Amy Martin is a Midlands-based independent producer working with young people on arts projects – indeed, we're currently running two briefs that she's involved with: cannon hill collective and Sound Lounge 21. She tells us why young people need to fight the fear and create their own opportunities...
Full name/age/job title:
Amy Martin, 31. I am an independent producer who works with young people and emerging artists to create projects, festivals and events that combine arts, culture and digital.
I am currently producer for both Sound Lounge 21 and Cannon Hill Collective.
Please give us an overview of your average day.
I tend to work from home or hot desk from one of the cultural organisations that I partner with, so every day is different. I will start the day with coffee then emails, phone calls and catching up on projects. My projects depend heavily on people and partnerships, so maintaining good relationships is really important, so I try to be as helpful as I can be, to the most people possible. Twitter is really great for this – both giving and receiving help and advice – and it’s also great for keeping up to date with the industry. I work across art forms, so I need to keep on eye on the wider creative industries.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
I think when people see that I am a producer they immediately think of a TV or Film producer, and I am neither of these. I see myself as a creative producer because I produce and create projects, festivals and events from scratch. The term project or events manager doesn’t quite illustrate that the projects start with an idea and then are taken into fruition through collaboration and hard work.
What is the hardest thing about your role?
Time management can be hard to juggle sometimes, especially when there is so much going on; it sometimes feels as though you need a clone of yourself so that you can be in two places at the same time. I find that project management systems can help, like Basecamp. A good diary system is a must and reminder apps help a lot.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
I grew up in rural mid Wales and as a kid I was into dance and drama. I joined a youth theatre when I was 11 and it really helped me develop confidence. I could see the value that the arts had – not just to entertain, but also to change people’s lives.
I began working within youth arts at the age of 17, forming a theatre company with three other young actors to support the work of Amnesty International. The company toured a piece of devised theatre, along with workshops throughout the UK, to raise awareness of human rights abuses. I then went on to work with young people at risk, using drama to build confidence. After studying acting at drama school in Birmingham I attended City University in London, graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Cultural Management. I studied all aspects of arts management, including cultural policy, finance and fundraising, arts management, marketing and participation in the arts.
Since graduating in 2004 I have worked across the creative sector in the role of manager, producer, coordinator and promoter of learning, participatory and development programmes for artists and young people, working with many different organisations, from the BBC to Fierce Festival.
What can you do to get a head start?
One of the strengths of the UK creative industries is that there is no one route in. People working in the industry have a diverse range of skills and experience and come from a variety of educational backgrounds. If you don’t go to uni, it does not mean that you can’t get ahead. I have peers who have gone to uni and some who haven’t – what matters most is your passion, talent, determination and your ideas.
I think it is important that you do not wait for permission. If an opportunity does not present itself to you, then make it happen for yourself. The only thing that is stopping you is the belief that you can’t do it. Which is rubbish. Total rubbish. There are too many talented graduates and young creatives that are waiting to get on the career ladder, when they could start projects, collaborate, take risks and start the ball rolling themselves.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
My work is intrinsically creative, I have to be forward-thinking, innovative and reactive to change. I produce work that has a strong aesthetic and is of high quality, whether it is a piece of print, curating an entire festival or running a workshop.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
Fundraising skills and being able to see the commercial value of your work. If you can fundraise or get investment for your work, life is much easier!
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
Sky Arts Igntition: Futures Fund is offering £30,000 to five IdeasTap members – each. Creative producers welcome – applications open on Monday 24 September.
IdeasTap is running two briefs with Amy's projects:
cannon hill collective – mac birmingham is looking for 20 young people, aged 16 to 24, to be part of a collective.
Sound Lounge 21 – looking for cultural programmers aged 16 to 21 to programme music events at Birmingham's Town Hall & Symphony Hall.