Where are they now? with Julie Southam

We caught up with Julie Southam, who did her Gold Arts Award ten years ago, about how her portfolio informed the work she does now at Havas Lynx in Manchester.

Where are they now? with Julie Southam

What are you up to in your creative work at the moment?

I am currently working as an Account Director for a creative communications company called Havas Lynx. We specialise in healthcare which means that the creative work we do also has the ability to make a real impact on the world. We are one of the largest creative teams of any agency in the UK (over 75 creatives) so I'm extremely grateful to be surrounded by so many people with so many great ideas. An example of the kind of thing I am working on at the moment is a campaign we have just launched to raise awareness of organ donation - www.speeddonating.com. We worked on this with RSA Films and partnered with the charity Live Life Give Life - another great thing about where I work is the partnerships you form with other companies and the opportunity to work with lots of different specialists.

What are the highlights of your arts career to date?

It is always a massive highlight when campaigns I work on have a real impact on people's lives. An internal project I have run for blood donation has now potentially saved up to 540 lives; it is an amazing example of how you can use creativity to do good.

What do you hope to be doing in five years time?

I hope to one day be able to work for myself and have a small consultancy but that is still a little way off from now. For now I am really happy where I am, I am lucky to really love the agency I work for, the people I work with and the work we do - can't really ask for much more!

How did you use your level of Arts Award to develop your creativity or skills?

Gold Arts Award, although a very long time ago now, was really the first time I organised a big project of any kind. It was the first time I presented to big companies (and what felt like very important people!), hired people and applied for and managed a budget. It was the first time I had ever worked on a film. The skills I started to use for the first time when I was doing my Arts Award are the skills which are today the foundation of what I do for a living. It is amazing to think about my first ever film being for Arts Award when now I work with a permanent video team and have worked with the likes of Ridley Scott's production company.

What advice would you give to young people doing Arts Award who want to follow in your footsteps?

I think the best advice is probably to keep an open mind and take as many opportunities as you can. Sometimes it is hard to see the value in experiences but as long as you are still learning new things and pushing yourself you aren't going too far off track. One day you may find yourself drawing on things in ways you never thought you would. In many ways that's how I feel about my Arts Award experience now. I never realised at the time the skills I was learning and now, 10 years on, the skills I started to learn then are the skills I now use every single day to do my job.

In what ways, if any, would you say doing your Gold Arts Award helped your creative development?

I think that it taught me creative skills in two different ways: it taught me practical skills, which I would need to bring my creativity to life such as camera work and cinematography. It also taught me how to think creatively and that sometimes creative thinking isn't just about making things look or sound great it is also about learning to problem-solve. Learning how to think and deal with difficult situations. When you run out of budget or equipment fails or your cast are sick, you have to learn how to adapt. Creative thinking is just as valuable as crafting beautiful things.

Can you show us/take us through what you did for your Gold portfolio?

Unfortunately all my old things are long gone - it was 10 years ago now! However I can describe my project, it was a short film which I wrote, produced, cast and directed, which aimed to raise awareness in teenagers about road safety. It was shown in schools in my local area and was funded by the Suffolk County Council. We even got some local TV press on it!

Could you share with us any highlights you can remember from doing your Gold?

The highlight for me was the launch event, it was just the most amazing feeling to see all the work come together. It is so important to celebrate achievements and thank everyone for support, the launch event was the night I did this and it meant the world to me.

What advice would you give young people doing their Golds now to help them get through it?

Be resilient. It can be such a hard process at times, but also enjoy it! Make sure you choose to do the award in, for or about something about which you are passionate because if you believe in what you are doing, then the output will be all the better for it.


  • Emrys Green

    On 14 November 2017, 01:00 Emrys Green Voice Team commented:

    I love reading this experience. Thanks to Julie for sharing!

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