Event Management Fit For A King!

Louise Sutton

If completing a Lancaster drama degree and organising the Coronation of Charles III seem to require skills at opposite ends of a spectrum, Louise Sutton (Theatre Studies and English, 2003, Bowland) will argue the contrary. She’s done both and reckons putting on university theatre productions and major national events require the same strengths - collaboration and the ability to solve problems.

Louise laughs as she reflects on the unexpected link between her student days and her current national role as Major Event Expert at the Department of Culture Media and Sport: “My Lancaster Theatre Studies degree just made me an excellent problem solver,” she says. “Doing student theatre on a budget, or working on the Coronation is the same thing. It’s applying what you need to do, by when, and requires very similar skills.”

With 18 years under her belt as a Civil Servant, and experience of project managing the Commonwealth Games, and the funeral of Elizabeth II, Louise’s offer of the Coronation role was a logical progression, but also an opportunity she could not refuse.

“Very rarely does your work put you in a role so public-facing and in the eye of national consciousness. It was an easy decision to say yes”, she admits.

Louise’s task began in 2022 working with multiple different bodies on every aspect of the Coronation Day itself, including coordination of projects across London, liaising

with the Foreign Office, security with the Metropolitan Police and the MOD. A big focus was on the collective risk management and making sure experts were confident everything would work.

She also made sure the right plans were in place for a whole weekend of activities, including the concert in Windsor, and community activities like 'The Big Help Out'.

The day itself Louise spent behind the scenes in a control room, able to hear the horses outside the window and watch it on the TV, and with the satisfaction that she, her team and collaborators had made it all happen. Her focus was providing regular updates to Whitehall about what was happening and resolving on-the-day issues, but she did not see the Royal Couple.

Her reward was to receive a Coronation Medal which is a gift from the King himself. She was invited to Buckingham Palace to a special reception attended by the King and Queen. She says: “It was a really special day.”

Louise is a long way from the anxious theatre-mad 18 year old from Loughborough who came to Lancaster, attracted by the mix of practice and theory on offer and the ‘cool’ Black Box studio theatre.

The group audition process sold it to her - being asked to make a human frieze with a group of people she’d only just met. “It was such a wonderful opportunity to create in a really organic way and I found it so exciting and energising,” she recalls.

Settling in was not easy for her, coming from a small town and finding herself sharing a kitchen and bathroom in Bowland with strangers. It also rained solidly for her first three weeks. But the college setting soon drew her in and she found herself making links via the JCR, her corridor and her course.

She started off studying Theatre Studies but soon changed to a joint degree with English Literature. Her enthusiasm about some of her courses - mid-European playwrights, women’s literature and arts administration across the two faculties - remains.

Production soon took over from acting. Throughout her three years she worked with the 'Strangely Compelling Theatre Company', in musicals sketch shows and plays.

The Lancaster University Bulletin Board (a kind of Lancaster version of Reddit) took up some of her down time, but theatre was never far away and she found herself painting props in her kitchen in the evenings. Her greatest praise is reserved for the technical team at the Nuffield Theatre, where she spent many hours, especially in her final year.

After graduation, Louise was unsure what path to take, so went back to Loughborough and thoroughly enjoyed a stint in logistics for a sock factory for two years before joining the Civil Service.

A new role is now challenging Louise - as Head of Programme Management for the recently announced Independent Football Regulator (a kind of sport Ofcom), she is applying her Coronation know how to the Beautiful Game, ensuring everything is in place for the working of the new body.

“This is about supporting clubs in being sustainable in the long term whilst keeping fans at the heart of the game,” Louise explains, even though she confesses she is not a football fan herself. “I took the job because it is so incredibly interesting. Football is part of our national identity.”

What did her undergraduate years at Lancaster teach her? “It was collaboration,“ she says. “Working with a wide range of people and balancing opinions and priorities made me able to do my job. If I had not learned that through people with deep disagreements, my career would not have been possible.”

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