Want my job? with Claire Rammelkamp, co-founder of Wonderbox Theatre

Find out why Claire co-founded a theatre company, how she got there, and what her job looks like now.

Want my job? with Claire Rammelkamp, co-founder of Wonderbox Theatre

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

My name is Claire Rammelkamp and I'm one of the founders of Wonderbox Theatre. I am their head writer and an Assistant Producer.

What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?

Some hours of my day will be devoted to my muggle job, which is the same as the rest of the girls. I do commercial modelling (smiling for stock photos of blenders) and the other girls from the company do council marketing, bar work, retail or recruitment. 

Once the rent is covered, then we devote the rest of our working day (and often more!) to Wonderbox. This involves liaising with venues, working out budgets, applying for grants, scheduling social media, creating marketing materials and writing copy. On creative days, we'll be in a studio space rehearsing - we can't afford as many of these days as we'd like. Sometimes my day is sitting in a coffee shop writing a play.

What’s great about your job?

I love creative control. Running our own company means we get to make all the decisions about the kind of art we make. Getting into a studio and making new work is really exciting, and ending up with a complete show ready to put in front of an audience is a wonderful feeling. We like to make work which addresses tough issues, such as abortion, so it's really rewarding when we get the audience talking.

What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?

The admin/creativity ratio is often weighted towards the admin side, which can be boring. Also, we've thus far done everything on a shoestring budget. It does force you to be resourceful though, and we've learnt a lot from it.

What are the highlights of your career to date?

Being supported by the Charlie Hartill Reserve. It meant we could come up to Edinburgh, which we couldn't have afforded otherwise, and it was a seal of approval that our work is good. 

Getting our first Arts Council Grant was also very exciting. The first time we performed A Womb of One's Own, which follows a teenager's journey getting an abortion, we had a lot of women talk to us about their own experience of abortion. That felt very special.

What was your career path into this job?  Have you also worked outside the arts?

I did an English degree, which is what people often call a 'gateway' degree, because it doesn't have any clear practical application. I worked in the cafe of the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol after I graduated, then did a National Youth Theatre Course, where I met the girls from my company. 

We've been working at it for about two and a half years now, and it's just starting to bear fruit. It was all very DIY. I  think it's a slower path than say, drama school, but quite an interesting one. It's hard to do it whilst making rent, especially in the early stages, but it's constantly exciting.

Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?

Just surviving and carrying on is the biggest challenge - being at the bottom of my overdraft and having to get to London to perform makes you pretty desparate. And overcoming the feeling of selfishness for pursuing an art career is just challenging in itself.

Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?

I haven't been in it long enough to notice changes, but a lot of people say it's becoming a rich boy's game, and that does seem like the case. I really do believe everyone has the right to art, and that includes the right to make a living from it. I think if we value it as a career instead of viewing it as a luxury, maybe people will be able to afford to work in it.

You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?

One day you will appreciate being a nerd (or a keener, as they're known in Bristol). It's okay to fancy women. This angst is not unique to you. Be kind to yourself and others. Do not cut in that fringe.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

Go for it, regardless of your background. But whatever you do, do NOT sacrifice your mental health for your art, because your art won't thank you for it. If you take time to breathe, and enjoy other things, you'll be a much better artist.

 For goodness' sake, go for that pint with your friends. Anyone who tells you you should give up fun and rest in order to be successful has a very unsustainable artistic practice. If we don't enjoy ourselves we might as well be doing stable jobs. Hold on to the joy.


Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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