How to become a deputy master carpenter in a theatre: Paddy's story

Meet Paddy, 22, from Edinburgh, and find out more about his life working behind the scenes on the Mamma Mia European theatre tour. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"I've been all over the world with my job and I love helping tell stories that bring people so much joy."

What is your job?

My job has two parts – first is carpentry which means I create new props and set pieces out of wood. I'm also responsible for automation which is how we move different elements on and off the stage. Even 20 years ago this was done physically with ropes but we now use computers.

I'm second (deputy) master carpenter and first (head of) automation.

Can you describe a typical day?

I start every show day with a full automation rig check. I make sure that every motor is moving as it should be and the control desk is responding to the actions I am asking it to do. I then inspect the flooring and every part of the set to make sure that nothing needs fixing or replacing.

Then we set up for the show – we assist the stage department by making sure that everyone has their props, and we ensure that the pneumatic trucks and the automation are in place and working. The show I'm working on is on tour around Europe so we've visited lots of cities and different venues which makes the job really exciting.

Automation is the science of moving a theatre set

Do you use any skills you learnt at school in your job?

My every day skills are problem-solving, maths and carpentry. I actually struggled with Maths at first and it was only when I was in my last years of school that it clicked for me. I was diagnosed with autism and found I could fixate my brain on formulas and measurements like distance, speed, and time which has been really useful in my job.

Any job in automation will need good mental arithmetic skills and I can make quick calculations in my head.

Top tips

  • Seize every opportunity
  • Don’t let anyone say you can’t do anything. I've been knocked back because of my autism, because people weren't willing to assist me as a person – they just saw the 'label' and not me as a person. But you are more than a label – you are a strong person.

Paddy is a deputy master carpenter and the first head of automation in a theatre. A similar role to Paddy's role is a carpenter. Generally, carpenters make and install wooden structures, fittings and furniture.

What to expect if you want to be a carpenter

  • Carpenter average salary: £17,000 - £38,000 per year
  • Carpenter typical working hours: 40 to 45 hours per week. You could also work on occasional evenings and weekends.

What qualifications do you need to be a carpenter?

You could get into this role via a college course or an apprenticeship.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed. (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

Want to know more?

Find out more about how to become a carpenter on the National Careers Service website (England), nidirect (Northern Ireland), My world of Work (Scotland) and Careers Wales (Wales)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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