Behind the Scenes at the Edinburgh International Festival in Working

Young Scot were lucky enough to be part of a behind the scenes look at the Edinburgh International Festival. We were delighted to sit down and have a chat with the Head of Technical, John Robb, who is responsible for the overall staging of all productions appearing at the Edinburgh International Festival.

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What does your job entail?

I'm responsible for all of the technical aspects of putting on the festival. My department covers lights, sound, freight, scenery and now audio visual projection as well as stage management.

How did you get into your current role?

I started off in Edinburgh and I would work in as many youth theatres and school shows as I could.  I went on to be a trainee in a theatre workshop in Stockbridge, and since then I’ve never applied for a job but have been offered work through other jobs I’ve done.

What are the biggest challenges of working at the Edinburgh International Festival?

We’re doing lots of productions on a variety of scales - some of them are absolutely enormous and some are really small - but the attention to detail that we have is the same for everything no matter how small the show is.

The team I work with are all working at the same high standard where everything has to be absolutely right. Some of the shows we have here have been designed as one off shows and the set hasn’t been designed to be taken down and redesigned somewhere else and so we have to find a way of making that happen.

The one bit of advice I give to people is that this business is all based on luck - you being in the right place at the right time - but you have to make your own luck. 

What advice would you give to young people looking to get into the industry?

You need to really enjoy it because if you don’t, bits of it are grim. You need to be really patient and enjoy the process so that when you step back from it you can take great satisfaction from what you’ve achieved.

The one bit of advice I give to people is that this business is all based on luck - you being in the right place at the right time - but you have to make your own luck. When you do get that chance to get in on something just show up, have a good attitude, work hard and be supportive. It’s all about when you do get the chance - no matter how rubbish the job might seem - you should just do your best. When you get that lucky break, don’t waste it!

What is there for young people to enjoy at the festival?

You just have to experience it and the more you see the better because you can then compare things up against each other and find out what interests you.

The Young Scot card discount is a fantastic way to make sure you see as much as possible.

What are your highlights of the festival?

The hub sessions are going to be reallygood; the acts that are doing these sessions are absolutely fantastic.

The two shows we have at the conference centre will be both worth seeing, The Encounter, by Complicite and 887, that’s been directed, conceived and performed by Robert Lepage.

Get Involved

Remember that you can get 50% off all tickets for the Edinburgh International Festival with your Young Scot Card when booking in advance or you can get £8 tickets on the day!

And, if you fancy working at the festival one day, check out our info in getting started in the creative industry.