With a dream of a career in the arts, but not knowing exactly what that meant for her, QMU graduate Emilie Robson decided to study the BA (Hons) Drama and Performance course (now Drama) as it offered a variety of learning opportunities that would later help her figure out just what it was that she wanted to do.
She now tells us about her experience at QMU, some of her favourite elements of the course and where is she now.
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
I chose QMU because, quite frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do in the future but I knew I wanted to be in the arts. I was apprehensive about pursuing a pure acting qualification or going down the English Literature route so felt like the broad and varied Drama and Performance course allowed me to keep my options open and see what was of interest. I liked that I had the option to hone in on specific areas in my final few years, once I had a better sense of what gripped me. I’d also be lying if I said that proximity to Edinburgh and its amazing Arts scene wasn’t a large part of my decision to study at QMU!
What did you enjoy most about your course?
I liked the mix of assessments as I can find constant essays and coursework tedious and stressful. While balancing rehearsals for practical, performance-based group assessments and written assignments could at times be challenging, on reflection, the variety of assessments kept things fresh and interesting. Additionally, the sense of community and camaraderie that the practical assessments created was truly amazing and I still continue to collaborate with colleagues from my course who I’d likely never have met or creatively sparked with, if everything had been coursework based.
Were there any particular course activities you found especially interesting?
Touching upon Critical Theory, Philosophy and Sociology within the more theory-based modules was brilliant and gave us a broad, foundational knowledge of concepts and academics we may not have expected to touch upon on such a practice-based programme.
How did your lecturers support your learning?
Because most of the lecturers had previously or were still professional practitioners, I felt they had a real understanding of the theatre as an industry, not just as an academic subject.
What challenges did you face with the course and/or university life? How did you overcome them?
As much as I’m grateful for and enjoyed group practical assessments, relying on other people to help you achieve or having them rely on you could be difficult, particularly when you’re also trying to balance other coursework, part-time employment, a social life and your laundry! Conflict did arise but learning to traverse it calmly and professionally was as much a part of the learning process as the assessments themselves. Again, the strong camaraderie and bonds I formed with my course mates also helped me overcome academic and personal challenges.
Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
"I found the course to be fantastic for anyone who wants to venture into the arts but isn’t exactly sure in what capacity yet."
I’ll be honest and say that theatre, or more broadly the arts, are very difficult, often impenetrable fields and no one should undertake this course thinking doors immediately open as soon as you’ve graduated. What the course offers is vast but broad knowledge, the opportunity to collaborate and potentially find your long term collaborators and access to some very skilled and knowledgeable practitioners and lecturers. My advice to anyone interested in this course would be to fully immerse themselves in the unique course and really take advantage of the wealth of knowledge on offer while you’re figuring out your next steps.
Did you attend an online or in person Open Day or Offer Holder day before coming to QMU?
Yes, I attended an in person open day. It was the warmth and approachability of the current course head Christine Raffaeli, at the time that really cemented my decision to attend.
What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?
Remember you’re there to learn, not just pass exams! Enjoy yourself and enjoy the beautiful city on your doorstep but make sure you aren’t coasting your way through your studies as a result. I definitely “phoned it in” from time to time and now regret treating assignments as necessary hoops to jump through and not fully relishing in the learning.
Can you tell us about your life post-graduation?
Since graduating, I continued collaborating with my course mate and friend Laila Noble, setting up a small theatre company called ClartyBurd and taking on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on several occasions, while working in hospitality. We were awarded the 2018 Bright Spark Award from the Scottish Arts Club for our play Moonlight on Leith, which went on to be named runner up at Theatre Uncuts 2019 Political Playwriting Award.
Later that year I returned to education and pursued an MA in Theatre Studies from Glasgow University. The play I wrote for my dissertation ended up being awarded a special commendation at the 2021 Alfred Bradley Award, becoming a full length BBC Radio 4 production and nabbing me places on both the 4Screenwriting and BBC Writersroom schemes. I now work full time as a screenwriter, working predominantly in TV development.