First off, please introduce yourself.
My name is Becky. I currently work on a freelance basis within the creative industry. I do many different things including: workshop facilitation, video production, arts administration and visual art. I have also begun working on research projects that focus on the issue of accessibility to the arts.
Tell us about your time at Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
It changed the way I thought about and approached the [festivals and live events] industry. The Festival office is such an exciting place to be. It was invaluable and has certainly given me many opportunities since I finished there. I worked in the Participation & Engagement team and I learnt a lot about how engagement opportunities are created and funded. I had led workshops before so it was fascinating to get the wider view of the process.
What led you to approach working at the Festival?
I applied for the position through the Creative Employment Programme which is designed to give young unemployed people the opportunity to pursue a career in the creative industry through apprenticeships and other opportunities. I was unemployed at the time and found out about the vacancy at my local job centre. The position was perfect for me as it was relevant to my past experience and future ambitions and I knew I would be supported as part of the scheme. I was looking for my first entry level step and the programme gave me the chance to do that.
Talk us through what you accomplished for your Gold Arts Award?
The most difficult thing as a creative is finding time to try out the ideas you have. The Arts Award gave me a focused and structured way to give my ideas a go without the fear of failure. My biggest accomplishment is my work on developing the way I practice my art form. I have always wanted to create work in response to a research project. I had also been keen to link my work in film with poetry. I finally did all of this as part of my Arts Award and I was so happy with the outcome. It feels like a big accomplishment to finally start and finish a project I had wanted to do for a long time.
You are yet another person to have done their Gold Arts Award alongside an internship/apprenticeship. Tell us about the experience of doing both at the same time.
I think it feels very natural to do them at the same time. My internship was a time of learning and discovering much like the process of doing an Arts Award. My work at the Festival was featured heavily in my final portfolio. It was a staff trip to the theatre to watch Jess Thom's Backstage in Biscuit Land that confirmed my interest in the issue of accessibility. I shared this interest with my manager and they supported me to find out more. It then became a natural step to make it my chosen issue for my Arts Award. There were many instances that my Arts Award and my Internship complemented each other.
My work at the Festival was about my personal and professional development and it was very simple to make that work fit within the framework of the Arts Award and include in my portfolio. My advisor was a fellow member of Festival staff so I had fantastic access to her advice everyday whilst at work. It also meant that she was very aware of my progress and how it could fit in within the Arts Award.
What creative projects have you done since finishing work on your portfolio? Tell us about your exciting international work.
I had the fantastic opportunity to work at a Summer school in Italy. The summer school is designed to teach English to the students and culminated in a performance at the end of the week. We did Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I taught Art lessons which covered different styles and artists and we created props and scenery for the show. I learnt so much from the opportunity and from staying with the local host family.
In addition to that, I have been working on a freelance basis providing low cost video production for local arts organisations, running and assisting workshops, I have also been volunteering at a local Print Making studio called Print to the People. It's exciting and challenging to work on multiple projects at once.
I now hope to build on the research I conducted as part of my Arts Award to look further into the issues that effect accessibility to the arts and wider world contexts.
- Painting by Becky Demmen
Issues around accessibility are some of the most talked about in the arts sector. Did your own investigation into it open you up to new perspectives on it?
Yes it certainly did. The combination of my work with the Festival and my work for my Arts Award gave me a lot of new perspectives. As I said the theatre trip to Backstage in Biscuit Land confirmed my interest in the issue and prompted me to look into it further. My investigation opened up many new perspectives of what can hinder people to access the arts, things I had never considered before. Along with other barriers like – disability, money and transport – you have the added barrier of mind set. People who believe the arts aren't for "people like them". This became a focus for my research. So many of the young people I spoke to said that they weren't talented enough or confident enough to engage with the arts. It's awful that these young people feel that way and is an aspect of accessibility I would like to look into further.
- Even For You, a film by Becky Demmen. Produced as part of her Gold Arts Award.
Have you experienced or heard of much deliberate ignorance around accessibility in the arts? How about in filmmaking specifically?
I haven't personally experienced or heard of deliberate ignorance. I think there is ignorance around the issue but I do not feel it is deliberate. I feel like it is such a big issue and there are so many things that stop people from accessing the arts that it's difficult to be aware of them all at once. But there are great people working and representing each issue to ensure people get the access they need. We just need to ensure that these people are being connected with the right people in order to get their voices heard. The problem stems from having to prove at every turn that the arts are worth engaging with, that the arts are important. This is where there seems to be an element of deliberate ignorance. All we can do is continue to advocate where we can.
As for filmmaking it is much the same as the rest of the industry. Efforts are being made to make engaging with film (both watching and creating) easier but there is just a lot more work to be done across the board.
What were your greatest challenges in accomplishing your Gold Arts Award?
The greatest challenge was getting over my preconception that everything I did had to go well. For me there is always a fear that I am going to get things wrong. Every time I got nervous about experimenting my advisor was great at reminding me that Arts Award is about process. If something doesn't work it's about exploring why it didn't work. You don't necessarily have to do everything you set out to do – you just need to be able to evaluate why things happened and how you dealt with that. It was a very freeing feeling and my work was better and bolder because of this.
What aspects of your Gold Arts Award are your most proud?
My research and the films that came out of it. Since completing my Arts Award the films and accompanying research have acted like a pilot and I have been continuing to collect feedback and I have started to plan my next research project. The feedback has been incredibly encouraging and has certainly shown me that the hard work was all worth it.
Will the next generation of filmmakers change the world?
I think filmmakers can always change the world. My generation has seen the world go from dial up internet to the internet being in the air. Me and my friends used to make films with an old DV tape camera now I have my own High Definition camera, mic and a full editing suite at home – and it didn't even cost that much to set it up. My phone can nearly match the quality of my camera and I can film, edit and upload to a potential audience of billions in less than a day. With a world that is infinitely more connected than it was and video becoming the main way we communicate we have all of the tools for filmmakers to be world changers. Whatever genre you are interested in, fiction or non-fiction, if you want to get a message out then you can. If you want to make stuff simply to create then that's fine too.
The only problem with this is that we are saturated with content which brings the irony that it's never been easier to get your film and your message out there but it's also never been harder to be heard amongst the noise. This is where it becomes important to remember that changing the world one person at a time is just as good as changing it millions at a time.
What advice do you have for people doing or about to do their Gold Arts Award?
Don't be afraid to ask your advisor questions – even if you feel like it's a silly question. Read the criteria and don't be afraid to take risks. It's worth it. If there is something you have always wanted to try use this as an opportunity to explore it.