It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of our good friend Kay Mellor. Leeds born and bred, Kay was a pioneer of northern drama and real-life stories, going where no other female writer, director, or actor had gone before. We’re deeply proud and humbled to have been chosen as the home venue for her two stage premieres, Fat Friends The Musical (2017) and Band of Gold (2019) – both of which were huge success stories, as was everything that Kay turned her hand to. The hearts and thoughts of our theatre family are with her family, who we are also blessed to call friends of our theatres.

Adam Norton stood against a brick wall

In Conversation With... Adam Norton

Meet Adam Norton, Senior Technician at Leeds Heritage Theatres, and drum-playing, classic car-loving, Leeds United fan!

Written by Kelly Scotney.

Describe a day in the life of a Senior Technician?

Every day varies from Get-ins to two-show days. A ‘Get-in’ is the day when a new show arrives in Leeds. Each show presents its own challenges as it brings its own equipment. This means a day (or two) of artic trucks arriving one by one. The trucks are split into different departments – Lighting, Sound, Stage and Wardrobe – and there is usually one or two trucks for each department, depending on the size of the production. This can mean very long and challenging days setting up and building the show ready for opening night. I work for the sound department so my job is mostly setting up speakers, PA systems, microphones, and the band/orchestra. When the show leaves, after curtain down on closing night, we usually work through the night striking the set, lights and speakers and loading it all back into trucks so the show can move on to its next destination.

On a typical show day, we have one person from the Technical department fulfilling the role of Duty Technician. It is an important role, as you are in charge of making sure everything is ready for curtain-up from the theatre’s perspective, including all technical and blackout checks, and being the link between the Company and our Front of House team. The show doesn’t start until the Duty Tech gives clearance to the Deputy Stage Manager, so there’s quite a lot of pressure on us to ensure the shows go on!

Adam Norton stands in Leeds Grand Theatre's balcony with the stage behind him showing the Cabaret sign Wilkommen in large white letters

What three skills do you think are most important in your role?

Communication, flexibility and having an open-mind. Technical skills are something that can be taught and learned over a number of years, so although your skill level and technical knowledge is very important, I think these three skills are equally as essential.

What has been the highlight (to-date) of your time at Leeds Heritage Theatres?

From a personal perspective, my promotion to Senior Technician in October 2021 was a dream come true, and something I could have never imagined ten years ago. Professionally, I have enjoyed being part of the recruitment process, recently hiring seven new technicians to help rebuild our team and move the company forward after such a challenging couple of years. I come from a family of teachers and used to work in technical education myself, so it’s absolutely fantastic and very rewarding to see a new wave of technicians coming through who I can help, and also learn from. We now have a superb and very diverse crew of technical staff and it’s a pleasure to have a leadership role within that team.

What is the most challenging thing about your role?

A large part of our role is maintenance and upkeep. There are many daily challenges that arise when working in buildings that are around 150 years old. They’re not as simple to work on as new builds and everything we do has to comply with health and safety legislation which can be challenging at times. It requires constant work to keep the buildings looking and sounding as beautiful as the day they opened. It’s a never-ending cycle of conservation and preservation which we are all happy to get involved with. I think I speak for the whole department when I say that we are lucky to work in such incredible, historical buildings, so we accept the inevitable difficulties that come with that.

Adam stands on Leeds Grand Theatres' fly floor with harness on

Adam Norton on the Fly Floor

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about working as a Technician?

Be prepared for long hours, don’t give up if it doesn’t happen straight away and gain as much experience as possible, even if that means offering your services for free in the early stages of your career.

There are plenty of fully-fledged industry technicians who are more than willing to give new blood a helping hand by letting them shadow for a show or work for them as an assistant. There’s also lots of amateur dramatics companies, schools and community theatre groups that will give you a foot in the door, and can offer valuable industry experience. It can be a tough slog going from college or university to becoming a full-time theatre technician but if you have passion and drive, I’m confident that anybody who puts the time and effort in can get there. Theatre as a whole is moving towards a more ‘Multiskilled Technician’ model and therefore I would recommend gaining as much experience as possible of all stage crafts, including lighting, sound, stage and flying before applying for full-time theatre roles. Our job can be difficult but it’s also extremely rewarding – being part of the magic of theatre is pretty exciting!

Adam’s Favourite Things

Favourite venue – The Grand, Varieties, Hyde Park? And your favourite detail of this venue?

I love the Grand. It’s where I started with the company, and three years later, I’m still in awe of the place. I feel a real connection with this venue.

The time and effort put in by the architect George Corson with his builders and engineers in the late 1800’s is inspirational: the minute details painted in gold leaf; the façade; the Romanesque windows; the priceless chandelier; the proscenium arch… I may be biased but I think it’s one of the most beautiful theatres our country has to offer! My view, is that we’re looking after it for a bit, continuing the great work of all the technicians before us and hopefully laying the foundations for another 150 years of world class entertainment in our great city.

Adam norton stood below the arched City Varieties sign on Harrison Street

Credit Ashley Pekri

Favourite show/act/film you have seen at one of our venues? Why?

I enjoy all types of productions and really appreciate the wide range of shows we put on at our venues. It’s nice as staff to be able to work between theatres, spending one night doing a comedy show at The Varieties to spending the next night working a huge musical at The Grand – it keeps things fresh and ensures it never gets boring.

Special Mentions to Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Grease, Rock of Ages, Waitress and Everyone’s talking about Jamie at The Grand, and Dom Halpin’s Country Night in Nashville at The Varieties.

Favourite thing to do on your day off?

I play drums in a rock band called Crooked Revival which takes up a lot of my spare time. I also enjoy working on my classic car and attending Leeds United games.

Favourite job – other than your current role?

I’d like to think that I haven’t got my favourite job yet. Of course, my current role is the best job I’ve had so far but my career goal is to work towards becoming a Sound Designer for theatre, TV and film.