When Nia Hoffmann found herself battling depression at university and had to leave her Design Crafts degree, the arts became a lifeline in terms of her mental health and helped her get back on her feet. But Nia didn’t want to close the door on the arts as a creative career…she just wanted to find a different way of doing it at the pace that was right for her.
“My degree course was great, but it just wasn’t working for me. I liked the practical side of it, but it was too self-directed and there wasn’t enough support for me at the time. After leaving uni, I started volunteering in the arts as a way back into the creative world, including running arts workshops for children and communities, and it helped me realise what I wanted to do. I’d been a carer before going to uni, so I knew I could do that side of things and although I didn’t see myself as a leader I found out I could do it – it’s very rewarding.
“I began looking around to see how I could turn what I was doing into a business and found The Mighty Creatives’ Creative Careers Programme online. I knew starting my own business was a direction I wanted to go in at some point but I didn’t feel ready to launch into it right away, I just wanted to explore the idea. So, very tentatively, I emailed The Mighty Creatives to see how I could get involved…
“Becky, the programme leader, was lovely and helped me develop an informal business proposal so I could get the most out of each session. The programme was very practical and really different to uni. I’d learnt a bit about how to budget on my degree course, but with The Mighty Creatives, it was much more about the nitty-gritty of how to start a creative business – from creating an elevator pitch and sharing your vision with others to managing things like tax.
“I liked being part of a small group and the way the programme was tailored around what I wanted to do and the stage I was at. It took me through the process of launching a business without me needing to have a concrete idea. I got lots of support too, via both one-to-one sessions and my peers on the programme. It was good to know there’s other people out there feeling the same way.
“Overall, the programme broke down the process of starting a business into small steps, rather than a five year plan. It gave me a list of useful things to do including the first step – talking to people about what I wanted to do.
“I moved to Preston just after I finished the programme so I’ve been busy sorting myself out first but now I’m keen to pick up where I left off and return to the arts. I got in touch with Becky for advice on where to start and applied to a young ambassadors’ scheme run by Curious Minds in Preston. Becky has been amazing and is still there to help even though I’ve moved away from the East Midlands. It’s great to have that kind of permanent relationship.
“Through a MindFit course I did at a local women’s centre in Preston, I’m starting training in September to run arts workshops for other women here – including trialling a new idea I’ve had for a workshop around Everyday Armour. The workshops will give women the opportunity to explore and create physical objects they can carry around to help themselves feel better – building on concepts such as lucky socks and the idea that familiar, well-loved objects can boost our sense of wellbeing.
“Once again, volunteering in the arts will help me apply what I’ve learned but it will also give me the opportunity to practice my workshops and hopefully go on to become a freelance artist running arts sessions for a range of different communities. It’s a first step in the door and as The Mighty Creatives has shown me, once you’ve made connections, you’ll get there.
“My advice to anyone thinking of a creative career would be to reach out and talk to someone. Whether it’s an artist whose work you’ve admired on social media, or an organisation like The Mighty Creatives. Ask for support, ask for advice, ask people if you can come and shadow them...
“Support gives us the practical and emotional armour we all need every day – no matter what stage our creative careers are at.”
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The UK’s creative industries employ over 2 million people, with employment in the sector growing 3 times faster than the national average. It’s a brilliant sector for young people looking to develop a rewarding career but the decline of creative and cultural education in schools, particularly state schools, is making it harder for young people to develop creative skills and prepare for the opportunities available. On top of this, many young people face barriers once they leave school and are looking for work, because of social inequalities within the sector – especially around class, gender and ethnicity. For the creative industries, the lack of young people coming through the ranks is limiting the talent pool and stagnating diversity.
The Mighty Creatives is tackling the issue by championing creative and cultural education in schools and by supporting young people to develop creative careers and businesses – outside of traditional routes into the sector, such as university. As Nia’s story shows, there isn’t always a single, clear path into a creative career and we’re here to help young people explore the options and develop their ideas with tailored support and advice. The outcome doesn’t have to be immediate – the seeds we help sow can start to grow whenever a young person is ready to take the next step.