Hi! I’m Trey and I recently joined Raw London as Junior Creative. I joined via the STEP Programme, run by an amazing organisation called A New Direction. The programme partners with agencies and creative companies to offer creative industry career opportunities, training and skills to young and diverse talent in East London.
So here I am! One month in and I’ve learnt loads already. So, I’ve decided to write an article to give some insight into my first month here at Raw London – and share my first impressions of the creative industry.
East London, all the way. I was born and raised here. However, I studied English Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow, alongside a year abroad at Boston College. Personally, I believe my degree was useful because it taught me to think critically (and finally use commas properly). The subjects I delved into provided me with breadth and depth of knowledge. As a result, I fostered my curiosity and began believing in my own ability.
Creatively I started in my final year at Uni, during the pandemic, I wrote for my university magazine and newspaper. This was a great, safe and healthy environment to just learn how to write, do deadlines, and pitch ideas. I stayed doing that for 2 years (post-graduating) and in my last year, I secured an internship writing for METAL Magazine.
Writing interviews for METAL was another way in which I could create a story and enhance my creative writing skills. My time at METAL was a freelancer work pattern and was unpaid. Whilst, picking up material to write on I worked full time in hospitality and did some personal creative writing on the side, with a creative writing mentor. So, a year at uni, and a year in the streets of graduate life, I worked on skills I wasn’t explicitly using in my academic career. A whole ass year later, I landed my first creative job at Raw London so it’s not overnight that’s for sure.
What I think, call me naive, is paramount to entering the creative industry is finding out what you can bring. I brought myself. Period. We’re all individuals and we’re all one of a kind.
To me, the creative industry always felt like something people talked about, but only people wearing trench coats actually did (though I’ve seen no trench coats so far, maybe because London’s on fire).
To many young people, even the phrase ‘The Creative Industry’ can seem intimidating. I’m here to reassure other young creatives that it isn’t the beguiling behemoth it’s been orchestrated to be.
I’m not saying it’s not a cool job, on the contrary! Although, in the words of Shakesy P, “not all that glitters is gold!” (a close friend of mine actually said this to me, I’ve never actually read The Merchant of Venice…).
What I mean is, the industry is open, and has roles for every type of person, thinker, and identity.
That said, in my experience, the thing that gilds this area of work is the lack of accessibility.
Personally, growing up in Newham, East London, there were few times where career opportunities presented to me involved the creative industry. In fact, they never were. And that is a HUGE issue. It means many young people across a spectrum are missing out on some amazing opportunities – but the industry is missing out on their talent too.
So, in May 2022, I applied to take part in a scheme called the STEP Programme. It’s run by A New Direction from the Good Growth Hub in Hackney. The idea is to team up with creative businesses to provide access to supportive and structured entry-level creative jobs for young people, and make the industry more accessible.
I am one of those young people. I’ve found it to be such a great and supportive way to step into this world, especially if you lack specific industry experience (as I did!). Throughout your 12 months of employment, the programme provides training days, sessions and support to help you, as well as training for your employer on things like mentorship, bias and recruitment.
You also join a cohort of people like you, all joining similar companies at similar times in their career, so it’s a great way to start building your own network.
As a result, I don’t feel like I’m navigating this new (and sometimes scary) adventure on my own.
So, here I am now as Junior Creative at Raw London. But why did I choose them?
Every advertised placement had a biography that described the company and their work. I was intrigued by Raw London’s description of ‘telling stories and changing perceptions’. They described their aim as facilitating, ‘Learning something new, getting a fresh perspective, and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes’ and worked towards manifesting ‘behavioural change’. This vision and mission instantly caught my eye and aligned with me on a personal level.
After completing my application, and taking part in a workshop selection process and two interviews with the team, I got the job. My role is to support client pitches and projects, as well as internal creative development. This varies from concepting ideas, to copywriting, writing scripts – and serving looks on in-office working days.
My role is set within the Creative team. We work between the Strategy and Production teams to bring creative ideas and visions to life. Working so closely with these teams, I’ve learnt that everyone is creative in their own lane of operation, not just the Creative team.
I work most closely with our Executive Creative Director, Ed. As my line manager, he’s like the Puff Daddy and I support the man. Like Batman and Robin, but instead of Robin, I’m Nightwing.
On the day-to-day, I team up with our Junior Artworker, Joanna Zdunik (aka Batgirl), who also joined the team via a similar government scheme called Kickstart last year, and has since joined as a full-time team member. Through illustrations and design, she brings our ideas to life visually, alongside our Art Director, Tom. Together, we’re the creative team that bridges the gap between strategy and production.
For example, my favourite project so far is a new integrated DRTV campaign for Age UK. I jumped on the project halfway through, but I had the opportunity to contribute to scripting and prospecting. Working on something that big was sick as the new guy, and helping create a video that will be on the agency website felt like a Spiderman moment. A little bit of power and little bit of responsibility.
I’ve also been working on a project for Save the Children called Generation Hope. It’s not live yet so I can’t share it, but it gave me the opportunity to flex my pen game and explore the climate anxiety issue plaguing our generation right now. Also, writing poetry as part of my job… light work (it was not light work, it was stressful but awesome!).
Honestly, what’s surprised me so far is how capable I am – and that the industry is filled with real and pretty regular people! I still struggle with imposter syndrome on some days, and some times I’m too hard on myself. It was difficult to not want to be perfect, even though I was extremely new.
As a perfectionist and an ex-people pleaser, I was worried I’d fail hard. Dramatic, I know. However, I had to remind myself that I went through the application process with STEP, and was selected over other candidates. So, I was good enough, and the team at Raw London were getting what they expected/wanted.
In addition to this, the STEP programme provided training days before my placement began. During this time I reminded myself that I was chosen because I had potential – not because I was already perfect. I really had to get over the expectation that everyone was better than me and that I’d fumble the bag.
The gag is, in the words of Keke Palmer; your company should help find your strengths and hone on them. This is what I feel has been happening at Raw London. They’ve already got me involved in projects for Save the Children, Samaritans and Age UK, as well as writing interviews with directors and publishing my own articles, so what can I say?
What I expected, and what I’ve seen so far, is that the creative industry is very white. Walking into networking events there are very few brothers, sisters or siblings in sight. The importance of this is self-explanatory, but it waived my confidence as to whether I could thrive in the industry. I was not going to be the failed trial run, and I also didn’t want to have to dim myself or my views to fit in. So far I haven’t. It’s actually been the opposite for me, and that’s very much to do with the work culture here at Raw London.
This is one of the main reasons I wanted to write this article so early on in my placement. I hope to widen the outreach of programmes like STEP. Moreover, the industry needs (whether it likes it or not) minds and creative flairs that exist outside euro-centric, heteronormative identities.
As a young, black, queer man it is hard to find spaces where you’re valued intrinsically. My identity markers by definition mean I will bring something different to the table. One is diversity, yes, but to my own credit my lexicon is varied, my culture references are different, and I’m bilingual. All these things inform my cognitive process and creative output which are bound to be different.
Differences should always be celebrated! Whether we attribute this cultural shift in the Global North to the works of Jordan Peele, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You or Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. There is a space for us and we have our own devices to determine whether our places feel like tokenism, diversity hire or a move to inclusivity.
This interview with Reggie Yates and Michaela Coel really hit home – the first 15 seconds are gold in my opinion.
Here are some tips on getting into the creative industry, from an unqualified tip-giver.
Social platforms can be your friend, and I don’t mean establishing a presence or a brand. Instead, follow pages like @ILIKENETWORKING on Instagram. These spares are dedicated to promoting creative opportunities daily! Not just in London either, but across the whole UK.
Websites like Creative Opportunities or The Dots are also spaces you can apply for creative jobs, from Kickstarter schemes to esteemed creative companies and publishers. They also promote sessions and webinars to learn key skills.
With a lot of creative jobs, its extremely hard to get experience. A lot of the time they want you to work for free and right now that’s not a feasible option for many people. I will say though there are teams and companies out there who respond to an inexperienced candidate’s willingness to learn and do things. And, on the flipside, experience is not always a paid job you’ve had in the past. Whether you’re writing for uni, interning, painting or sculpting for commission – that all counts as showcasing your skills and time within a field, medium or activity. Don’t forget that!
For me at Raw, it’s been 5 weeks already. It’s been a cool journey and I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride.
All the best, let’s see what month 2 brings.