What are you up to in your creative work at the moment?
I'm currently a journalist for the national press. I mainly work for The Guardian and although I often work on the newsdesk my favourite articles to write are longer form features where I explore a particular issue and get to weave all the human-interest aspects in with the facts and figures. I see myself as a storyteller but the stories I tell are true and happening in the world now.
In addition, some of my photography – a skill I learnt while doing the Arts Award - has appeared the Guardian, the Mirror and Positive News. In my spare time, I have just started a creative self-study course called The Artists Way and am looking forward to seeing where it takes me.
What are the highlights of your arts career to date?
Well right now I am living my dream of being a journalist but when my career was more arts focused, a big highlight for me was landing a great job as marketing manager when I was 23 at the arts centre that I attended as a teenager. It's called The Hive and is in my hometown in Shrewsbury. I learnt a great deal from working there and I am still seen as one of the Hive family.
I love it when employers take a chance on young passionate people – it should happen more often.
What do you hope to be doing in five years time?
I hope to be established as a journalist and have made a name for myself. But I also see myself exploring multimedia more and I would like to have made my first documentary within five years.
How did you use your level of Arts Award to develop your creativity or skills?
I did the Gold Arts Award. I not only used it to learn about photography, which was my chosen new art form to study but I also learnt about blogging and the use of social media. My portfolio was one of the first to mainly be online (I'm showing my age here I think!) and I'm still really proud of it.
I was also asked to write a comment piece for an Arts Council consultation process and this experience helped confirm that I did actually want to be a writer and a journalist. I loved it. Learning the art of curation and all aspects of putting on an exhibition (above) was another highlight and although I haven't done anything similar, the experience gave me a new found appreciation of art galleries, something I'd often been intimidated by in the past.
What advice would you give to young people doing Arts Award who want to follow in your footsteps?
Becoming a writer was scary at first – every time I wrote I would torture myself over it because I didn't think it was good enough – but I've never been happier, career-wise. If you want to achieve something, I would say you have to grasp opportunities like the Arts Award with both hands and make the absolute most of it. You should use it as an excuse to push yourself out of your comfort zone and also to get involved in the arts community and speak to people. For example, in order to learn about photography, I ended up on a short course at the Tate Modern as well as regularly travelling to Wolverhampton to join a youth arts group. I met so many inspiring people.
It wouldn't have crossed my mind to do either prior to the Award as I considered myself to solely be an "arts manager" – someone who worked behind the scenes but didn't actually do any art myself. Now, it's all different!
Nicola's is one of many portfolios created entirely online featured on the Gold Hub - have a look at the lot!