College work with the RSC to conjure up Christmas magic

25th November 2021

A range of students from Stratford-upon-Avon College have collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for the second year on the Stratford Christmas Window Trail.

Last year the College provided amazing content for two of the 24 windows included in the trail by photographing a rare Ferrari F40 with Santa and his sleigh full of ‘Shop local’ bags and presents. This year even more of the departments are joining in with the collaboration but this time using the RSC’s current production of The Magician’s Elephant as their inspiration.

Final image for window
The students created a beautiful picture for the window trail

The College have been assigned two windows in the former Debenhams store. One will be filled with 3D cut and slot elephants designed and produced by Art & Design students. The colours and patterns used will be inspired by themes within The Magician’s Elephant – community, working together and following your dreams.

The Art & Design students created a whole range of elephants for the display

The second is filled using photos that the Photography students took on a shoot on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage, including the actual elephant puppet used in the show.

The photography students were joined by two digital media students who are creating a documentary of the process and two live events apprentices who assisted with the set-up of the shoot. They all started by meeting members of the RSC team from a range of different departments; Creative Placemaking and Public Programming, Design and Stage Management as well as members of the creative team including the Assistant Director, Martin Leonard, and the puppeteers who bring the elephant to life.

Nicola Salmon, Creative Placemaking and Public Programming Officer at the RSC commented: “It’s great to give the students experiences of what they might have missed out on during the pandemic. To have young people back working in the auditorium doing work experience is amazing.”

Tara Johnson-Comerford, Engagement Officer for the RSC’s Creative Placemaking and Public Programming Department, added: “It’s been a joy working with the students. They are really practically minded and really get stuck in.”

The students set up the stage, met the puppeteers and assisted Si Medlicott and Craig Reeves with the photoshoot

Student Tom Cannon commented: “It’s just such a different experience working in the theatre. It’s definitely preferable to be working with clients directly.” Cece Arthur noted how these types of projects can develop students professionally: “It’s really cool to work with a company that people recognise. Everyone knows the RSC. So, it’s really good to have on the CV. It also helps to build industry contacts, and this can develop further professional relationships so it’s great for networking.”

Once the students set the backdrop of the shoot, they then collaborated with invited industry professionals, Si Medlicott (Si Medlicott Photography) and Craig Reeves (Pickled), to take the final pictures. Sophie Jolly, Photography lecturer and organiser of the collaboration, comments: “It was an amazing experience to work with such a high calibre company. It really raised the aspirations of the students to experience working with such a reputable company in such a creative environment. It was also such a well-rounded experience. Not only dressing the set with RSC props but also getting a workshop with the puppeteers to understand how the elephant puppet works and that informed our photography process. It was a great experience!”

students on stage after shoot with rsc
The students had a picture on the stage after the shoot

To get so many students and so many departments working together with multiple external companies was quite the task and could have proved impossible – but the students managed to create a magical display. And as The Magician’s Elephant tells us: “Magic is always impossible. That’s what make it magic.”

The Stratford Christmas Window Trail launches on 25 November.

For more public information visit:

A press release about the trail can be seen here.

The Magician’s Elephant runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 1 January 2022

Learn more about the College’s Art & Design and Digital Media courses.

Find out more about the College’s Photography course: Photography course