Makeda Bennett-Amparbeng and Jade Reid are the co-founders Croydon's new creative hub Setting Da Standards (SDS). They share their experiences establishing a creative organisation in an area lacking momentum for the creative sector.
Hi Makeda and Jade! Please could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Jade: Hey everyone, I’m Jade. I’m the co-founder and creative director of SDS Entertainment. I’m also an artist manager for the singer Deanna Chase.
Makeda: Hey everyone, I'm Makeda. I'm the founder and executive creative director of SDS.
Describe the purpose of the Croydon Hub Project 3 words.
Both: Network. Educate. Opportunity.
What is SDS Entertainment? Tell us more about how this community arts company was created and founded.
Both: SDS Entertainment stands for ‘Setting Da Standards’. We’re an all-black female-led entertainment company based in Croydon. We started SDS to help and support young creatives - specifically those in the black community. Right now, we are focused on fixing Croydon’s non-existing music scene. Before we went into lockdown, we producedmonthly Hub nights for artists to showcase their talents. We are hoping to resume this as soon as it's safe to do so! The purpose of our Hub events is to help local creatives network with each other.
Makeda: SDS was something I always knew I wanted to create. I wanted to do that in Croydon because we don't have anything like a hub for creatives. Our nightlife has taken a bad turn with almost all the clubs closing down and the lack of music venues.
I approached a local venue about putting on an open mic night, but because the type of music and audience I would be attracting was 'urban', I was told I'd need to hire more security and fill out Form 696. I didn't know about the form until then, but I knew the form needed to go before SDS could start, so that's what I set out to do. The form was abolished in 2017 and SDS began shortly after that.
Why is it imperative to support young emerging artists in the Croydon area?
Jade: There is so much young talent in the borough who do not have the opportunities to express it, unless they go across the river and we don't believe that should always be the case. I think it’s so important to support our own and bring these opportunities to them. I feel the young people have been slightly forgotten about and overlooked in Croydon. You hear so much about the bigger names, but no one is paying attention to the grassroots level creatives who are still trying to fight their way to the top. It’s harder for them to do so if they don’t have that initial local support. Croydon is one of the biggest boroughs in London so it is imperative that we support young emerging artists.
Makeda: Having an environment that you know has been created for you can be so uplifting. As creatives, we know and understand how important such spaces are: we want to encourage such spaces in Croydon.
What do you hope this project will achieve?
Both: We hope to create THE creative hub space in Corydon - a network full of creatives where they can interact with each other and grow. We are going further to educate and provide funding information to creatives in our community. We’ll educate the community on black history that hasn't been taught. Finally, we want to bring the industry back to Croydon.
What challenges have you faced during the project?
Makeda: I would say changing the narrative attached to Croydon has been a challenge. The idea that Croydon is far away is something we keep hearing and it's one of the reasons why people don't come into the borough. The lack of venues does not help this as it means not many events take place. We need people to see the potential our borough has and with that, narratives will change and more spaces will form. We are pushing to be the ones who do this but that doesn't mean we won't need help!
Have you experienced a particular highlight in the project so far? Tell us more about this.
Makeda: A highlight for me would be our one-year anniversary, it was such a huge accomplishment! We have received constant support from partners and especially artists. The fact that they believed and still believe in our mission is something that helped us reach that one year mark. We can't wait for more milestones!
Jade: A highlight for me would be our Black History Month Special we produced last year - it was AMAZING! Being advocates for Croydon talent, the black community and black women especially, it was incredible to be able to feature an all-black female line up. We even had a black female Illustrator who was able to sell her art at the show. They were all so talented, the vibe in the room was electric and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the night!
Tell us more about how SDS Hub Nights fed into this project.
Makeda: Our Hub Nights is an opportunity we’ve created for creatives to come down, share their talent and network. Our stage is open for everyone - the night is not just for musicians, for example we've also had artists put their artwork around the room for people to see or buy. We want the room to be filled with producers, photographers, musicians, managers, general music lovers, you name it! This network of people become Croydon's creative Hub network.
Jade: As we cannot produce our Hub nights at the moment, we have launched our website to fill this very purpose. Artists can sign up and become members for only £2.99 a month. Here they get access to the callout section of the forum along with news of latest music jobs, the general forum and we're in the process of adding exclusive content there too. They will also get 3 SDS documents on funding: a funding dictionary, a catalogue of different funds and funding tips when applying.
What advice would you give young people who are interested in the entertainment and music industry?
Both: Throughout university, there was one piece of advice that they drilled into us from the beginning. "Your net worth is your network." Who you know and the help you can give eachother is so key.
Why do you think the entertainment and music industry needs the fresh voices of young people?
Both: Young people are the future! If we remain stuck in a cycle that doesn’t fully work or allow the right voices to come through, the development within our industry won’t thrive. Young people give a different perspective as they are living through experiences; they have fresh takes and ideas that older generations may not have considered, leading to wrong decisions being made sometimes. This is why the industry needs them.
How can people find out more?
Both: Definitely check out our website - you'll find more information on us along with the latest content. We've got a lot more to share with you guys! To get involved in anything we do or if artists have questions or want any advice, they can email [email protected] or send us a DM on Insta @sdsentertainment, we're always on there.