Nicola was nominated as an Arts Award alumna for TrinityTalent for her achievements since finishing her Arts Award. She completed her Gold Arts Award in 2009 in photography with The Hive, Shrewsbury, and now works as a freelance journalist and is also a new trustee of The Hive!
She was nominated for TrinityTalent by her Arts Award adviser, Diana Walton. Diana said: "Nicola did her Gold Arts Award after university and used it to develop her art skills, a personal style of photography and curate an exhibition at The Hive. This experience confirmed her interest in journalism and she applied successfully for a Scott Trust Bursary from the Guardian, which supports young people from less advantaged backgrounds to undertake journalism training. This has led to a successful freelance career writing regularly on news and social affairs for The Guardian, the Observer, HuffPost UK, the Evening Standard and Die Welt amongst other titles. Nicola regularly mentors young journalists and throughout 2020 she has been working with PressPad to launch and host a series of free online events to help young journalists survive the pandemic."
The Trinity judges said: "We're impressed by Nicola's on-going advocacy and the fact that her photography skill has led to a career as a freelance journalist. She clearly supports others trying to break into the arts industry. Nicola shows clear evidence of using the elements of Arts Award to take her career and art practice forwards."
Tell us a bit about what you’re up to in your art form and with your career at the moment
I’m a freelance journalist for the national press. I mainly write for The Guardian, The Observer, Evening Standard and Positive News. I am also a writer and have a popular weekly newsletter called The Single Supplement. I’m currently working on my first book. I also co-run life-writing classes and am a regular guest on podcasts and my local radio station. My photography has appeared in various publications including the Daily Mirror, The Guardian and HuffPost. I would like to do more creative photography in the future. I am also passionate about helping those from non-elite backgrounds break into journalism and writing careers and to that end: I often speak on panels, provide mentoring as well as ad hoc support to young people from diverse backgrounds.
How has your Trinity College London qualification influenced your progress with your art?
Prior to completing Arts Award, I worked in arts marketing so even though I worked closely with artists and creative people, I was the one to promote what they were doing rather than being the artist myself. It has been a long journey but I realised that I was actually a creative person and I needed to live a more creative life. This journey began with Gold Arts Award. It gave me the confidence to think of myself as an artist, which I found really powerful.
I'm also really proud that I was recently invited to be a trustee of The Hive, an arts centre in Shrewsbury where I completed much of the work for my Gold Arts Award. It's an amazing place that is very special to me.
Has taking part in a Trinity qualification helped you to develop wider skills?
One of the ways it has impacted me is how I am much more likely to embrace the beginner mindset and to give things a try just for the sake of it. I have recently begun life drawing classes, for example, and am thoroughly enjoying giving it a go and am not worrying too much about the outcome. It’s empowering to let myself be a beginner and not worry about being good enough. I think Arts Award has definitely influenced that attitude because when I was a teenager, there is no way I would have considered trying any kind of art or drawing. Doing life drawing also helps me with my writing because it takes me out of my head and is a very mindful activity.
What did you do following your qualification? Do you have any ambitions to complete any more qualifications?
After completing Arts Award I actually went abroad to teach English as a foreign language for three years. I lived in South Korea and Spain among other places. I began to do more creative writing while abroad and had a popular travel blog and took a travel writing and photography course. This made me realise I wanted to be a journalist so I came home to the UK to do an MA in newspaper journalism. Now as I learn more into thinking of myself as a writer, I dream of doing a Creative Writing MA. I would also love to do a photography course!
What are your career aims?
I would like to be a published author of memoir and fiction. I sometimes daydream about writing a play - after meeting a brilliant young playwright who just one day decided to give it a go. With my journalism, I would love to move more into writing for magazines and weekend newspaper supplements and one day have a column of my own. I would like to become more confident with photography. I also want to take more drawing classes for my own enjoyment.
Have you got any advice for other young people working towards an Arts Award or Trinity qualification?
Be curious, don’t talk yourself out of something before you give it a go and be willing for your Arts Award to take you in directions you hadn’t expected it to. I never expected to commission a piece of music or create a video when I started it but went with the flow and it was so rewarding!
More from Nicola
Read Nicola's Guardian articles: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/nicola-slawson
Join the newsletter for single women: https://thesinglesupplement.substack.com
Find out about The Hive, Shrewsbury: https://www.hiveonline.org.uk
Read more about the talented young people selected to be featured as part of the TrinityTalent Class of 2020.