Creative Careers

Session 2:
Being Real Online

Creative Careers is aimed at young people who want to work in the arts, the creative industries or as creative entrepreneurs.

Usually, Creative Careers sessions take place at the Barbican, but as our doors are temporarily closed, we're bringing everything online, to help keep you feeling creative and engaged throughout these difficult times.

For this second online edition of Creative Careers, we invited two artists from the Young Barbican network, Karimah and James, to fully curate and facilitate a project with fellow Young Barbican collaborators selected by them. They have explored the theme of ‘being real online’, and the result is a week-long takeover of the Barbican’s Instagram page, through which they will share their process and lessons learned. Through creating remotely and online, the importance of kindness and care in collaboration is clear to see; something for us all to take forward into the future.

Each day, we'll explore a different theme, chosen by the collaborators, that's represented by an artwork with insight into its creation. Follow us on @BarbicanCentre to join in from Friday 14–Wednesday 19 August.

Let’s hand over to our collaborators to explain the process and what we can expect in their week-long takeover...


Exploring the brief

In light of the global pandemic and the limitations it brings to in-person connections, we decided to investigate the theme of 'being real online'. We started by exploring the core qualities that have been instrumental in both our creative and professional developments.

On reflection, we recognised that our commitment to authentically connecting and caring for those we meet, befriend and collaborate with has proved to be the most effective way for us to create and collaborate with the wider world. For us, it's interesting that many of the projects we are currently working on were born out of honest connections formed years ago, that have been allowed to grow through online facilitation. This very project is testament to that.

After some further reflection, we streamlined the qualities we feel are the most conducive to creation and collaboration into the six points mentioned below.

Finding collaborators

With our six core principles in mind, we started contacting artists from our network of collaborators that could bring the core principles to life. In order to explore the full breadth of our theme, we gathered artists covering everything from dance and music, to poetry and visual art. Once we shortlisted the artists we wanted to collaborate with, we contacted them individually, then added them to a group chat in order to foster cross-collaboration amongst the artists.

Click on each theme to read each artists' reflections on creating their work.


As our project unfolded we ran into a number of challenges; challenges that we can now use as lessons to build upon.

One of the most challenging obstacles we faced was a lack of synchronisation in our communication. This made it difficult to build a sense of togetherness and collaboration. With the asynchronous technologies, like group chats, sometimes it’s hard to feel like you are engaging with other people. However, some of the applications that we found helpful were sending voice notes of encouragement, honest sharing, and visual prompts of next steps we could take. These little additions helped generate more interaction in our group.

Another practice that we found helpful further along the process was having a decisive direction for the artists. We initially started with themes to explore but having each artist own a theme really accelerated the collaboration.

Perhaps it’s more fruitful to give clear deliverables from the beginning of the project, so that participants know what to work towards and have a sense of responsibility.

As curators, we found that there was actually a substantial workload as we were carrying out three roles – the artist, the curator and the facilitator. With this came what felt like – at times – an overwhelming amount of communication, and more admin than creativity for James and me. Between the main group WhatsApp, individual WhatsApp conversations, emails, calls and Zoom calls between collaborators and wider Barbican staff there felt like lots of layers of communication.

On reflection, it was extremely advantageous having two curators lead the dialogue because we could alternate on who took the lead in generating direction and momentum at pivotal moments.

Jamel on Intentional

‘All these silly and hesitant voices swam around my mind at times, but what made it easier for me, was knowing this to be an intentional exploration, grounded in how we are real both off and online.‘

‘My theme, Intentional, felt really apt and purposeful for this process. It’s what underpinned this as a happening, an event. Being in communication with the BROs (lol, forgive me) felt super intentional, albeit confusing at times; how much should I share, is this silly to offer, oh dang I don’t have the energy to engage today, am I doing this right, have I responded too late, and so on. All these silly and hesitant voices swam around my mind at times, but what made it easier for me, was knowing this to be an intentional exploration, grounded in how we are real, both off and online.

In the past, I have seen my work circling back to intention, time and time again, and it’s been the guiding force that’s helped. It’s helped me respond to briefs set by brands and commissioners alike, always asking and returning to ‘what’s the intention here, how does it inform the process and product, why has my response matched that intention?’ And always intention has kept me grounded in the work and stopped my doubts from getting too strong.

During this process, the Intentional theme has helped me stay aligned with the project aims and objectives, as well as my own; and bridging the two seemed to make the most sense for a real intentional impact. It was really funny to me, that an idea I had thought of doing ages ago had come up. And I feel as if it’s helped me realign with an intention I’ve held for a long time, but misplaced: how can we help other people do this? It’s really liberating to be an artist, to have such a creative life. And remembering this has connected me with other intentions – like helping others have their own creative careers. Which is why I feel it really important to call on all my creatives pals and ask my homies – ‘would you please share with me some of your pitches – successful and otherwise, and let’s put together a resource for people pitching.’’

Karimah on Genuine Care

‘That word, ‘genuine’, cuts through all of the parading and flexing that we get on social media and it speaks about just caring and being there for another person from an honest and well-meaning place.‘

‘For me, care is about how we display love. Care is being sensitive to our own needs and the needs of others, and then doing what we can to serve. I care for myself by painting, praying, dancing and talking. I show care to others by listening and observing.

I’ve had a push and pull relationship with the idea of care. Sometimes it makes me feel scared as I associate it with care homes and sickness. Sometimes it gives me the ‘icks’ when I see ‘self-care’ tagged along to something that I can buy. And sometimes, those four letters leave me disheartened; thinking of the aunties and grandmas I’ve seen who lose their identity to be seen as caring and totally selfless.

Instead, I like the idea of genuine care. That word, ‘genuine’, cuts through all of the parading and flexing that we get on social media and it speaks about just caring and being there for another person from an honest and well-meaning place. That kind of care is the type of action that looks after both you and I.

It’s been a journey and a paradox. In this process, we’ve been helping each other along and collaborating online. Sometimes the same action that is caring - like checking in on someone or offering help - can be insensitive if you know that person needs space and a break. The turning point for me was when, a few days in, I thought about how I can offer a piece of myself that says, ‘you genuinely mean something to me and I’m glad we are in this project together’. I responded by putting together these portraits and a voice note that required nothing in return. It’s small, but not having the pressure to return the favour made that action caring and bonded us.‘

Claire on Environment

‘My environment is what is around me. From my desk to my family to my mobile phone - whatever is within my surroundings at any given time.‘

‘My environment is what is around me. From my desk, to my family, to my mobile phone - whatever is within my surroundings at any given time. All of these things have an essential impact on my quality of life, whilst simultaneously I have an essential impact on the quality of theirs. We are all the environment.

When I thought of 'Environment' before, I thought of ‘the environment’, i.e. climate change, global warming and, in general, the outdoors. I thought of it as something outside of myself that was far away.

During the process of filming myself for this project, it felt odd at times, but I wanted to keep it authentic. My experiences of being my real, strong authentic self off-camera were so liberating, timeless, and personal. But as soon as the cameras were on, I was thinking about how it might come across to others. There was an extension to my environment as suddenly what I was doing now would be seen later on somewhere else.'

James on Pacing

‘From conversations to creations, I have found that establishing the right pacing is key to the most fulfilling engagements.‘

‘For me pacing is about finding the right rhythm that builds and sustains momentum over a long period. Similar to how a marathon runner has to be careful not to burnout early on in the race.

From conversations to creations, I have found that establishing the right pacing is key to the most fulfilling engagements. While collaborating on this project, I had to be conscious of my collaborators' different time schedules, preferred medium of engagement, and speed of response in order to bring out the best in me and those around me.’

Momoko on Collaboration

‘Since I see myself as always existing relationally rather than as an atom, I tend to see my creative work as always ‘collaborative’ - with a person, a feeling, an idea, an experience, and an environment.‘

‘Collaboration lies at the heart of my approach to life. To me, collaboration is a spirit of dedication and curiosity that brings into being, through interaction with another, that which can’t be foreseen. This approach itself teaches us about how to be in harmony with ourselves and the surrounding environment. Since I see myself as always existing relationally rather than as an atom, I tend to see my creative work as always ‘collaborative’ - with a person, a feeling, an idea, an experience, and an environment.

Collaboration in my creative practice has helped me enjoy the process more, as it helps me swim and play in the dialogue with another, rather than hold on too steadfastly to my original vision. It has helped me open up to happy accidents and unexpected twists and run with them in a totally different direction.

In the project, I wished there had been more time for me to get to know my collaborator better, so as to get a better sense of directions for dialogue and co-birthing of an idea. This project also made me realize what kind of collaboration I tend to naturally gravitate towards - I hadn’t seen this so clearly owing to the fact that I have for a while been most heavily and consistently collaborating with one person with whom I have developed a collaborative rhythm. While collaboration can take many forms - it can look like deciding on what the picture of the puzzle is going to be and putting the pieces together or combining my oranges and apples with your bananas and pears - I seem to gravitate towards a free dialogue where neither party is quite sure what is going to come of it. I believe this relates back to my fundamental view of myself as relational and not a bound atom.’

Jules on Embodiment

‘Embrace the air, the long walks, the sunshine, the conversations and the energy of seeking understanding from one another.‘

‘I have been exploring a visual representation of what it feels like when one indulges on social media at a time when the whole world needs healing and attention and why when one detaches from it, the consequences of actions feel empowering and fulfilling.

There is a correlation in the information being taken from the internet and social media, and the risks of the saturation of the mind with processed information; some false, some which induce involuntary feelings that aren't as consistent in daily life. These feelings can sometimes draw me into a rabbit hole of seeking inspiration from my phone, having high expectations of myself and the real world, and thus deeper into a state of nihilism and helplessness when nothing happens after double-tapping things that mean nothing to me and that I instead should take action for - is social media activity real action? However, most recently, it has drawn me closer to my relationship with myself; my organic intuition that needs attention, and ultimately, guides me to finding activities and things to do that feel more fulfilling and less temporary. Some may argue this is the ego, the voice within, whilst before it was leading me blindly into a state of wanting, now it is a friend within the state of being. In other words, I am in control of the means of why and when I need to use my phone. This feeling of fulfilment somewhat permeates to new habits, new vibrations and an inner confidence that makes responsibilities and the world much easier to deal with than what my phone makes it out to be; whilst both the virtual and real world are infinite, the consequences of the actions and responsibilities I take in the real world are also infinite. Whilst the virtual version of me is subsequent to my feelings and imagination that are always fleeting, I am therefore finite in that existence, in comparison to a world of ultimate possibilities. There is more hope in virtual silence, that one can be more attuned to the sounds of the universe and the goodness that lies in it, and harness the power from within to embrace both pain and pleasure in reality.

Embrace the air, the long walks, the sunshine, the conversations and the energy of seeking understanding from one another - the very energies that help me connect to the idea of universal truth, a love deeper than the ocean that exists in parallel to reality and the real me.’

Meet the artists

Thanks to our guest curators and collaborators behind this Creative Careers session. Find out more about their work, and follow them on social media on the links below.

Karimah Hassan
Born in Wales with Yemeni and Bangladeshi heritage, Karimah has an expressive, bold aesthetic and is heralded for ‘taking stories of community gatekeepers full circle, from the canvas to the streets‘. Karimah creates live paintings at performance events across London in order to highlight the importance of communities in the city. Recent commissions include murals for The New York Highline, Toronto Arts Council, and Crxss Platfxrms Street Festival.

Instagram: karimah.hassan

James Kite
James is a social arts producer, exploring the art of community building. From the individual micro-scale of cognition to the macro-scale of social structures, James has been exploring the most conducive states for generative community engagement and creation. Through his Find Enlight project (a multi-disciplinary platform), James has hosted a series of community events, released a handful of publications, and continues to build a community of creative collaborators.

Instagram: find.enlight

Instagram: mettashiba

Claire Niesyto-Bame
Known online as Claire9, Claire is a London based dancer, artist, and singer/musician. She trained as a dancer in London as well as Amsterdam, Antwerp, Salzburg and Berlin and attained a degree in contemporary dance from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance. She's previously trained with the National Youth Dance Company of England, Shift and Shuffle youth dance companies, the Centre for Advanced Training scheme, Highgate ballet school, and Impact Dance. She's currently a member of the Far from the Norm training group run by award-winning choreographer, Botis Seva, and his company of dance artists.
Instagram: claire9online / Website

Jamel Duane Alatise
Jamel is a Poet. Creative & Art Director. Copywriter. Peacemaker. Bridge-builder. Storyteller. Mentor. Student. Teacher. Meditator. Listener. Reader. Watcher. Writer. Researcher. Interviewer. Photographer. Photojournalist. Curator. Creator. Community-architect. Designer. Strategist. Field-researcher. Model. Host. Facilitator. Design Thinker. Director. Camera operator. Otaku. Lover. Londoner.
Instagram: firstsonofsoil / Website

Jules is a recent graduate at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins and has since been exploring his relationship with art and creativity through poetry, acting, and visual content. He believes that we can experience connection and understanding in finding universal truth and oneness through movement practice and that poetry can be an extension of that language which is sometimes lost in the groove with oneself. During a time of uncertainty and confusion, a dance can go a long way.
Instagram: julesdpchan

Joseph Gray
Joseph works as a consultant across youth, public and third sector spaces, with a commitment to social mobility and with a strong focus on work being genuinely useful. He currently works with Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Bloody Good Period, and is a trustee with Sour Lemons

Get involved

If you're someone who works or wants to work in a creative industry, join us for our Creative Careers sessions. Each session gives you the chance to meet leading creatives and artists to discuss the state of the industry and how you can fit into it, shape it and make it work for you.

We are keen to experiment with new ways to get you more involved in future Creative Careers sessions - if you'd like to be considered or have an idea for a collaboration, please contact [email protected].

Creative Careers is presented jointly by the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Join Young Barbican to be the first to know about the latest sessions and resources.

Young Barbican is our free scheme for 14-25 year olds offering discounted access to unmissable art and entertainment as well as exclusive events and creative opportunities.

About Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning

Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning is a creative alliance pioneering new models for cultural learning across the art forms. Our mission is Creative Skills for Life and every year we deliver more than 40 programmes and events alongside 150 partners to over 22,000 participants.

The Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning programme is made possible through the contributions of our generous supporters, including Arts Council England.