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Hi All,

My name's adam and im new to the forum.


Im 14 years old, and have been doing technical theatre for 3 years.


Here are my problems:


- At school, I am currently not allowed to patch the lights, even with the power isolation switch off.

- I am not aloud to rig, re-angle any of the lights unless they can be reached by a pole.

- I am not aloud to turn on the power isolation switch (fuse box) for the dimmers. I am also not aloud to turn it off.

- I am not aloud to climb the ladder leading to the dimmers on our main stage.


Is there anything I can do, any courses I can take, working at heights, electrical safety etc that could allow me to do at least some of these, or am I stuck like this forever?

I appreciate safety is a massive thing, and of course I respect that, but I do find some of these things plain stupid.


The only ideas I can come up with at the moment is try and get funding to get loads of moving lights, then I wouldnt have to move them, or gel them.. however, school has no money, so that could be a problem.


Any ideas?

Thanks, Adam.

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I work in a school now, but I can identify with your problem. It's unlikely that you will make any progress here. To be brutally honest -


-You are a student. It's not your stuff, it's the school's.

-The school won't deem you as competent as you are a minor

-The school will see itself as being at risk if they let you 'mess' with power, anything heavy over people's heads. They have a duty of care and if their rules say no, it's a no.

-Don't ever argue moving lights. If you aren't allowed (note the spelling) to do the most basic things, you aren't going to be allowed to fix / relamp a mover

-If there is no one competent at the school, as an adult, they probably don't want a child tinkering with the patch etc as they won't be able to put it right.


Unless you can work with a Head of Drama or whoever during productions who can see first hand the lack of flexibility in this situation, for example, you are stuck and powerless.


With respect, I have worked with "helpers" who are your age and as they are so keen so be involved they often make silly mistakes which I find when I check what they have done. Students often don't have the experience or wider thinking to assess risks when setting up equipment and just want to get to the end result.

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You are 14 therefore in H&S law you are a legal child regardless of your perception of your maturity. Therefore you may not normally work and one of the specific places where you may NOT EVER work is a theatre. You are required to do some things as part of your education, sometimes supervised more or less closely by a responsible and competent adult.


There is almost NO school that needs moving head lights, they are basically a computer with a big lamp and heat source and will easily eat budget at at least 10% per annum for servicing, a typical new lamp costs hundreds and usually the budget will not stretch that far.


At the moment learn about theatre without doing things that are not permitted.

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Sorry mate you were born about 45 years too late. At 14 you are now treated as an helpless child where fifty years ago you'd have been seen as quite capable of holding down a job.


Sadly all the other replies are probably correct.


But remember you're not in school 24/7 - most of the time is your own to do just what you want. A very great figure indeed in the lighting game started, while at school, by building a model theatre and making his own battery powered lanterns -which he then used to light model sets he'd made. If you could get up to the V&A theatre gallery you'd see lots of similar things for inspiration. Why not think along those lines?






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Having been in your situation I think I can offer some sound advice.

When I was about your age I bugged the drama department to let me help out with their lighting, and eventually I became their go-to guy for programming the desk.

Then I got involved with a couple of local theatre groups when I was sixteen, and I have been with them since. It's great because they have experienced technicians who are willing to help you learn by doing (which is the only way to learn in our business)

I would try talking to a few local theatre groups and even small theatres, although depending on their policies, they may not be able to let you go up ladders and things. Unfortunately, society these days regards everyone that is younger than sixteen to be a dribbling vegetable, who will immediately go to the nearest plug socket lick it, but that on your sixteenth birthday you suddenly become a responsible liable people capable of working more than two rungs up a ladder. I'm afraid that's the name of the game.

Give it a go. Talk to people. Volunteer with your school techs on school shows. Good luck.


And don't go licking any plug sockets http://www.blue-room.org.uk/public/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif

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Amateur organisations rarely have the same attitude as they have at school. School rules nowadays are often made with the 'average' student in mind. The ones who are unreliable, potentially dangerous and lacking in any idea of working safely. I have to agree that at 14, you could do quite a bit probably very safely - BUT unless the staff are really experienced in real theatre as opposed to education - your opinion and there's will be a very unbalanced. Go with the amateurs!


Junior 8's comments are sadly spot on! I was allowed at 14 to climb ladders, work the lighting all on my own, the teacher trusted me and we just did these kinds of things then. we weren't mega safe of course, and I remember not being ar5ed to comb down the scaff tower that you dragged along by tugging on the tube grid - and going across the scaff grid arm over arm until I got the the tie bars spaced about 20 ft apart. I pulled over the tower numerous times, leaving me hanging. I suppose that looking back - I should NOT have been allowed to do these things - but back then, things were different. I won't even mention the homemade pyro firing system with a pin board of nails, each one wired to a pyro (no pod just a teaspoon of powder covered fuse wire on blocks of wood). I biro with a bolt on the end, connected to the mains meant I could wipe the nails and set off my pyros. If I saw anyone doing this nowadays, I'd call them crazy, incompetent, dangerous and criminal - and stop it. Back then, I got praise from the physics AND chemistry teachers.


The reality is, that as far a school counts, school experience up to 16 cannot be very deep because of all the safety worries. Even if you go to college - some places won't let you do many things until you are 18. Nobody wants to be sued, or struck off.


Just go with the amateur stuff and have fun!

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Blame the litigatious society in which we live


In the late 60s my school did a minstrel show all blacked up - can't do that now! But then if someone got hurt at school it was an unfortunate accident, NOW if someone is hurt it's rush to the nearest sue em for free solicitors and make some real money at the school's expense.

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It's worth mentioning that while you're not allowed to work with the stuff at the school for the liability reasons mentioned above, there's nothing stopping you from asking your parents to buy you some basic lights to play about with in your home "workshop". It could just be some basic "birdies" or even some cheap disco style lights. Even hacked Poundland LED torches can be fun to add colour effects to a room with. I learned to solder when I was eleven and made loads of lighting gadgets up from that point.
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I feel that some of the restrictions are unduly harsh, but that is life these days.


IMHO a 14 year old is too young to carry out electrical installation or repair work (unless basic work and closely supervised).

However I do not see why a 14 year old should not be allowed to turn switches on and off and plug in or unplug lanterns, either directly or via a patch bay.

After all, you probably use a kettle, desk lamp, PC and various portable electronics at home without you or your parents considering this to be a risk.

Unfortunatly they are making the rules, not me.


I would not be keen on a 14 year old working at a significant height. Youth does tend to bring over confidence, as anyone working in a local hospital will confirm.


I see no harm in a 14 year old working at a modest height, say with the feet no more than 1.0 or 1.5M above floor level.

After all, many 14 year olds probably use a small pair of steps, or worse stand on furniture, to reach such heights in the home or garden.

A fall from such a height is most unlikely to have serious consequences, especialy for someone fairly fit and agile.

But again, they are making the rules and not me.


BTW when I was at school, money could be earnt by working as a cleaner at the school, after teaching hours.

"cleaning" included replacing lamps, generally with the power on.

Classroom lamps could be reached from a chair placed atop a desk.

A large and not too stable ladder was available for higher ones.

The failure of the lamp had often blown a lighting fuse, and no one worried about kids replacing fuses* either !


Imagine that today !


*With the wrong type of fuse, not out of youthfull ignorance, but because that was what we were given.

The correct fuse was a 5 amp consumer unit type fuse, the fuses used were 5 amp fuses intended for 13 amp plugs. I doubt that it mattered much, but still not right.

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Mark Twain said; "When I was 14 my father was a complete ignoramus. By the time I got to 21 I was amazed how much the old man had learned." Funnily enough the invention of scanners and neuroscience advances have proven him right. Young peoples brains develop slowly and at varying rates. The laws are made for the average, not those like the OP that are ahead of the curve of the average 14 year old convinced of their own omniscience.


My own 14 year old stepson used to howl at restrictions he thought unfair but strangely reluctant to do what my dad did to gain that independence. He went down the pit at 5 am the morning after his 14th birthday. Being a young 'un today has advantages.

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Schools are run by your local authority and governed by the strictest and least flexible rules you'll ever come across. Very often, when they say "it's illegal because of H&S" they actually mean "an adult has to be responsible and we don't want the hassle and liability". Unfortunately, it will be nigh on impossible to change their minds.


As others have suggested, it might be worth looking around to see if there are any youth theatre groups or adult amdram groups that will accept willing volunteers at your age. You might be lucky. If you are, go in willing to help and learn--and realise that, until you're 18, you are supposed to be supervised and that an adult has to take legal responsibility for everything you do.


...and, as others have said, 4 years isn't forever. In the meantime, concentrate on learning as much as you can from reading and watching. A good understanding of things like ohms law, computer networking, etc. etc. will always be useful, in some ways more so than basic button pushing and bolt turning.

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Not quite the same as that from the above posters but being at school means you are supposed to be learning stuff to get as many GCSE as possible...not fretting about the injustices in "your" world.


If you are that keen to get into the lighting sphere then I would strongly suggest you pay attention to Physics and Math and English...


You might as well accept at the tender age of fourteen you are NOT going to be doing any of the things on your grumble list any time soon.


However, to introduce a more positive note, what you can do is to read everything you can get your hands on about any aspect of the "theatre".


If you want to get a feel for programming a desk, say, then d/l the Phantom Jester and OM and work through that.


You can't break anything and if you fail to learn anything then that may tell you something...

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As a complete aside, I've sometimes wondered why schools don't go with pole-op instruments as they have in TV world. Assuming a sensible fixed rig, it'd remove a lot of the access problems when it comes to ujst focusing or tweaking a focus (as opposed to re-colouring). Especially with newer installs - why is it that no installation companies have gone down this route?
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As a complete aside, I've sometimes wondered why schools don't go with pole-op instruments as they have in TV world. Assuming a sensible fixed rig, it'd remove a lot of the access problems when it comes to ujst focusing or tweaking a focus (as opposed to re-colouring). Especially with newer installs - why is it that no installation companies have gone down this route?


Aren't pole operated outrageously expensive?

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