Middlesbrough artists – working with the The Prince’s Trust to help young people make a career out of their creative talent – have welcomed the government’s appointment of businesswoman Michelle Mone as the “Entrepreneurship Tsar”.
Navigator North, which is based in Dundas House, has developed a programme called NICE (Next Steps in Creative Experience) which provides practical support for young artists – both school leavers and graduates.
NICE has been funded by Arts Council England, Stockton Borough Council and MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art),is in its second year and features a four day programme provided by The Prince’s Trust on how to set up and run a business.
“In this country there are more people working in the creative industries than coal mining or ship-building,” said one of the Navigator North directors Vicky Holbrough. “Young people are leaving school, college or university with a high level of creative and technical ability but no idea of how to make a living out of it.”
Michelle Mone, founder of the Ultimo lingerie company, has been asked by the Prime Minister to revitalise small business across the country, with particular focus on less affluent areas.
“We hope she looks at all sectors,” said Navigator North director Nicola Golightly. “There’s always a tendency to focus on careers in engineering, for example, when there are thousands and thousands of young artists who could – with a bit of support – do really well and make their contribution to the well-being and prosperity of this country. We wish Michelle well and would like to invite her to come and see NICE.”
Emma Dixon of youth charity The Prince’s Trust said: “Everybody knows how tough it can be find a job and make a living. Through its pilot programme Navigator North demonstrated the value of NICE. We are delighted to add our support this year and believe the young artists will really benefit.”
She added: “As well as working with organisations such as Navigator North, The Prince’s Trust’s primary role is to help disadvantaged young people to get their lives on track. The Prince’s Trust’s programmes give vulnerable young people the practical and financial support needed to stabilise their lives, helping develop self-esteem and skills for work. Three in four young people supported by The Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training.”
NICE participant Jessica Johnston, 21, from Middlesbrough – who graduated from Cleveland College of Art and Design with a degree in Textiles and Surface Design – said: “I feel really lucky to be on the programme because I know a lot of people from university who are saying what do I do now?”
Twenty-four-year-old Joanne Taylor, also from Middlesbrough, graduated from Sheffield Hallam University two years ago with a degree in Creative Art Practice. She has been working at a call centre.
“NICE has given me the motivation to start going forward in leaps and bounds rather than dribs and drabs,” she said. “I feel now I’ve got an opportunity to realise what I should have done after university. It’s a bit like a second chance really.”
Last month saw the high-profile launch in the North East of The Case for Culture which aims to get 500,000 more people – including 285,000 more children – involved in the arts in the region by 2030. It also hopes to increase investment in the sector from £100m to £300m over the next five years.
A bid has also been launched by local authorities in Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool, Stockton and Darlington for the Tees Valley to become Capital of Culture in 2025.
“There has never been a more important time to ensure young people acquire the business and practical skills to go with their creative talent,” said Vicky Holbrough.