This week I finally got the chance to meet the other 39 recipients of a Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary (WJCB). And I got to do one of my new favourite things – business travel! Paid for trains and hotels will never get old. So it was back on to snapchat for more of those not so humble brags.
As with the other trips I’ve been on, the purpose of this lil jaunt was not as frivolous as my over-excitement about freebies implies. We were there to develop ourselves and to learn more about the year ahead. This all began with the official Jerwood launch at the super snazzy Jerwood Space, where we listened to some inspiring speeches. Hearing everyone praise the scheme and get excited about what we could achieve really highlighted how much of an opportunity I’ve been given. I think my favourite speech was from WJCB alumni Alice Parsons, it was lovely to hear from someone who had been through what we’re all going through. She really helped to drive home what’s possible for us.
The launch also allowed for us to chat to people in the industry and do a bit of networking. I’m still fairly awful at it but I’m definitely less ‘rabbit in headlights’ these days (and that’s only two months in, maybe I’ll be a proper extrovert by the end of this thing). As well as meeting more established industry professionals, we got to meet each other. We’d travelled from as far as Belfast, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff – we’re a spread out bunch! A major aspect of the programme is us creating our own network and collaborating, so all convening at events like this is vital. We had a lovely dinner together and shared our experiences. Nice to know that I’m not alone in my fears and also to hear what everyone else is up to.
The morning following the launch, we were up bright and early to head to The Place, one of this year’s host organisations. Here we had a jam packed day – I couldn’t possibly tell you about all of it. So here’s the highlight reel. The morning session was full of practical information that I reckon will be very handy in future. It was really cool to learn about the various routes people have taken into arts careers, reassuring to know it doesn’t need to be a set path. We also got the lowdown on how funding works, its priorities and a little advice on how to go about applying for it. My arm ached from the speed I was trying to take notes. I’ve not had to do that since uni, which was a fair while ago now.
Snowy views from outside The Place
After some tasty as heck pastries and cups of tea, it was on to speeches from the British Council. In a new pilot scheme for the 2017-19 cohort, the British Council have collaborated with the WJCB team to create 14 international placements within arts organisations throughout Europe. All 14 of the placements look so much fun and, perhaps more importantly, like they could be invaluable in terms of our development. Getting the chance to travel and understand arts initiatives in a broader context than the UK is so important. After the whole ‘Brexit’ debacle (a young person in the arts, not keen on Brexit? Shocking, I know) I feel it’s more important than ever to be forging relationships with our neighbours and ensuring that arts and culture become shared experiences. Competition for the placements will be fierce, every one of the other bursary holders is crazy talented and obviously we can’t all get a place. Therein lies the beauty of us creating a network amongst ourselves. Any knowledge, skills and contacts we gain on the international placements will be shared by the group. It’s all very exciting!
The final part of the day was my favourite. We got to meet alumni, hearing them speak about their time on the placements, their experiences afterwards and what we can do to make the most of it. In smaller groups we were given the chance to ask questions which was great. It meant I could let loose all my stupid questions in a more chill environment. I took away a lot of advice that I want to try and follow. And, in my favourite take away from the event, we’re now all in contact with each other, already discussing some incredible ideas for collaborations. Watch this space!