Meet the Arts Ambassadors: Ben McQuigg

MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics student Ben McQuigg is next up in our series introducing our new Arts Ambassadors, where he talks about juggling the rather unusual combination of engineering, SUSUtv, and theatrical societies!

Those who know I do an Engineering degree are surprised when they find out I’m also heavily involved in the arts. Engineering doesn’t really lend itself to having free time, and the area of arts I’m most involved in (Theatre and Music) is known for sucking up far too much of your time anyway!

When I first joined the University in 2016 reading Astronautics and Aeronautical Engineering I thought the best course of action would be to get involved in things that could consume my time. Very quickly I found myself on the committee for SUSUtv as the Performing Arts Executive (a now, sadly defunct position). This gave me exposure to the student-led theatrical groups, namely Theatre Group, Showstoppers, LopSoc and StageSoc. They all have the same goal: producing student-made shows in the Annex Theatre right here on Highfield Campus, but all with a focus on different types of theatre.

After being a keen fresher with SUSUtv, I decided I’d be exceptionally keen with Showstoppers too. Having played the piano since I was 6 years old I had naturally developed an interest in Musical Theatre, and so Showstoppers was the society for me! After firing off an email I was surprised to be offered the role of Assistant Musical Director (AMD) for their Spring Production of Curtains. This was my first proper insight into the mad mad world of student theatre. Everyone works so hard in a ridiculously short space of time to perform a show for 4 days to a standard they can all be proud of. After Curtains I moved onto my second show as AMD performed after Easter called Follies.

It became very clear to me that the people that came to these shows were parents, friends of the cast, or people from the other three societies; no-one else in the university really knows that when it hits 6pm 2A/2065 transforms into a theatre for the evening. Using my role at SUSUtv I continued to produce trailers and other promotional material in order to get the word out there. A recent trailer I made for the Showstoppers Fresher’s production Fame (for which I was also Musical Director) seemed to gain a lot of traction on Facebook.

The main reason I wanted to become an arts ambassador was to really spread the word about one of my greatest passions, the theatre, to the wider student community. In doing so it also meant I could get experience and exposure to the other arts such as music, fashion, and media that go on within the university. In the meantime I guess I’ll continue to Musical Direct shows and pretend I do an Engineering degree at the same time.

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.


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