Beth first took part in our Young Producers programme in early 2020, as the Covid pandemic closed the world down. From then she’s grown into a confident young creative freelancer and actor, and sits on Blaze’s advisory panel.
I’ve always been quite a creative person, but I never had much chance to do creative things in Preston or Lancashire. I had never met anyone creative from Preston. When I joined Blaze in 2020, it was amazing to meet other creative people that weren’t necessarily actors like me. They were artists or designers, and they were in my local area.
During lockdown a lot of my acting work had been cancelled. I wasn’t able to see friends and I was feeling a bit isolated. Then I saw Blaze advertising the Harris Young Producers programme, working with the Harris Museum to create events that would bring young people into the building. The opportunity sounded amazing. Blaze were letting young people spend money to create events in Preston. I’d never heard of an opportunity like that before, so I thought, “I need to do that!”
Working with other creative young people was just what I needed. I had never felt trusted to go and set up my own ideas and events before. It gave me so much confidence.
Museums are often places where young people don’t feel very comfortable. I had never considered that the Harris, this big institute in Preston, this big massive old building, would let us in, and want to work with us.
We did a project exploring Preston’s heritage. Because of Covid, we couldn’t do an exhibition in the community like we had planned. So we did an exhibition online instead. It was all our own work, our own ideas, and we weren’t going to be stopped by the pandemic.
We also created an isolation handbook, with contributions from people across Lancashire. We wanted to hear our local community’s story around Covid. People sent images, artwork, and games they liked to play with their friends online.
We created activities as well so people could join in. We were really proud of it. It was an idea Blaze and the Harris trusted us to come up with. They had confidence that we would create something fantastic for other people. The isolation handbook was given out to young people who had been in foster care and were now in a halfway home. They were amazed to get a free book with all this cool stuff in it. That was a highlight for me, knowing something we created had an impact.
Because we were decision makers, we made loads of mistakes, but we always reflected on what we could do better. We evaluated everything we did. We realised we were really struggling to reach out to different community groups and get a broad range of people involved, so for our next project we tried to get in touch with different religious groups and community areas that we didn’t think we reached, so we definitely learnt from our experiences the first time. We were really eager to improve.
I’ve carried on working with Blaze in other ways. They got us involved branding the organisation. We took a course with a designer, learning how to use designing software, and Blaze incorporated our designs into their logo. All those colourful shapes you see in the logo today, it’s our work! And it’s those sorts of opportunities you don’t find anywhere else.
With Blaze, we’re one of them, they’re one of us. We work as a team, they’re not leading us. I’m on the Blaze Advisory Group now too, which is a paid position. It’s not loads, but it’s lovely to get recognition for my work. We meet monthly and advise on Blaze’s future plans, and it feels great to know our opinions matter.
I recently got a part-time apprenticeship, and that’s down to what I’ve done with Blaze. I would never have had the confidence a year ago to apply. I’m a Participation Officer for Lancashire County Council. I create events for young people to get into museums. Without Blaze, I wouldn’t have got the job.
At the interview, they asked me “What do you think we need to change?”. So I went in with that fiery attitude, that I got from Blaze. I was quite bold, I said, “I think you should try some new things, and you shouldn’t patronise young people.” I think that’s why I was offered the job; the youthful confidence Blaze has instilled in me.
A lot of what I learned with Blaze was being able to network, and having the confidence to speak to people about my work. We had a networking event recently, and I met the director of music video production company. I took her email and sent her my showreel, thinking nothing of it. She got in touch and offered a part to me. I was delighted to be supporting another local musician with their creative work, and it was a paid opportunity.
Before I was working with Blaze I would just call myself an actor. But now I’m confident enough to say that I am more than just an actor, I am a creative, and I am a producer. I don’t pigeon-hole myself now. Blaze made me try new things and I give myself the push to do that now.
Now, I feel like I have a solid network of creative people and friends I can turn to. With my own job, I can open opportunities to young people within my own network. I know more creative people now, and I have a community in Preston. I never had that before. It’s really nice. It’s made me feel way more connected.
Blaze supports young people like Beth to develop creative skills, lead using their passions, and explore their creativity without having to leave their home town.
But we can’t do this work without the support of people who value creativity in young lives. Help us nurture the next generation of young people by making a donation.