SDTN Technical Theatre Symposium 2021

The SDTN Technical Theatre Symposium 2021 invited our network of education and industry to look at our collective visions of 2020. In order to do this, the event was curated to bring together experts, practitioners and educators from across Scotland in the areas of production arts to explore the impact of lockdown and blended learning and share their individual, and unique experiences of the last eleven months.

Due to the on-going nature of the global pandemic and the impact it was having on any scope of an in person event, it was quickly decided to move the event to on line delivery only.  This was only possible by further research to engage a company who had a proven track record of successful delivery of this on line model of events. We employed Snootie Studios on recommendation from colleagues in the Knowledge Exchange department of RCS. Snootie studios who delivered the symposium on Slack Channel and Zoom, are a creative studio specialising in Graphic Design, Illustration and online Events Production.

The company met with us before the festive break and were very enthusiastic about the project and were clear in their understanding of the purpose and focus of the event, and quickly offered tangible scenarios to help us deliver the event as close to the original concept as possible in a digital environment. However this decision that was out of our control did have an initial impact on our capacity as a team and the expenditure budgeted for the event did need reviewed. We quickly found that delivering an event on line took many more people hours and a budget than it would have if it had been delivered in the usual manor.

SDTN made another decision with the event this year, and invited attendees to make an affordable contribution to access this event and its associated online content. We suggest a contribution range from £5 to £50. This event has been historically free to all that attended, so in order to not make this a barrier to attendance, we included the option for the freelance workforce who has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, to email the team to discuss complimentary attendance. To our surprise there were no applications for a comp ticket, and we had an amazing thirty three delegates whom paid £5 and ten delegates that paid between £20 and £50 for their pass. This meant that the income for the box office ticket sales paid for one of the CPD session presenters fees and the delegate packs. It may not seem like a lot of income, however it is a huge step forward in the realisation that the event could be on its way to be self-funded in the future.



Delegate Attendance number: 47

Delegates made up of: stage management student, production manager, technician and designer, technical apprentice, lecturer, technical assistant, head of technical operations, stage manager, learning assistant in technical; theatre, chair of education and training committee, head of production, tutor, technical theatre and production arts student.


What the delegates said:

I think this session was excellent as a prop making workshop. I assumed we were going to cover a wider selection of products, although it cannot be faulted, delivered well and the at home kits were a fantastic idea – Flints CPD session.

I think the visual aids used to help us learn the knot were very usefulABTT CPD Session.

It was incredibly interestingAssociation of Sound Designers CPD Session


Industry Discussion:

Thought it was very informative and good to have an open conversation, I would have liked it to be longer.

I thought that the topic was a very important one and it generated some interesting discussion.

The highlight of the day for me, very inspirational and enlightening.


Very practical, helpful discussion around lighting visualisation and artistic choicesCreative Conversation with Kate Bonney

Nice discussion that could have continued. Felt very relaxed and welcoming as did the entire dayCreative Conversation with Jamie Wardrop.

We had a really good conversation about design and teaching onlineCreative Conversation with Hazel Blue.


The event over all:

It felt much more personal and people-based than other similar online events I have attended

Great day, learning lots of great things. Especially the practical classes at the start, a good way of beginning a long Zoom day.

Well done, a fantastic day and expertly put together. 



Number of professional industry participants: 36

What the delivery partners said:

I was ‘shuffled’ into the breakout room efficiently and the audience were pleasantly receptive and friendly. SDTN staff were extremely supportive and helpful.

Overall positive. Participants were very “camera off” which is difficult when discussing topics which involve interaction (we adapted the session as we went) It would be fair to say this was the largest amount of camera off participants that I have encountered doing any seminar/teaching throughout the last 12 months. I understand the reasons potentially why but would reconsider the topic/format if we were to repeat.

It was a good experience and I liked the “Spotlight” concept.

I found the Spotlight sessions were very useful, they did allow presenters to reach a good number of delegates. The 10 minute limit was great – Just enough time to get 2 or 3 key points across. I can imagine quite a bit of organisation went on behind the scenes managing the presenter off and on – and it seemed to go seamlessly.

There was a huge amount of very interesting information given by the spotlight presenters. For future it would be worth thinking about the density and duration of such sessions and developing a more open and varied framework. Unfortunately, in order to make it more palatable might mean there can’t be quite so much content.

Using Slack to deliver the Industry Stall feature, obviously whilst not as effective as a real stall did work. There seemed to be a fair bit of buzz around the place and I did come away with a feeling that it had been worthwhile.

Well done to all the organisers for a great event. Given we were all attending remotely, this was still a buzz and a real sense of vibrancy. All 3 of us enjoyed it very much.

I think it is a strength that the SDTN provides a Symposium for those practicing in Scotland but introduces them to a wide range of knowledge form within and outside the country.



The event:

Thursday 4th February 2021 SDTN worked with Solar bear and the RCS to offer our delegates a private digital screening of The Assumption. The production was co-produced by Solar Bear and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Written by Douglas Maxwell and directed by Jonathan Lloyd Creative Director for Solar Bear, it was filmed at The Tramway and performed by BA Performance in BSL and English students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Friday 5th February 2021 the Symposium was live at 9am with Industry and Education stalls on Slack channel. We gave delegates the chance to chat one on one, ask questions, and join others to replicate the marketplace model that was launched for the first time at the symposium 2020. Companies and organisations that participated were, Flints Theatrical Chandlers, Ayrshire College, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Creative Edinburgh, CallQ, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Association of Sound Designers and Edinburgh College.

Delegate registration also opened at 9am with tea and biscuits, this was a chance for delegates to use complimentary SDTN tea and biscuit and meet others in the main zoom room to network and talk about the day ahead. The delegates were welcomed by Technical Theatre Skills Officer for SDTN and we moved into the break out rooms for the professional development workshops.

The Workshops were delivered by partner organisations, Association of Sound Designers, Flints Theatrical Chandlers and the Association of British Theatre Technicians. The companies worked tirelessly with us to create and hone their workshops to make them as interactive as possible, allowing for the delegates to have their camera and microphone on if they wishes to engage with the other delegate’s and the presenter. Flints and ABTT workshops had the added value of the delegates being sent a pack of materials to be used during the session/or at a later date if they so wished.

The afternoon symposium was opened by the Spotlight Sessions. This quick-fire strictly ten-minute each sessions had the most diverse range of speakers yet. We are delighted to have so many education and industry giving up their time to share their innovations, best practice of Visions of 2020 & working in a COVID-Safe environment. Presentations were from SDTN, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Solar Bear, Ayrshire College, Federation of Scottish Theatre, White Light, Tramway & Stageport, CallQ, Creative Edinburgh, Creative & Cultural Skills, Edinburgh College, Equity and Association of British Theatre Technicians.

Following on form this we went into the late afternoon with an Industry Discussion with National Theatre of Scotland and Centrline. SDTN are delighted to welcome both companies to update us on their ideas around working collaboratively for a more sustainable future. The discussion was then opened up for discussion and delegates were invited to respond to their presentations. The topic was welcomed and the delegates engaged well with this. The discussion will carry on and the outcome of the session will inform SDTN programming of a CPD session on Sustainability in Practice Spring 2021.

Just when it felt like the day should be drawing to a close, we went into breakout sessions for Creative Conversations with Video Designer, Set Model Making/Costume Designer and a Lighting Designer. These artists joined us in the summer and autumn of 2020 to deliver professional development sessions in the first of our SDTN Online programmed sessions for teaching staff.
We took on board the feedback from these earlier sessions, and invited some of the artists back to have a more in-depth conversation with delegates on what they have gained from the previous sessions, and a chance to meet and talk to the other participants that attended the session. This was also another chance for delegates to turn on their camera and microphone on and have a conversation.

Delegates who had not booked into these limited capacity sessions, were offered a Vimeo link to the summer & autumn CPD Sessions watch again, with the opportunity to have the link for a week.

The round-up of the day and evaluation was bookended by a never tried before networking reception on zoom. We invited delegates to join us for this informal and confidential reception, with music, to try and give them an opportunity to talk.


Report by Abigail McMillan

Technical Theatre Skills Officer SDTN

February 2021

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