We are delighted that four Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Fellows’ careers in the arts, have been featured in an essay of case studies in a new publication Artist Development: Class, Diversity & Exclusion. The case studies focus on different points of the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme, which has been running since 2010.
The article is published as part of the most recent volume of Studies in Theatre and Performance by Incubate-Propagate, an AHRC-funded research network that seeks to broaden the socio-economic diversity of the next generation of theatre, performance and cross-disciplinary artists. Other contributors include our academic consultant to the 2020-22 edition of the programme, Dr Dave O’Brien.
The programme’s inclusion in such a prestigious academic journal, demonstrates the influence that its pioneering approach to tackling social mobility in the arts has had over the past decade. In the article, the four alumni tell their stories from before, during and after they took part in the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme. Their accounts also highlight many of the issues discussed in other sections of this publication, such as a sense of being an ‘impostor’ and of not having the ‘right to work in theatre’. Hearing directly from the Fellows about how they have overcome some of the challenges in their way, has helped us to further understand the complexity of class and socio-economic diversity.
The publication concludes with Gemma’s testimony:
“In order to be truly reflective of society, art should represent the experiences of people from all walks of life, and that can only be done authentically by tapping into the lived experiences of marginalised groups. This doesn’t just mean letting us participate, it means actively giving us the floor, the mic, and the power to pursue our own ideas throughout the lifespan of our careers.”
The remaining contributions from WJCB fellows were provided by Chris Lloyd, Megan Hamber and Athenoula Bartley Sophocleous.
Chris Lloyd joined the programme as Social Media Assistant at Sherman Theatre in Cardiff in early 2018 and went on to set up as a freelance film maker in the city. At the same time, Megan Hamber spent her year-long placement as Creative Projects Assistant at Yorkshire Dance in Leeds and was offered a full-time role as Assistant Creative Producer with the organisation at the end of the year. Gemma Connell was a Fellow in the first year of the programme (2010), as Trainee Producer at Manchester International Festival, before going on to forge a successful career as a producer, maker and dancer across the country (including Cheshire Dance, Pavilion Dance South West in Bournemouth, Aberdeen Performing Arts) and is now running her own company, the Artifact Dance Company. Athenoula Bartley Sophocleous was in the same cohort as Chris and Megan, working as Junior Producer for Duckie, producers of ‘cultural interventions’, before being offered a full-time role with the company.
The new edition of the programme will run until the end of 2022 with 50 Fellows currently in the process of being recruited by host organisations across the country. To find out more click here.
Learning from the experiences of the previous Fellows, we will spend a few months supporting this new generation of Fellows to progress to the next steps in their careers after their year-long Fellowships. We know that getting into the arts is only the first step, as sustaining a career in the arts can be just as challenging.
Director, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries
Photo Credit: ‘The Class Project’ by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord; Photo by Gemma Connell