A raft of people newly qualified in the creative industries sector have seen their lives turned around thanks to an innovative scheme to help them network, collaborate and secure employment.
Tees Valley Young Creatives was established in March this year in response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on young people and the culture and tourism sectors, and is still open to new members.
Many of those graduating with qualifications in the sector – everyone from performers and writers to technicians and artists – found themselves without work as creative and arts organisations and hospitality businesses were forced to close, leaving uncertainty and cutting opportunities for creative professionals.
Now, new figures have revealed that 83 professionals have signed up to the scheme, with 34 finding direct employment thanks to the support, with 58 paid opportunities created through the scheme.
Kieran Barker, 21, studied at the Northern School of Art and found help through the programme. He said: “What Covid did was cut things right down, it merged everything, it caused stress for everyone. I never had experience of the creative industry outside of uni. It made it terrifying to go into professional work and know what to do next.
“As soon as I joined TVYC, it gave me opportunity after opportunity and really started my career. This has given me the confidence to go for it. This has given me a confident platform to start on and get some financial security.
“Now I’ve had paid work at Middlesbrough Mela, and through the summer with The Big Summer Bash for ARC. I’ve just had a meeting about producing a show I’m working on. The networking events connect you and make you recognise there are others you can collaborate with on paid work. You grow creative contacts who become friends.”
Another member, named Audrey, moved from London back to their home region because of the pandemic but the scheme helped them find their place here. They said: “Where I was before had very little direction. I was feeling very adrift. I had no idea where I was going to be, or what I was going to do. I didn’t really know anyone and my applications were unsuccessful. Now Teesside makes sense to me. Now, doing this in this specific place feels right. I feel like I have a sense of direction. I feel grounded with the people that I’m doing it with as well.
“I’ve had professional work through TVYC, which is more than I ever expected. I struggled with being qualified but not having the experience for applications, so TVYC has done a lot for me.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It’s inspiring and rewarding to hear that these talented graduates are being able to get work in jobs they are passionate about right here thanks to the Young Creatives Scheme. New graduates, especially those in the creative industries, were particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic but this shows they are all keen to secure a good-quality career – they just need a helping hand.
“Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington has a rich history of creativity across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, with talented artists, actors, film directors and musicians calling our region home. We need to do all we can to nurture this talent across the board, working with our top-quality arts organisations such as ARC and schools like the Northern School of Art, to boost this growing sector.”
Cllr Shane Moore, TVCA Cabinet lead for Culture & Tourism, said: “The cultural sector took a massive hit with the onset of Covid and in order for it to rise again in the wake of the pandemic, it was vital to help support and protect our young creative talent.
“Thanks to this groundbreaking scheme it’s fantastic to see our young creatives being able to fight back, with confidence again for the future.”
The initiative was one of many established after Mayor Houchen established a Task Force, chaired by ARC’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director Annabel Turpin, to support the recovery of the culture and tourism sectors across the region. It is funded by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority’s £1million Recovery Programme for the Cultural Industries and Visitor Economy and is being administered by the arts centre.
Young Creatives members yesterday (22 December) took over ARC as part of the initiative, bringing a multi-artform event curated by new professional talent from across the region. This included short films, creative media work, live performances and visual art and installations.
Annabel Turpin said: “In the early days of COVID-19, local cultural partners recognised the huge risk of losing a generation of creatives who felt the cultural sector was closed to them. Retaining talent and supporting people into sustainable careers is critical as we look to grow.
“Fortunately, we were able to support this scheme through the Tees Valley Mayor’s cultural recovery programme and it is clear it has made a real impact. Collaboration breeds creativity and these college leavers and graduates are not only forging connections to secure work, support our brilliant festival and create great art, they are also making friends and supporting each other.
“For many, this has become a lifeline after the pandemic, helping them to understand the huge scope of opportunity in the Tees Valley, how they can contribute to our cultural landscape and the rewarding future they can have in our creative sector.”
For more information or to join, visit arconline.co.uk/tees-valley-young-creatives