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Posted 18.03.20

From Mamma Mia! to Strictly Come Dancing, Jesse wardrobe assists in UK’s top theatres

By Naomi Girdler

BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts third-year student Jesse Welland-Hammond has been keeping busy during her final year on the course, working in wardrobe departments across the country.

From the classic musical adventure Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the local Devonport Playhouse to the smash hit Abba musical Mamma Mia! at the famous Novello Theatre in London’s West End, Jesse has discovered her love of wardrobe assisting.

Jesse said: “My first experience in the industry was working on Mamma Mia!. I got in touch and they offered me work experience, which was the opportunity that originally inspired me to get into running wardrobes. I went from there to working at the Devonport Playhouse on their production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, where I had quite a lot of responsibility. I worked on altering and making costumes as well as running and dressing backstage.”

A Comedy About a Bank Robbery at the Criterion Theatre

Jesse also went on tour with Strictly Come Dancing after connecting with a previous student of the Costume Production course, Kayleigh Perry. Despite originally visiting her for research assistance with Jesse’s dissertation, she ended up helping out on costumes for the show during her trip.

Jesse said: “Strictly was an amazing experience, possibly my favourite work experience to date. After that I worked at the Criterion Theatre on The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. Working there was a unique experience due to the theatre being so small. The team was even smaller; there was only me, working as wardrobe assistant alongside the Head of Wardrobe. The work was very fast and intense. It’s a great theatre to work for and because of the size of the team, you feel really appreciated. All of my work experience has definitely helped me realise my passion for musicals.”

"...I genuinely don’t know anyone else who gets to experience as many industry professionals as we do here [at Plymouth College of Art]"
- Jesse Welland-Hammond, third year BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts student

Jesse finds inspiration in the work of two-time Tony award winner Gregg Barnes, an American costume designer for film and TV. Broadway designer for the West End, he’s worked on productions such as Elf The Musical, Kinky Boots and Aladdin. Jesse also cites fellow Plymouth College of Art Costume Production student Kayleigh Perry as an inspiration for her constant support and encouragement, as well as her industry contacts.

Jesse said: “I’ve learnt a lot about myself through industry placements, which have undoubtedly helped to develop my character. There are some things that you can’t learn inside university. For example, running with wardrobe, you have to think quickly. Occasionally you’ll have to fix things on the spot or you’ll be put in a high pressure situation. It turns out I can cope really well under pressure!”

“Plymouth College of Art was my first choice of university, and I’m so glad that I came here. The technicians are amazing. We also have so many visiting lecturers, from theatre designers to film and TV prop makers. I’ve got friends on costume courses around the country and I genuinely don’t know anyone else who gets to experience as many industry professionals as we do here.

“I’ve been able to take everything I’ve learned at the college and put it into practice. We’re lucky that we learn such a wide range of skills on the course, and I’ve found it so helpful to take part in schemes like Workshop Wednesdays, since now I can weld! Plymouth College of Art is such a supportive environment, there’s always someone to help and advise you.”

One of Jesse's pieces, a knife thrower's costume

Workshop Wednesdays are an extracurricular day where students of Plymouth College of Art are free to explore creative skills outside their course of study. Choosing from a range of workshops with everything from CV writing to glass bead making, students get the chance to expand their creative horizons by trying new disciplines. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the College has embraced 100% online delivery, with Workshop Wednesdays offering online sessions for students through the Student Portal, as well as an ever growing list of How To videos available for all on our YouTube page.

Jesse said: “For those thinking about studying Costume Production at Plymouth College of Art, I’d say don’t be afraid to ask for help from your lecturers and it’s always good to get advice from your peers. Everyone is so creative, no two people think alike! My advice for students thinking of getting into running wardrobe is to definitely have the mindset that if you don’t ask you don’t get. No company or show is too big. All the experience I’ve had came because I reached out and asked for the opportunity. Do your best to experiment as much as possible, to find your own creative flare. If something doesn’t work out, it’s not a mistake, you’re developing as a maker and an artist. Don’t be scared of opportunity, just do it!”

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