Jon Lee, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performance, integrating experience and education
How one LSBU lecturer feels his continued involvement as a director and theatre practitioner is bringing huge benefits to his students
At LSBU we always try to enable and encourage our lecturers to remain involved in professional practice, helping to shape and develop their industries while also remaining at the cutting edge of what they do. Jon Lee, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performance, is a perfect example of the benefits that this approach brings our students.
Overlap and integration
Jon works with us part-time, meaning he has been able to continue running his own independent theatre company, Dirty Market Theatre. "Working part time means I'm fully invested in my course as well as my own work," he explains. "There are plenty of areas of overlap and integration, and that's where the real benefits lie."
In the past, those benefits have included Jon being able to help LSBU students fund their first job by offering them employment with Dirty Market Theatre. "I've given LSBU students the chance to work as technical or production assistants on shows that my company has made," he says. "Nick Ward operated the sound for three weeks as part of our show Be Good Revolutionaries at the Ovalhouse Theatre, for example, while Edward Richards was employed for six weeks to help us build, rig and operate the technical kit for our site-responsive piece Oxbow Lakes that ran in an old print factory in Hoxton."
Recommending students to others
Because Jon is still involved in his industry, he is able to recommend students to his network of contacts as well as employing them himself. When one of his students, Nadia Akhtar, discovered a passion for stage management, Jon was able to find her a job as a deputy stage manager with Standing Room Only Theatre Company.
Jon values his professional links, and feels that they provide him with important opportunities to involve his students in his own work. "This year, I'm an Associate Artist at Ovalhouse, and will be helping them to create a run at the Ovalhouse Fun Palace," he says. "It's a tribute to Joan Littlewood and my students will be able to volunteer for the project, giving them valuable experience of being part of a professional and community arts event."
Jon also feels that his own practice helps him to keep his students up to date with their knowledge of the arts industry, and enables his teaching to be forward-thinking with a highly applicable focus.
"At the forefront of my lecturing is how the knowledge I am passing on can be applied to practice," says Jon. "There isn't really a clear divide between my teaching and my practice to be honest, because they both inform each other."
The areas that I lecture in are all things I am exploring myself with Dirty Market so I draw on that experience during my lectures. At the same time, the experience I gain from working with my students informs the work I do with Dirty Market.
The same can be applied to Jon's research. "I'm lecturing in an area that I would be studying for my creative practice," he says, "so my practice becomes my academic research. LSBU is very supportive of all that I do – in fact, my contract includes self-managed research and the department is always very generous in terms in offering space for rehearsals or loaning equipment. That kind of support can be the difference between a project taking place or not happening at all, given how tight funding and budgets are in today's arts environment."