knew what it was within the chaotic, crazy and often confusing world of theatre that I wanted to do. 

And that was the tip of the iceberg…

Through spending my Easter holidays at the National Student Drama Festival, I have also:

- met directors who have continued to offer me invaluable support about what to do next, shows to see and who to get in touch with. 

-met artists who I now work with regularly and constantly look to for advice. 

- seen work that has provoked and inspired me far more than work that I have seen outside of the NSDF and have come away with the feeling that this industry is on the brink of a huge shift for the better due to young people constantly challenging the status quo. 

- been part of discussions and conversations tackling questions that are tricky and have no clear-cut answer, which is refreshing, because so often people outside of the festival brush these under the carpet and hope they will disappear. 

- met movement directors who I have gone on to assist on large-scale productions. 

- participated in workshops with artists who are at the forefront of what they do whether that be writing or directing or fundraising (and I continue to use exercises and games that I did with them in the workshops that I run today). 

- learnt that everyone was starting out at some stage and everyone wants to help in anyway they can. 

- had work that I have been involved in go on from the festival to venues across the UK including the Royal Exchange, Camden People’s Theatre, New Diorama and Theatr Clwyd. 

- spoken on a panel about how to start making work. 

- made friends that I will have for life. 

Now, I am a director, movement director and facilitator, as well as running my own small-scale touring theatre company. I am lucky enough to create shows and run workshops with young adults up and down the country and I will never stop encouraging them to check out the fantastic work that NSDF does every year. It is no exaggeration to say that every job that I have had since graduating from university can be traced back to someone who I met at NSDF. 

This is my first year as a selector for the festival and it is a real privilege to continue my involvement in the NSDF in a small way by seeing shows up and down the country and talking about this work with the next generation of makers. 

So, in no small part, NSDF has had an effect on firstly, who I am as an artist, and secondly, who I am as a human. Maybe that sounds far fetched. How can a week-long festival empower you, shape you and equip you with the tools to go into this industry with guns blazing? 

Well, you’ll have to come this April and find out for yourself. 

(Originally published on

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