In this week’s Graduate Spotlight, we proudly feature Rachel Axton, from the Class of 2021, who has since illuminated the live music scene. With a strong desire to carve a niche in the live event industry, Rachel enrolled in the BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology program at the University of Derby. Her journey from managing rental properties to orchestrating lighting displays for live music events is inspiring. Now self-employed as a lighting engineer, her work dazzles audiences across the world. Rachel’s story shines a light on the possibilities awaiting Derby graduates in the live event industry.


Rachel Axton grad spotlight photo.

Rachel Axton, Class of 2021




Current location:



Current job + employer:

I’m currently self-employed as a lighting engineer for live music events.


What did you do/study prior to coming to Derby?

Before university, I worked as an estate agent looking after rental properties.


Why did you choose to go to the University of Derby?

I chose Derby University because of the course it offered. BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology provided everything I wanted to know.


Did you start the course with a specific focus or were you undecided?

Yes, I wanted to work in the live event industry specifically in music.


Did that focus change on the course? If so, how?

It didn’t change, but I was led more by the lighting side of the course.


Has that focus changed on graduating? If so, how?

No, I’ve working on the lighting side of the industry ever since graduating.


What was the most useful thing you learned on the course?

Hands-on experience and being put in contact with people working in the industry.


What did you learn on the course that you thought you’d never use, but that has come in handy during your career?

Being adaptable. This industry can change at the drop of the hat and being on acourse focusing on many different things is definitely an asset.


What did you do on the course that you never thought you would enjoy?

Attending lectures. Being fed information by listening has never been a preferred learning tool for me, however when it is something you are interested in it is enjoyable to learn.


What was your favourite establishment in Derby (pub, bar, club, restaurant, etc.)?

Lorentes Tapas Bar. Beautiful food.


What is your most memorable moment from Derby?

So many moments, it’s hard to choose. Completing our final show control project of a fully automated Tony Stark lab was amazing.


What/who at Derby most influenced your life, and how/why?

Many people. Meeting Paul ‘PK’ Kell really was a career starter for me. He took me on my first tour (with Nick Cave). And meeting my now soon-to-be wife from another course, who helped me every day to get through the degree during lockdown.


What would you say to a Derby first year student, knowing what you know now?

It’s all worth the hard work. Have fun, make memories, but also work hard as well. Your dream career can come true.


What have you done professionally since graduating?

I worked as a lighting technician for bands touring the UK, Europe, and the USA. I completed a tour (for Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason) operating live oils to go back to the roots of the lighting industry, when it started in the 60s.


Have any Derby alumni or staff opened any doors for you? If so, who?

Jon Burton introducing me to PK was amazing. PK started me on the touring path by taking me with him for my first tour as a spotlight operator/technician.


What is your most memorable moment from your career so far?

There are so many moments that are memorable. But working in 31 different countries in 3 months was a very big moment.


What are your future career plans/ambitions?

I love my job, so I will aim to keep doing this and gain more knowledge on the way.

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