Creative Careers x ERIC Fest

ERIC Festival: A careers fair, but not as you know it

On Sunday 25 March hundreds of young creatives descended on Somerset House for ERIC Festival, an alternative careers fair, supported by the Barbican’s Creative Careers programme, with tons of talks, workshops, stalls and entertainment. Gutted you couldn’t make it? We were there to capture the action…

Think of a careers fair and what springs to mind? Probably not deckchairs and Krispy Kreme donuts. Or face painting, crafts and a live performance by Cadet. But ERIC is no ordinary careers fair. Aimed at young people interested in working in film, music, theatre and visual art, ERIC’s events are informative, inspiring, and always lots of fun!

Entering the festival we found the first few rooms bustling with stalls. Young arty types lounged and chatted on bean bags. Others got stuck into paper cutting with London Craft Club, designed upcycled denim jackets with Quillatire, had their faces glittered or took Half Full Not Half Empty’s quiz about mental health, which included positive thinking tips and breathing exercises.

CLOCK told us about their programme which offers mentoring and the chance to gain a qualification through the creative or cultural projects you’re already working on – a great option if you don’t want to go to uni. Hiive were there dishing out handy CV tips and registering people to their network for creative professionals, while Procam had brought in two broadcast-quality cameras for filmmakers to try out while they talked about their training scheme.

After hearing about Somerset House’s Creative Job Studio, a talent development space with lots of opportunities for young people, including the Creative Careers Academy paid work placement for 18-25-year-olds, we took a tour of their creative co-working space, Somerset House Studios. There resident Al Warburton told us all about his practice combining CGI and fine art, and how being part of the studio had helped him along the way.

Back at base, we grabbed some tasty snacks and a delicious Liquid Gold smoothie courtesy of Juice Bay and chatted to the guys from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra about applying for work experience with them, before heading over the NextGen stall to get up to speed on their VFX training programme and see Kyle Carpio, demonstrate a game he’d made using Unreal Engine. There we bumped into Reuben and Joseph, two Westminster University students, fresh from playing Robo Recall on a VR headset. “I kind of forgot the real world existed!” Joseph told us.

What brought him here? “I went to the last ERIC event and it was really good. We want to get into music and it’s great to meet so many other creative people, there’s a real sense of community.” His enthusiasm was echoed by Macy who’d come all the way from Oxford. “At my sixth form there’s a focus on academic subjects like medicine or languages but I wanted to find out more about my options for getting into film or photography.”

No doubt she enjoyed the workshops on offer: Project Vlog, a practical video-making session run by PlaybyPlay and Photography with a View photo walks with former students on The Wembley to Soweto Foundation’s photography courses. Ex-student Karmen told us: “The course was the best thing I’ve done. I worked alongside an Arsenal photographer. I learnt technical skills but also gained more confidence in myself as a person. I even had my work published in the Guardian.”

Meanwhile over on the main stage, talks and Q&As ran all day, hosted by KISS FM’s Swarzy Macaly. Practitioners from across the arts shared their career journeys and practical advice about breaking in. Filmmaker Alex Browning talked, among other things, about how he balances his own film projects with commercial work to make a living.

“It’s not just about making films, it’s also about creative direction and consultancy. Young people coming up in the business have so many different skills. Keep them up because they might come in handy,” he advised.

The V&A’s Astrid Hilne agreed. A theatre-maker, she started out working in Gate Theatre’s box office for £5 a night (this was back in the 1980s, mind) and eventually went on to direct her own shows there. Throughout her career, she’s always done other things, temping at first – often administrative roles within the theatre world – and later education and youth theatre. “Know what other skills you can use to survive. It’s tough when you’re starting out,” she said.

“Look for opportunities,” she continued. “When a new artistic director has just started at a venue they’ll be more open to working with new people and in new ways.” She recommended checking out the Young Vic Directors Program, workshops run by the Directors Guild, Arts Council England and GEM, before concluding: “If people tell you to get a proper job, ignore them!”

Producer Sarah Beaumont gave us the lowdown on what BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra consider in choosing tracks for their playlists – including how passionate they are about the record, how well it’s doing in terms of sales, streaming and video views, the artist’s fan base and their relevance to the stations’ core audience of 16-24-year-olds. She urged all budding musicians to make use of the BBC Introducing Uploader tool as a way to get your music discovered.

“Think strategically,” Sarah went on. “Who wants to hear the music you’re making? Take advantage of social media channels. If you’re an MC, get your friend to shoot a video of you, upload it and then @ people you want to see it on social media. And don’t underestimate the power of YouTube and Soundcloud. A&Rs go through them with a fine-toothed comb.”

“Be yourself,” was one top tip from Global Head of Talent at DICE FM Becs Beslee. “I know it sounds cheesy but you are the only you. At DICE we have so many people from different backgrounds. Companies want diversity – diversity of people and diversity of thinking.” You should see your social media profiles like a CV, she added.

“We look at your Instagram as a reflection of you. It’s your personal brand so be mindful of what you put there.”

PlaybyPlay founder James Bishop’s talk was all about personal brand. He stressed that whatever your view on it, social media is here to stay. “There have been more changes in the last five years than in the last 20 or 30,” he said. “We’re not going backwards, only forwards.”
The great thing about social media is, he said, “there are no barriers. We all have a voice. Social media influencers are just people who have built their brand and become closer to the consumer.”

And what’s the best way to do that? “Produce content. Content is like currency. You make it, share it and then you get people’s attention. Think about what you want to say. Content allows you to get feedback so you can adapt to what the consumer wants”. It’s easy to create content – photos, video, audio, text – on your phone and share it on different platforms but whatever you make needs to offer people something – it should entertain, educate or inspire them.

In her talk, Brixton-based designer and art director Carolyne Hill, stressed the importance of developing your own creative projects when you have a day job. “I started designing t-shirts and flyers, I helped artists with their brands. I’ve always had a side hustle. The most important thing is to keep your creativity going,” she said. “You are the boss of you. You run tings. You need to get on with it. I read an article recently where Oprah said, ‘Do what you can from where you are.’ As creatives we can sometimes be our own biggest critics but remember: you got this.”

And as if that wasn’t enough motivation, the event rounded off with a rousing live performance from Cadet. We cornered him afterwards for some impromptu careers advice. “If you want to do it, just do it. Don’t procrastinate. You don’t need any money, even if you’re doing it in your room, whatever it is you want to do, put time into it and do it and it will come together.” Inspiring stuff!

By Rachel Segal Hamilton

Find the next session in the Creative Careers series here.


Image © Daniel Cruz