Olivia Birchenough

Olivia Birchenough

“I went to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, and now I am a Channel 5 Children’s TV Presenter.”

Olivia, Actor, TV Presenter and Voice Over Artist

Years attended:

2002-2009

Job Title:

Actor, TV Presenter and Voice Over Artist

Description of Job:

I currently present Channel 5’s leading children’s segment, ‘Milkshake!’ This involves presenting live television each morning, as well as fronting the channel’s nationwide theatre tour. As a freelance performer, I’m also currently on tour across the UK with ‘Mobile’, a production by theatre company,  The Paper Birds. Along with this, I voice various programmes and commercials for companies such as Disney, again as a freelance voice over artist. I’ll be finishing the year (2017) playing Cinderella at The Blackpool Grand Theatre, having last year won Best Leading Female at The Great British Pantomime Awards.

O Levels/GCSEs

5 A*’s, 3 A’s, 2 B’s

A Levels

Drama and Theatre Studies (A)

English Language (A)

English Literature (B)

University

Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance – BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts

What inspired you at school?

AGGS gave me a solid education, allowing me to excel in not only Drama which I went on to study further, but English Literature and Language which I draw upon daily when writing and analysing scripts. AGGS also taught me to work to my full potential, a skill which I’ve hopefully taken on into the working world.

Any useful tips/advice?

I remember being at AGGS wanting to take a completely different career path to all of my friends. I didn’t want to go to a traditional university, or follow a path of what a lot of my teachers thought would perhaps be best for me as a more solid career choice. My advice would be get a solid grounding and education to fall back on, then reach for your dreams. If you can make a living out of something you love, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life!

What have you done since leaving AGGS to get to where you are today? (eg work experience, GAP year, apprenticeship, volunteering, travelling)

I left AGGS with a place to study at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. I trained on the European Theatre Arts BA (Hons) programme, which was a very intense, practical course and included a six month placement in Estonia at The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Out there I trained in circus skills and aerial silks, adding to the acting skills I was being taught in London.

How did you get into your current role?

After many auditions and screen tests, I was offered my first job as a presenter at Channel 5’s ‘Milkshake!’ a month before I graduated from drama school.

What specific qualifications are needed for your job?

My drama school training and degree gave me the foundation and skills required to be a self-employed, freelance performer.

Are there any particular subjects that have to be studied to be able to do your job?

There are many routes which can be taken, but I’d definitely say Drama and Theatre Studies, Music, Dance and English all helped whilst I was at AGGS.

What is a typical work day like for you?

If I’m filming for Milkshake, I’ll start the day in hair and make up at the MTV studios in Camden, London at around 4:30am. I’ll then be in the studio and ready to go live on air from 6:00 – 9:15am, presenting in between each of the programmes. Once off air, it’s back in to hair and make up to get ready for a weekend pre-record as Saturdays and Sundays don’t go out live. This filming will take me to about 11:30am. I’ll then be in the office, writing and preparing scripts for the next day. So as well as presenting the programme, we also have a large involvement and quite a bit of responsibility behind the scenes! I’ll wrap at Milkshake around 2pm. I’ll then head off to any voice over sessions that are booked in for the afternoon.

What is the best bit about your job and do you have a particular career highlight?

I’ve been really fortunate over the past five years to be presented with many exciting opportunities off the back of my work. I ran the London Marathon for Channel 5 which was a definite achievement! I also love doing panto each Christmas, and winning Best Leading Female at The Great British Pantomime Awards 2017 was a particular career highlight!

What are the worst things about your job?

The early starts on Milkshake – they never get any easier! The uncertainty of being a freelance performer – you never quite know where your next job is going to come from.

What skills help you most in your job (i.e. teamwork, communication, leadership, time management)?

Teamwork definitely plays a big part in my job. When rehearsing and performing in a show,everyone has to work as one big team; from producers, to crew, to cast – not one section can work without the others. When you’re on the road you become one big family, so people skills and the ability to get along and live with others on the road is essential.

What advice would you give to students looking to get into your line of work? (e.g. subjects to study, getting work experience)

Make sure it’s what you really want and be prepared for a bumpy ride. It’s often a career of rejection, but that only serves to make the successes even sweeter! Write to people – work experience can be a great way to get a feel for how a filming/studio environment works. For stage work, you never can see enough theatre! Take advantage of cheap ticket schemes for Under 26 year old’s and look into youth theatre groups such as the National Youth Theatre. (I trained with NYT during the school summer holidays in 2008.) It may well be up to you to put the research in outside of school, especially if applying to drama schools outside of the UCAS system. It can be a lot of work, but well worth it if you know it’s the career for you.

How did your experience at AGGS help you to achieve your successes?

AGGS gave me a solid education, allowing me to excel in not only Drama which I went on to study further, but English Literature and Language which I draw upon daily when writing and analysing scripts. AGGS also taught me to work to my full potential, a skill which I’ve hopefully taken on into the working world.