ABTT Technician of the Year & Emerging Excellence Award Winners 2021

5 September 2021

The ABTT Awards is one of the Association’s flagship activities. Although it was not possible due to the circumstances in the last year to present the ABTT Product of the Year Awards it is with great pleasure that we are able to take the opportunity to acknowledge those people making a difference to our Industry! The ABTT is exceptionally pleased to have presented Sorcha Steele with the Award for ABTT Technician of the Year 2021 at Jesse Caie with the ABTT Emerging Excellence Award 2021, at a ceremony held at the end of the first day of the joint ABTT Theatre Show and PLASA Show at London Olympia on the 5th September.

ABTT Technician of the Year Award

In front of a hugely appreciative audience of Theatre Industry peers and colleagues, the ABTT celebrated Sorcha‘s fantastic achievements presenting a signed certificate along with the coveted ABTT Hook-Clamp trophy.

After being introduced and announced as this year’s winner Sorcha Steele was presented with the personalised trophy engraved with her name and the title of the award by ABTT Chairman Richard Bunn, Theatre Consultant at Arup. The Technician of the Year Award is one of the most important accolades the Association bestows, as it recognises the achievement of an individual at the height of their career who consistently delivers technical excellence.


Sorcha began her career in 2005 working with various Am Dram groups in Ireland and gaining enough knowledge to move into the Industry as a professional. During those early years she earned invaluable experience honing her craft working in a variety of different environments including film, TV, theatre and corporate engagements.

Sorcha started at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester,  in 2012 when she was appointed Senior Sound Technician. She very quickly revealed herself to be an invaluable part of the Team and was asked to step up to Deputy Head in 2013 after the tragic death of Steve Brown, Head of Sound. Within two years she impressed enough to be appointed Head of Sound, a position she has held since then.

Sorcha’s leadership and thinking within her specialism has consistently displayed innovation, excellence and passion. She always strives to push the Sound Department in its practice, while supporting her colleagues and freelance designers, and ensuring both they and the Theatre are held. By continually researching and championing new ways of working that reflect innovation within the industry, and responding to advances in technology and the expectations of sound designers, she has consistently encouraged and enabled the advancement of her own craft, that of her colleagues, and the quality of the Theatre’s artistic output and sector reputation.

Within her Department, Sorcha showed strength of leadership in 2017 by rebuilding the team when both senior technicians left within a few months of each other to pursue other careers. She single-handedly recruited and trained the new appointments, with great success. Sorcha has always understood the significance of training the next generation of Sound practitioners and regularly develops casual technicians in their skills and confidence and by providing opportunities for them to access that support. Her nurturing has developed several people’s careers and enhanced many professional lives.

Sorcha’s reputation amongst freelance Sound Designers is second to none. Her extensive specialist expertise of ‘in the round’ sound and her open and supportive demeanour means that designers are fully supported to realise their ideas in our spaces and deliver work that pushes both their boundaries and ours. Her enthusiasm for her specialism is infectious, her attitude is always positive and proactive, and coupled with her keen sense of responsibility and nurturing leadership she has made our Sound Department a coveted place to work within the sector.

As an individual, Sorcha is inspiring. She has constantly pushed herself to grow as a specialist and now heads a Sound Department in an Industry that is still pre-dominantly male. Now with a young family, she is even more determined to break down barriers, set an example and show the sector that people with children can continue a career in technical theatre and flourish.

In summing up, we are so proud of Sorcha and her enduring commitment to Sound, and of how she has enriched the professional lives of countless fellow colleagues and artists, as well as our audiences, through her work. We believe the singular environment of creative freedom that she enables has not only contributed greatly to our reputation within the sector, but also to the advancement of Sound within the Industry overall.

The ABTT felt that Sorcha’s broad ranging achievements in our Industry highlighted everything that the ABTT Technician of the Year Award encompassed, and we are very proud to announce her as this year’s winner. To read Sorcha’s nomination in full and all the amazing statements that were in support of this nomination please see here.

As the winner of the ABTT Technician of the Year Award Sorcha is also entitled to free annual  membership of the ABTT.


ABTT Award for Emerging Excellence

The ABTT Award for Emerging Excellence was  added to our Awards in 2020 to recognise the achievements of individuals at the start of their career who consistently deliver excellence in all that they do.

This year this Award has been awarded to Chichester Festival Theatre’s current Number 1 Automation Operator, Jesse Caie.

Jesse is an exceptional technician who is currently working on South Pacific just 2.5 years after graduating from his apprenticeship – This is his role while waiting to return as Number 2 Auto for Dear Evan Hansen where he was before the pandemic.

Jesse made his way to these roles through determination, self-development and total commitment to his learning journey. At age 14  he joined an after school tech club at the Chichester Festival Theratre where he was recognised as an ambitious theatre lover. He then went on to join their vocational training course where he very quickly become the college theatre general technician and commited himself to the training,  achieving the highest grades possible.

Jesse then applied to CFT (against a strong contingent) to be their Technical Apprentice where he excelled and quickly made a name for himself with the team there. He achieved well on that course and in the role whilst developing all round technical skills at CFT. He was taken under the wings of the lighting team who saw his potential and he became a valued member of their team very quickly. Often being given responsibility for projects.

He impressed a number of touring production managers and was taken out on tours as a result. He always had an eye for Automation and he committed himself to learning as much as he could whilst training and when working on professional shows. He is a grafter and he works so hard. He is always determined to learn more and do his best and the quality of his work, level of skill and expression of his knowledge is nothing short of exceptional. He is a very special talent.”

The ABTT felt that Jesse’s already impressive achievements and wide ranging skills  highlighted everything that the ABTT look for in the winner of the ABTT Award for Emerging Excellence, and we are very proud to announce him as this year’s winner. To read Jesse’s nomination in full and all the amazing statements that were in support of this nomination please see here.

Jesse responded to his winning of the ABTT Award for Emerging Excellence, saying:

“As a small cog in the large machine that is theatre it blows me away to receive this award. This industry is not one that’s renowned for outward affirmation so thank you Tamykha and the ABTT team for creating this award. My personal thanks goes out to the amazing Sally Garner-Gibbons and my family at Chichester Festival Theatre. Not to mention the countless others that have helped me on my journey. I only hope the rest of my career lives up to this award! Thank you.”

As the winner of the ABTT Emerging Excellence Award Jamie will be entitled to 1 year’s free membership of the ABTT. He will also be provided with a voucher for an ABTT training course of his choosing, plus a certificate recognising the fantastic achievements his has had so far in his career!