Case Study: Johanna Coulson, Arts Award Activist

I spoke to new Arts Award Activist Johanna about her artistic influences, interests and her most recent projects...

Case Study: Johanna Coulson, Arts Award Activist

Could you tell me about what you've been up to in the past and how your interest in the arts fitted into that?

School was very academically focused so I had to find my own way creatively. Once school was finished, I went to the University for the Creative Arts where I studied Broadcasting.

How did you discover Arts Award?

I discovered Arts Award after I graduated and wanted to find more creative opportunities. I had never studied music properly before and so wanted to have a go for my own self-development. I went straight for my Gold Arts Award as I felt ready to start taking the lead on projects.

Johanna, you looked at music and theatre production during your Arts Award, what was it about these artforms that made you want to explore them more?

I've always loved music since I was a child and I have played the piano since I was eleven. I started writing my own songs and since then have recorded and performed all over Kent and in London. I fell into theatre by accident when I was part of a programme at Battersea Arts Centre this year while working on my Arts Award. I was a young producer, working on live events and this was something I really enjoyed.

Can you give some examples of work from your Gold portfolio?

My portfolio was an old fashioned ringbinder crammed full of evidence! For my leadership project, I organised a fundraiser concert for my local church. I arranged for nine acoustic performers to come and play some songs, and managed to get an article in the local press. We raised lots of money for the church and I was really proud of the event! I also collaborated with a video game developer to create a soundtrack for a new game, which was really fun and a completely new way of working for me.

I also attended lots of shows which I reviewed for Arts Award Voice. I mainly went to gigs as they're my 'thing' but, I also saw and reviewed Disney On Ice which was amazing!

What was the most challenging part of Arts Award for you?

I found marketing events and finding an audience quite challenging, but after speaking to other creatives, I know I'm not alone in this! Where I live, it often feels like people either didn't want to get involved, or I felt that the focus was on London and the events there. London is great but sometimes people forget about artists and events closer to home.

Who are your arts heroes?

The people who inspire me the most are Amanda Palmer and Regina Spektor. I love how the atmosphere they create with their music and lyrics. I aspire to achieve something similar with my own work.

What's next for you? 

I have a new job at my old university where I'm involved in events and promotional materials. The work I did for my Arts Award played a huge part in my application and interview, and I'm constantly drawing upon the skills I developed during that time. Plus, I'm still involved in music of course – I'm working on a new record which I'm looking forward to sharing soon!


Emma Yeo

Emma Yeo Activist

Emma Yeo is a third year History student at the University of Durham. When not locked away in the library with dusty old books she can usually be found working on her novel...

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