Jumped Up Theatre’s Kate Hall on starting an arts career
Over the past few weeks the beaming photos of excited, begowned graduates standing with proud and bemused parents has interspersed holiday snaps and First Day At School photos. I can remember the excitement, and the big hair and shocking pink trouser suit, of my own graduation. I can also remember that feeling of ‘What next?’ Teachers, medics and lawyers have rigid career paths laid out.
There are graduate programmes for accountants and civil servants. Other opportunities may lie in entry-level jobs with friends and family. Arts graduates rarely have a clear path to follow. Their future is a blank canvas – a pretty terrifying prospect for most people. So what to do? Well firstly, don’t panic! In all likelihood you are going to be working until your 70s so taking a bit of time to develop is to be expected. I am not saying it’s going to be easy. You’ll hear stories of So-And-So on a graduate training scheme, with a car and a pension and relocation expenses – but there is a reason those incentives exist to buy graduate souls, and your passions lay elsewhere. And this is just your first test, because the trials and tribulations of a creative career don’t go away – you just learn to get them into proportion. There will always be someone in your social circle who is earning more than you. But hopefully you will discover that your love of what you are doing more than compensates for endless holidays in the Caribbean and the latest trainers. So ‘What Next?’ Feed your passion, whatever that might be…
Tap into networks. This might mean following others on social media and getting on the mailing list of every arts organisation you can. In Peterborough this would mean signing up for everything from The Key to the Art Gallery at Peterborough Museum, from Peterborough Presents to Metal, and then casting your eye further afield to industry specific networks such as Artist Network or the Independent Theatre Council. Some of those networks are where you will find out about jobs and opportunities, the principal ones being Arts Council England’s Arts News and Arts Jobs mailing lists. Go to events. You are signed up, so now, turn up. Get your face known, ask questions, listen, smile and be positive. You will get to understand how the creative industries work in the real world, and people will get to know you. Ccreative projects are often heavily on relationships and trust, but tread carefully – you want those you meet to talk about you positively.
You also need to consume as much art as possible. Reading reviews is helpful to keep abreast of the world you are trying to break into, but try as much as you can to see other people’s work. Some events will be free, and if you can’t afford tickets ask if they have any support for recent graduates, they might even pay expenses if you offer to volunteer. Develop your skills. I know you have a great degree and an amazing portfolio, but it will be a while yet before anyone gives you any hard cash to be an artist. But I bet you have some other skills which arts organisations could make use off. Great at social media? You are probably better than some arts organisations. Got access to a computer? Make sure your skills are up-to-date. Know someone who runs a small business? Offer to process some invoices or proof-read their website. You now have the evidence that you have some of the hard skills that lots of entry level jobs require (and as you have been going to loads of events you have some interests to talk about to).
Also keep an eye out for training opportunities. Vivacity’s Peterborough Presents’ programme run Emerge, a programme of support for young artists, and they also heavily subsidise workshop at Metal – try it all, even if it’s not in your comfort zone of your artfield. The creative industries doesn’t stand still and often crosses artforms, so a VR workshop might become very relevant to an actor asked to audition for an AR voiceover. Metal and Vivacity also host scratch events, where artist share works-in-progress, this might be an opportunity for you to get an insight into how others have got to where they are today. They might also be an opportunity for you to try out some ideas. Vivacity also bi-annually hosts the Young Gifted and Talented exhibition at the City Arts Gallery, and has a shop space in Queensgate for short-term exhibitions… Maybe you have some work to share. And here’s the biggest challenge: you need to keep making work. Be an artist.
Kate Hall, Creative Producer, Jumped Up Theatre
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