Creative Careers

Session 1: How've You Really Been?

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.

In this first session, our guests discuss how they’ve adapted to challenges faced due to Covid-19, shout about fellow creatives whose work has really impressed them recently, and look forward to what the future might hold for them and for you. The session comes in two parts: a recorded conversation and a long form interview, with two brilliant creative thinkers in each piece of content.

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].

Listen

Photo: (l) Swarzy Macaly (Credit: Feruza Afewerki) and (r) Stephanie McLaren-Neckles (Credit: Ansel Neckles)

Photo: (l) Swarzy Macaly (Credit: Feruza Afewerki) and (r) Stephanie McLaren-Neckles (Credit: Ansel Neckles)

Stephanie McLaren-Neckles and Swarzy Macaly join Creative Careers' Joseph Gray to discuss the challenges of access during lockdown, working from home and productivity, and the value in stepping back and slowing down.

Music: Black Man's Burden by Bruce Throdown. The Barbican donated to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in support of their ongoing work with young people.

Links & Follows

Let's Be Brief - listen to archive episodes of Stephanie's podcast series on NTS
My Life My Say - a project empowering young people to lead change
Too Much Source - an annual exhibition celebrating creatives from the Black British community
Sarah Amankwah - follow Sarah on Instagram for more details of her online acting masterclasses
Daniella Chukwuezi - artist working with design, photography and moving image @ubercapitalistdeathtrade
Katie Scott - artist working across fashion, communication design, music, fine art and film @westcoastkslice

Read

Photo: (l) Hayel Watenburg (Credit: Domizia Saluses ) and (r) Amadeusz Olejniczak (Credit: Bill Brock)

Photo: (l) Hayel Watenburg (Credit: Domizia Saluses ) and (r) Amadeusz Olejniczak (Credit: Bill Brock)

Creativity, collaboration and solidarity - Hayel Watenburg, co-founder of entertainment platform, Word on the Curb, and musician and DJ, Amadeusz Olejniczak (a.k.a. DJ Amadness) join Creative Careers’ Kate Wyver in conversation.


Kate: Thank you both for giving me your time. How are you doing in lockdown and how has it impacted your creativity?

Amadeusz: I've never had that much time to do my own thing. I usually have to have a part-time job because making money from your music isn't easy. This whole situation has given me a lot of time to focus on my music. Last week I finished an album that I’ve been struggling with the last twelve years. All the time we've had in lockdown makes you explore all the projects and question what you actually want to do with it. Time to invest in my art.

Kate: Hayel, are you finding anything similar in the way your creativity is working?

Hayel: I think I've found it to be quite therapeutic actually. Forced to be indoors, I’ve been reflecting on what I'm doing in terms of my creative outlets from a professional point of view, but then also from my personal life. Things that bring me life and are sources of energy for me. Lots of people have rekindled passions, put the brakes on, or they've found new interests.

Clearly, being at home has meant this shift in terms of how we create content as an organisation, how we're able to express ourselves creatively without being able to physically go and meet people to shoot content.

Kate: How are you navigating that?

Hayel: At the worst of times, we're not. And at the best of times, we're utilising Zoom. We've just filmed a dating series called Dating Indoors which was presented by a social media influencer, and the premise is you've got five rounds to win a date. We’re finding formats that are historically fun and engaging but are still underpinned by something important like relationships, loneliness, and connection.

But we actually just put that series on hold in an act of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement so we can focus our directives and our discourse around that.

We're moving with the times, adapting to conversations, and finding our social voice. It's been challenging but at the same time quite cathartic, on a personal level, to be accorded the level of freedom to remember the things that I care about or cared about but might have put on hold.

Kate: Are you reaching out to your collaborators and content creators about their mental health?

Hayel: For sure. Away from a professional position, I do tend to want to engage with my colleagues and our staff with regards to how they're coping, and then introducing infrastructures ourselves like regular check-ins or socials that we hold on Zoom or Facetime. But beyond that, as part of our research and insight, we're delivering surveys and polls and questionnaires with young people between 18-34 about a whole multiplicity of different subject matters. That has included emotional and mental wellbeing and welfare in a time like this. We did a piece of research a few weeks ago on how minority ethnic communities have been affected by Covid-19 with regard to income, spending habits, the rate at which they've been furloughed relative to the national average, and the impact that this period is having on people's mental and emotional stability. One of the questions [in the survey] was what is affecting you more than anything else? Mental health came out as one of the top two most pronounced concerns, so it is of great concern to us. We usually use our research to not only work with different organisations but also to impact the content that we deliver as well. We’re eternally working out how we best serve young people, particularly with regard to their mental and emotional wellbeing. The rise of social media can so often make young people feel so inadequate, that their lives need to be in order by 21 years old. It's difficult, you're up against a mammoth of tech and austerity.

'Being at home has meant this shift in terms of how we create content, how we're able to express ourselves creatively without being able to physically go and meet people...'

Kate: Amadeusz, as a freelancer do you feel you're getting anyone looking out for your own mental health in the music industry?

Amadeusz: I would say only my close friends. It's not really a thing that you can reach out to some organisation with that problem. I've never heard of anything like it. I just have a wise group of friends to discuss stuff with when things are hard. That's an important thing that isn't really stressed enough, and it's something that we as creative people should provide for others and for the younger generations. Especially as a musician, it's good to be able to have another musician you can talk to about obstacles that they might have had and overcome.

Kate: Looking forwards, what do you see as the future of your music? Are you waiting for lockdown to finish to begin collaborating?

Amadeusz: Lockdown also opens many doors for people to collaborate and to think of collaboration on different levels. I used to make music just to compose something edgy and make some money from it. But the whole seriousness of new circumstances has made many artists really question the art and the purpose. So why am I making music? Is it just to kill time? Or am I trying to open new opportunities? Whenever there is limitation, there is room for creativity, to work your way around the obstacles. Like many artists, I'm re-evaluating the way I think about the artform. I think that's leading to something bigger and better, making art of a deeper, finer quality.

'Whenever there is limitation, there is room for creativity'

Kate: Hayel, what do you think the future of your work looks like?

Hayel: In terms of the future of work, I think there'll be less of an emphasis on us needing to be in the office together all at the same time. I think this probably will force us to reimagine our economy and our ecosystem, and how we can work together without continuously needing to be in each other's presence. The amount of time and money people are saving in terms of travel is having a really beneficial outcome, and our earth is getting less polluted due to lack of movement. So there's a lot of reimagining in terms of how we live as people on this earth. We, as an organisation, will take those into consideration, and think how can this make us more environmentally friendly, more aware of wellbeing, more aware of the cost - physically, mentally and economically - to an individual having to go to and from a centralised environment for five days a week. Tech companies are going to be alert to that and I think there's gonna be a massive tech boom again, making the most of the fact that we don’t have to sit next to each other to run businesses, charities, governments.

Kate: And what do you need from organisations and institutions moving forwards?

Hayel: For me, what really matters is for people to be understanding of what the terms diversity and inclusion really mean. Because our company is absolutely about representation on two levels. One: we unequivocally stand for young people. Two: we specialise in understanding young people from ethnic minority backgrounds and society's most underrepresented. When we're working with different organisations, businesses and brands, we want an understanding of the importance of representation on a global level. The importance of understanding diversity isn't a choice, but inclusion is. We can see that people around us in our society are diverse not least because of the complexion of the skin, but for the content of their character and the experiences that make up their walks of life. That, for me, is paramount for building a relationship with an organization. That will inform any funding we may get down the line in order to fulfil this very global mission of wanting to be representative of the cultures, stories and identities of the young people that we serve. We need organisations who believe in the same mission to support us in that way. I think we're in the embryonic stages of seeing companies either being forced to reconcile with diversity and inclusion politics, or starting to understand its benefits and merits, not just in terms of making companies more profitable - it definitely will be - but just in terms of being innately human. That's what I'm looking for.

'We want an understanding of the importance of representation on a global level. The importance of understanding diversity isn't a choice, but inclusion is'

Kate: Are you hopeful that the Black Lives Matter protests will pressure reluctant companies to consider diversity and inclusion in their organisations?

Hayel: Any level of scrutiny which is directed towards the federal government or institutions will mean that people will have to consider reconciling with the politics of diversity, inclusion, brutality. It becomes something that you can no longer bat away.

What's been interesting for me, of late, is how the narrative has been so polarised as to make distinct peaceful protestors and people who are looting, criminalising people who loot, and championing those who are peaceful, in spite of the fact that George Floyd didn't have a peaceful death. There is a skewed level of expectation, perhaps on a media level, that people who are angry should be angry in peace, in spite of the fact that for 500 years people of black origin have been looted themselves of their resources, their culture, their history, their heritage, and brutally killed in anything but peaceful ways. Because of how central these circumstances have become, it makes it very difficult for decision makers around the world to ignore.

'Your youth is often the time when you have the least amount of responsibility and the most amount of energy'

Kate: Do you have any specific advice for young people wanting to follow in your footsteps as a facilitator?

Hayel: My advice to young people is to just do and to not think so much. Your youth is often the time when you have the least amount of responsibility and the most amount of energy. I think it requires what I like to call a patient impatience. Be patient in the fact that it's going to take a long time to become a full-time position. But be driven, be target-oriented. Always ask why you're doing this. When you've got your why, just go for it. Failure is just the first step of success. We all fail in a multiplicity of things in life, and it's always our best teaching tools. Attempt to fail.

Something more tangible is to find some level of mentorship. It doesn’t have to be one person. It could be a group that could not only give you advice but hold you accountable. That accountability in terms of a support network is really important. It could just be books. Find your mentors and find avenues to guide you.

'Failure is just the first step of success. We all fail in a multiplicity of things in life, and it's always our best teaching tools. Attempt to fail'

Amadeusz: Quarantine is a very good moment to reach out on social media to your role models. People have more time now. It's a moment to directly reach out for some actual mentorship. Think of what you're trying to achieve, and then find the person who has already achieved it. Message musicians you like and tell them how you feel. You never know what might come out of it - maybe some collaboration, maybe a new friend. There's no greater way to progress and learn than collaborating.

Although, I've heard that many young bedroom producers are scared of collaboration because they're so used to making beats in their bedrooms. So it would be really helpful if organisations could help with basic stuff - maybe workshops - on stuff like how to collaborate.

Hayel: Can I add a tip to that? One piece of really useful advice given to me was to put aside £10 or £20. Find those people you admire and email them. Don't make it a long, convoluted email because the likelihood is, of thirty people, a few might respond to you. Use that £10 to £20 pounds to put towards those meetings. Say it in the email – ‘it's on me’ - and make the effort to go to them. That advice really transformed my life. It helped me to meet some of the most influential people in my life right now in terms of people who still offer me support and guidance, and our company support and guidance.

'Think of what you're trying to achieve, and then find the person who has already achieved it… There's no greater way to progress and learn than collaborating'

Kate: Amadeusz, what other kind of support would you like to see from organisations?

Amadeusz: There are so many young people doing great things and making an impact, and I need organisations to be more accessible and look for people like that. Ideally, I would like to see people who are already achieving positive changes, to find organisations who are willing to help, and establish some type of sustained collaboration. Sometimes it's not about the money, it's about the time and reach and community. Projects like somewhereto_, from youth agency Livity, which offered free space to young people to test ideas - that was amazing. I would like to see more initiatives like that, that are about helping young people achieve grand things.

Kate: Any final advice to young people feeling a little lost in lockdown?

Hayel: When I used to do youth work, an exercise I used to do with young people was I would have a whole host of categories that would stretch along so many different areas of their lives, which are really important things to speak about. When you speak about mental and emotional wellbeing, there are various things that can be triggering. The root causes will continue to persist even if I say start writing or start baking. I used to sit down with the young person and tell them to rank different areas of their life out of ten - friendships, relationships, hobbies, ambitions. After doing those exercises, you get such a clearer idea about where that young person's life is at, and they become much clearer where they need to focus their attention in terms of improving. Then we can offer the right tools and mechanisms to provide antidotes to those specific areas. Sometimes those things are out of the realms of our control.

Some young people may be struggling because they've been furloughed, or they've lost their job altogether because companies can't afford to keep them on. There may be people who are struggling because a lot of people don't realise they're sat at home all by themselves. There are so many different ways people can be struggling in lockdown. But I think once you've done an exercise like the one I've just mentioned, then you should write down the things that give you life. Write every single thing from when you were a child to now: what are the things that radiate you and resonate with you? Start finding ways to funnel them back into the aforementioned areas I was speaking about. Slowly, you start to find somebody who might still have a sense of uncertainty and uneasiness, but is not so much lost anymore and has a better understanding of who they are, what they care about, what they need to work on in their lives, and what they might need support on in their lives.


Takeaways

  • Always ask why you're doing this. When you've got your why, just go for it
  • Find your mentors and find avenues to guide you
  • Failure is just the first step of success. Attempt to fail
  • There's no greater way to progress and learn than to collaborate
  • Think of what you're trying to achieve - and find someone who has already achieved it that you can connect with
  • Set aside £10 or £20 - when you make contact to set up a meeting with someone you admire, you can say 'it's on me'
  • Write down the things that give you life. Write every single thing from when you were a child to now: what are the things that radiate you and resonate with you?

Meet the panel

Thanks to all the guests and collaborators who helped bring our first Creative Careers session online. Find out more about their work, and follow them on social media on the links below.

Swarzy Macaly 
Swarzy won the KISS Chosen One in 2016 and now presents KISS Breakfast every Saturday morning. She is also the official young voice of BBC Sounds, a regular contributor to BBC Radio 5Live, and host of 4Music's The UK Music Video Chart. 
Website / Twitter / Instagram

Stephanie McLaren-Neckles 
Stephanie is a director at community engagement agency - twenty%extra and co-founder of Let’s Be Brief: a learning platform for curious minds. Stephanie is also a senior lecturer at the London College of Communication, and is deeply passionate about lifelong learning.  

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
Linkedin

Hayel Watenburg
Hayel is co-founder of Word on the Curb, an entertainment platform and creative agency connecting underrepresented young people. He currently heads up Curbside, the research and insight area of the company, which works with brands to deliver research on youth audiences and communities.

Amadeusz Olejniczak
Amadeusz (a.k.a. DJ Amadness) is a musician and DJ. He organises workshops and helps teach people how to scratch, mix and make beats.
Bandcamp

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.

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.