Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.
This week I spoke with Ester Balint.
Ester Balint, Audience and Communications Manager at Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures
The industry we’re in is a bit of a calling, so you need to have a passion for what you do, but you also need to care about the people you work with.
☕ Tea or coffee?
Homemade iced tea with lemon, as I don’t like hot drinks.
💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?
I’d describe it as purposeful but with happy accidents. Purposeful in the sense that I’ve always been very driven, with goals and a path set out to where I want to get to, but what stops I’d make along the way hasn’t always been clear. I’ve always focused on what sort of work I’d like to do in terms of tasks, projects or team (rather than focusing on working my way to a specific organisation). Happy accidents come from being in the right place at the right time, or meeting certain people and getting opportunities from there… For instance, my current job is at an organisation who are a client from my previous job! Those accidental connections have guided my journey.
I graduated doing a Bachelor’s in Drama & Theatre at the University of Kent, and from there I wanted to do a producing degree so I went to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. I chose that specific institution because they did 6 months of placement during the Master’s year. That was crucial for me and I saw it as a great opportunity to get my foot in the door in London, network and get to know people.
My first placement was at a company called Emma Brünjes Productions, where I worked on the immersive show, Alice’s Adventures Underground. I was very interested in immersive theatre and events. I wanted to improve my skills in marketing (as I thought I would need to know something about it as a producer), so for my second placement (which then turned into a proper job) I applied for a Marketing Officer role at the Churchill Theatre. I lucked out because I still had 3 months of university left! But they took a chance on me and I ended up staying for a year and a half, and the role evolved to a more senior position.
During my time at the Churchill Theatre I worked a lot with an agency called EMG Media & Marketing on campaigns we had at the theatre. Their Director actually got in touch with me to offer me a position at EMG, so that’s one of the happy accidents I’ve had in my career, and so I moved from in-house to the agency world. I worked there for 2 years, and I am now at Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, a dance company.
📚 Describe your current job
I am the Audience and Communications Manager for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures: Matthew Bourne is one of the leading choreographers in the world, and the company has both the production side staging work around the world as well as the charity side, which is all about working with communities, developing talent and making our shows accessible to as many audiences as possible.
I work across both strands, managing relationships with our marketing and PR agencies, advocating for the work we do, as well as running our own communications like social media, website, emails. In my role, there is also a strong drive for audience development, looking at both national and international audiences: it’s all about fostering the relationships and communications with existing relationships as well as bringing new audiences to the world of dance.
We are an unique dance company in what we do, because it’s not just ballet or contemporary dance, our productions are what we call “dance theatre”, which is essentially storytelling without words. It can be an easier starting point for people to experience dance for the first time through one of our works, than through say classical ballet. So in my role, it is about ensuring that we are reaching all sorts of audiences from different backgrounds and ages to us and bringing them into the world of dance.
🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?
We just launched something called “Friday Funnies”: we’ve been testing out new things on different social media platforms, including Instagram reels (which is something we haven’t done before). So every Friday we release a short segment of a funny moment that happened during one of our productions. As we’re not on stage at the moment, we’re trying to keep our productions alive and bring some joy to our audiences.
Otherwise, we are building a new CRM, which is a new project for us and something I am leading too, which makes it all the more exciting. We’re building something quite bespoke with a company called Good CRM, who is building new capabilities into the platform so it’s very interesting to feed into that and talk about functionality.
Finally, we are launching our podcast Bourne to Dance this month (on the 29th of April), which I’ve spent a lot of time on!
📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?
The re-opening of theatres is a big one for me. We have not had live performances for the past year, so we’ve looked massively into how to keep things going on digital platforms, and explored new ways of using digital, but now it’s all about gearing up for the return of live shows. We’ve got Matthew Bourne’s version of the Nutcracker coming out this winter for the 30th anniversary of the production, and we’re hoping it will still go ahead (as it was rescheduled from this past Christmas). So we’re looking forward to that!
I’ve also been watching the seminars by Indigo, Baker Richards and One Further and using the Culture Restart toolkit. It’s been very useful to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry, it’s helped us plan for several scenarios in terms of reopening and understand issues around audience concerns and confidence in returning to venues, which helps us tailor our communications and also support our tour venues in reopening.
And finally, I’m interested in how we will keep the digital work that we’ve been creating once we are back on stage: it should not be just a response to COVID but be reflective of what we have learnt in the past year and a half. So, it’s about looking beyond the pandemic. For instance, we’ve partnered with loads of theatres around the world (Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, New York City Center, LG Arts Center in Seoul…), and it’s been nice to reach audiences that we might not have engaged before, and to bring them the shows that might have toured there otherwise.
📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?
Listen to Bourne to Dance! It’s conversations between people in the dance world, their journey through dance, why they love it, etc. Our first guest is Sir Matthew Bourne, we’re also interviewing principal dancer Ashley Shaw, arts and culture broadcasters Brenda Emmanus, West End star Layton Williams, theatre maker Kane Husbands and award´winning lighting designer Paule Constable … It’s a nice creative thing to listen to with a bit of music in it as well. That first series is composed of 6 episodes, and the first one is out on the 29th April.
💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?
Be curious and genuinely interested in people. It’s an industry that is a bit of a calling, so you need to have a passion for what you do, but you also need to care about the people you work with. You never know when or where you will see people again: someone you may be working for might have an opportunity for you down the line, someone you line managed might hire you in the future… So forge genuine connections with the people you work with.