Next Robe Generation (NRG) – a networking community for all lighting students pursuing a career in the entertainment lighting world – has a new work experience initiative designed to offer students unique placements joining some of the industry’s most high-profile productions.

For Strictly Come Dancing, a primetime British television broadcast produced by BBC Entertainment, Lighting Director David Bishop created a special opportunity for two NRG students to join the 2023 show’s ‘Strictly Blackpool’ lighting crew.

The two NRG students – Clara Sousa-Shaheed and Charlie Bailey – received a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating a spectacular production.

The show sees celebrities partnered with professional dancers who perform different routines each week with the aim of staying in the competition. Strictly Blackpool is a highlight of the series, where the whole show moves to the iconic Tower Ballroom for the week – the home of Strictly Come Dancing.

Clara studies the BSc (Hons) Event Production at Confetti Institute of Creative Technology in Nottingham and Charlie is on the Theatre, Festival and Event Production BA (Hons) course at Bath Spa University.

Clara comments, “My time in Blackpool was invaluable. I am so inspired and in awe of the week and the work. Collaborating with an accomplished team, in a unique venue of such scale, whilst gaining essential industry skills is a rare opportunity for a student – and being part of NRG facilitated this!”

Charlie said: “I had an amazing experience and learnt a lot – it was very hands-on! I was involved in rigging and cabling up fixtures and could observe in the gallery and watch David and his team programming during rehearsals. During the show, I assisted with changing specific lighting on stage for each couple. I have expanded my skill set, built my confidence and met some more industry professionals. The lighting team were welcoming and inclusive and happy to help if I wasn’t sure about anything. To be in the amazing Blackpool Tower Ballroom for the week and part of the biggest week of the Strictly season – is something I will never forget.”

Clara and Charlie immersed themselves in the lighting crew from the load-in to the load-out!

From pushing flight cases to changing floor lights during the dances – this exclusive experience accumulated in a dazzling Saturday night final featuring 122 Robe luminaires.

Lighting Director David Bishop stated: “This was the first opportunity I’ve had to support students in this way, and it worked superbly well thanks to the support of the production team at Strictly, as well as the team from NRG.

“From start to finish, the process of creating the opportunity and choosing the participants was both smooth and effective – and Clara and Charlie were far more like full members of the team than work experience students!

“I applaud their commitment to get stuck in from start to finish, their appreciation of asking questions at the most appropriate times, and the way they immediately bonded with the team. I have full confidence both will enjoy great future success in technical production, and really hope to find opportunities for them to join us again in the near future.”

NRG Initiative Manager Jane Monk comments, “It’s an exciting time for NRG! We’ve also introduced a new product training programme as part of the initiative – which now allows us to offer a balanced platform to support students on their lighting journeys, building their confidence and expanding their network of industry contacts.”

Strictly Come Dancing has won multiple awards and the format has been exported to over 50 countries as ‘Dancing with the Stars’. 

Image: Charlie Bailey and Clara Sousa-Shaheed in Blackpool. Courtesy of NRG UK.

Share this story

June 2024 issue

2024 A1 Buyers Guide