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Meet the Team behind Small Town Big Dreams – Graeme Watson


Small Town Big Dreams is a podcast which shares the stories of creative entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 2018 by Blick alongside Graeme Watson and Karishma Kusurkar it is a collaborative project that we have worked together to develop.

We thought it would be nice for everyone to find out a bit more about the team behind the podcast and their experiences during lockdown and the pandemic. We begin this week with Graeme Watson.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Graeme Watson, and by day I work in marketing and communications in higher education, but by night, for the past 14 years or so, I’ve been very active in building the comedy scene in Northern Ireland as a promoter and producer.


You have a background in comedy, what has been the impact of the pandemic within the comedy scene?

Comedy across the UK and Ireland has been hit very hard by the pandemic. From the smallest gigs in pubs to the largest gigs in theatres and arenas, comedy has been ‘cancelled’ along with live theatre and music. It has been interesting to watch how comedians have responded to this period though – from doing shows on Zoom or Twitch, having more time to concentrate on video or audio content, doing shows in people’s gardens, or ‘drive-in’ shows etc.

So there’s been a lot of creative responses, but for the vast majority of people who make a living performing comedy, or promoting it, it will have been an incredibly challenging time in terms of making a solid living.


Are you optimistic about the future of comedy and live performances?

I think comedy will always find a way through a situation like this. One thing that’s been interesting in Belfast is that with social distancing and curfews being in place, live comedy is now seen as being one of the only viable forms of entertainment for a Friday night. This wasn’t the case before the pandemic, because a disco or live music was seen as a more profitable option. Whether this is unique to Belfast I’m not sure, but in the long term comedy will recover.

That said, I suspect the pause will also act as a kind of watershed moment for some performers and clubs, who may decide to pack it in or not re-open. So I think the comedy scene after the pandemic subsides will be quite a different place from the one before it.


What kind of changes do you think the pandemic will bring to that sector?

It’s very hard to predict – I suppose the thing we haven’t got our heads round yet is how long the restrictions might be in place. Many of the public health people strongly hint that we will be living with this virus for a long time. So if the virus remains a high threat to public health for the next 3 or 4 years, for example, at the minute it feels like night life of all kinds is going to be the most heavily restricted. But for how long? That’s the big question really – I think most people in live entertainment are thinking they can just about survive until the Spring, but if there is no end in sight then I think this sector will be in the bleakest despair, quite frankly.


What about your own creative work, how has it been impacted by the pandemic?

Well, strangely, as I turn 40 this year, I had decided to take a bit of a sabbatical from running events to take stock and get re-inspired and re-energised. I had been getting used to sitting in more at night (and thinking how strange it felt), only to then be thrown into the situation of doing nothing but ‘sitting in’ for 4 months. So if anything it just turned my year of reflection into something even more intense! I wanted a year that was a bit different, and that’s what I got…

I suppose I didn’t really have a creative plan for this year, but I definitely wanted to develop more audio projects, so making The World Turned Upside Down was a great opportunity to really stretch my ambitions and abilities on that front. I also produced and edited a short story podcast with an author friend, called Inside John Patrick Higgins. That has been fun and interesting to do as well.


How was the lockdown for you?

Looking back, I think for sure at the start it was very strange and a little bit scary initially. It came all of a sudden, and was such an unimaginable scenario – everything being shut down and being told to stay at home, in a very short space of time. I felt very lucky to have been in a secure job that I could carry on doing at home – if I had gone into promoting comedy full-time as I was once planning to, I think this would have been a total catastrophe for that business, even if it was ticking along reasonably nicely.

The thing that I appreciated about lockdown was being able to spend more time in my home and appreciate it, and just the opportunity to slow down and get a bit more organised domestically and think about daily routines and exercise and things like that. It was really back to basics, wasn’t it?


What was the biggest change to your life?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that yet! There have been lots of changes, but I’m not sure which are temporary and which might be more long-lived!


Any changes you are planning to make to your life long term?

It feels dumb to say this, but there are definitely healthy daily habits that I developed during lockdown that I would like to keep as normality resumes. It’s easy to live very reactively when you are very busy all the time, rushing from one thing to the next, but I felt it gave me the opportunity to take a breather and get a bit more control, and maybe use my time better too.


What did you find most challenging?

I live on my own, which I guess other people would find challenging, but I’m sure it was much more challenging to be looking after children and other people during all of this. The most challenging thing was definitely just not being able to see family and friends. Sometimes I think this current period is actually worse, because although you might be working, the things in life that give life enjoyment and make work-life tolerable are severely restricted. I think that will be a difficult thing to sustain.


What kept you sane during this period?

Making the podcast definitely helped! I am a firm believer in always having a few projects on the go – I think that’s how I maintain sanity. Learning new things, even simple things, and having some purpose to your day is the recipe for sanity that hasn’t failed me yet. Lockdown was a new scenario in that you had really no idea when it was going to end – so there was no future planning, just day-by-day living, and trying to inject some purpose into the present.


You heard all the interviews in full, what was your biggest takeaway piece of advice or insight from all the interviews?

I was really struck by how people adapted to the situation so quickly, trying to find the opportunities in it, despite dealing with what I’m sure was quite devastating consequences of lockdown for some. I think Sean Duncan from Redcap Productions said something quite insightful about this being a ‘shared trauma’ that we’ve all experienced. I think that’s what’s so unusual about it – so many people on earth have experienced this strange purgatory, this strange hell, but we’ve all experienced it in ways that are utterly unique to our personal circumstances. In that respect, this moment in history has changed all of us quite profoundly in some way or another.


Finally what are your plans for your creative work in the future and how can people find you online?

For the moment my interest is definitely in writing and creating more interesting audio projects, so I think I will find a way to experiment with that in different ways.

People can find me online on Instagram at @graeme_theory, or on Twitter at @graeme_watson.


You can find out more about Small Town Big Dreams and listen to all previous podcast episodes  and episode 1 of Small Town Big Dreams new audio documentary ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ on the impact of the pandemic on creative entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland here:

#blickstudios on
Lovely to have the main room in our Malone studios back in use with @creatingaspace doing some filming
Upcoming Free Workshops on LinkedIn and Social Media Marketing
Perfect Easter holiday weather in the Cathedral Quarter today. Lovely spring flowers 💐 as well
LinkedIn is a really important platform for building your network and promoting your business as a creative entrepreneurs. LinkedIn has over 700 million members in over 200 countries and offers great potential for securing work, building your network and collaborating. Our next event is next Wednesday evening from 6.30 - 8.00pm and is free to attend and facilitated by  Emma Gribben of Digital By Emma and Alchemy Digital Training 

Emma is a digital marketing consultant, mentor and trainer working with start-ups, SMEs, brands and agencies across NI, ROI, UK and Europe. Emma offers solutions across digital strategy, website performance enhancement, social media, content marketing, SEO, email marketing, online PR and influencer marketing.

Emma has helped global businesses achieve impressive returns on digital marketing, including spectacular growth in website visitors (200%), in-unit sales (186%), revenue (97%) and e-commerce conversion (67%).

As a training partner to Google and Facebook across the Google Squared Online, Google Digital Academy and Google Digital Garage programmes as well as the Facebook Digital Skills Training programme, Emma has insights into the latest digital trends, platforms and activities to continually give businesses a competitive edge. 

Emma’s training clients include global brands Aer Lingus, Pandora, Vodafone and Electrolux as well as Arts Council of Ireland, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Belfast Telegraph and Monaghan Mushrooms closer to home. 

Sign up for your free ticket now ( bio)
Next in our series of Dig Deep events is 'A DIY Guide on Writing for Your Business' on Sat 3rd April from 10.00am - 11.00am with @quillincni


The aim of this event is to help you gain knowledge of how to create written content for your business and learning how to incorporate content creation into your working life. Heather will be sharing important tips on how to write content for your website and covering the importance of finding your voice in the content you create.
Happy Monday it's officially spring, lighter mornings and evenings are coming
*** Small Town Big Dreams Guide to DIY Podcasting ***

Date: 27/3/21 

Time: 10.00 - 11.30am 

Location: Online

Have you been dreaming of starting your own podcast? Are you a beginner looking for tips from those who know? Join @stbdpodcast for this special event as part of the @nerve_centre Spring Into The Creative Industries Programme.

In this event they will catch up with experienced producers and presenters in the Northern Irish podcasting world to get some behind-the-scenes insights on ideas, and advice on making and sharing a podcast from home with minimal gear.

The session will be hosted by Small Town Big Dreams @karishmakusurkar who will be joined by guests Jeananne Craig (All Change Please), Andi Jarvis (Strategy Sessions) & Graeme Watson (Small Town Big Dreams & Inside John Patrick Higgins).

Link to book a ticket in our bio
Spring is in the air. Gorgeous seasonal flowers and colours in the Cathedral Quarter on a beautiful sunny spring morning
Workspace plants & cosy corners

#blickstudios #creativespace #creativeworkspace #coworkingspace #creativehub #plants #workspaceplants
We are delighted to be part of the @nerve_centre  Spring Into the Creative Industries Programme with 'A Time is Now' panel discussion on diversity in the creative industries for at 6.30pm next Monday for International Women's Day.

 The Time is Now is a collaborative project by Blick Shared Studios and @creatingaspace focusing on honest and meaningful conversations between early stage creative entrepreneurs. This event is produced in collaboration with @belfastdesignwk  and hosted by @nerve_centre


A vibrant and timely discussion on the urgent need for greater diversity in the creative industries in Northern Ireland.
Join our panel of female creatives and innovators on International Women’s Day as they bring a wealth of life and professional experience to this vital conversation about diversity in the creative industries.

Hosted by Esther Mogada from Creating A Space, this event will see Emily Searle, Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh and Margaret Watiri share their perspectives on the current make-up of the creative sector in Northern Ireland and their ideas on how we can improve diversity within these industries.

This issue is long-standing in the creative industries, and is reflected in the visible absence of a diversity of gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation and socio-economic backgrounds among leadership roles in particular.

The creative industries are vital to the Northern Irish economy. As the sector we rely on to create and sell us ideas, content and products, diversity is arguably most important here so that we can understand and create things of value that reflect society as a whole.
Next in our series of Dig Deep events is 'A DIY Guide on Instagram' on Sat 13th March from 10.00am - 12.00pm featuring the lovely @laurentaylorcreates and our own Blick resident @dannisimpsonart


The aim of this event is to help you gain knowledge of how to build a brand or business on Instagram through hearing the story & journey of Lauren Taylor and Danni Simpson. They will be sharing their insights on how they have built their business, how they have built their brand and how they navigate growing their audience and business on Instagram.
Next in our series of Dig Deep events is 'A DIY Guide on Photographing Your Work' next Wed evening 6.30 - 7.30pm full details below

We understand how hard it can be to know the basics of photography and we wanted to create a workshop that covered the basics and that you can walk away with tips and tools that you can implement straight away. 

We will be covering: 

-Basics of photography - creating a strong focal point, using exposure and white balance to get your images right, working with natural light

-Telling a visual story with your images 

-Different types of set up - plain backdrop, editorial styling and flat lay. 

-Editing your images - using software to improve your photos

-Images for print and web use 

- Backing up and storing your image catalogue

Get your ticket at
Blue Skies. Spring is definitely in the air. What a lovely start to the week
The tiniest bit of spring in the air in the Cathedral Quarter this afternoon. Fingers crossed things are starting to look up and these streets will be busy with people again in the not too distant future!
We have this great online event on setting up a website yourself for your creative business on Sat 20th Feb part of our Dig Deep Programme but open to all to attend


A DIY Guide on Creating Your Own Website

The aim of this event is to help you become knowledgeable in getting started with understanding how to set up your own website DIY style.

We will be covering:

– What is important to include on a website ( information, photographs & copy)

– How to make your website user friendly & accessible

– Practical tips on using different platforms such as Squarespace

– Domain names


– Planning content

– Consistency

– Products to display

– Logistics of the backend of selling online through a website

As a creative, it can be hard to know where to start or what to include when creating your own website for your creative business or personal project.

This is a DIY workshop to help you get started on your own. This event will help you understand how to design the website you want, the tools on how to create it and a clearer understanding of how to navigate the different platforms available.


The workshop will be split into two sections. The first part of the workshop will be facilitated by Karishma Kusurkar @karishmasworld who will be giving us practical tools on how to create a website and using Squarespace as an example of how to use it.

The second half of the workshop will be led by Emma Jackson of @hunterpaperco and @huntandgatherbelfast who will be giving us a presentation of how she built her own business and website herself.



This event is for anyone that is looking to set up a website for their creative business.

Whether you already have a website and are looking for tips to navigate the platforms or update your current website, or you are someone just starting out and needing a push to get started, this is for you.
We have a great new online event this Wednesday evening on creating your own brand. It's part of our Dig Deep programme, but open to all to attend and is kindly supported by Ulster Bank so is free to attend. Tickets can be booked through our website:

Full event details are below and on our website (link in profile) 



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

6:30 PM 8:00 PM


The aim of this event is to help you become knowledgeable in getting started with understanding how to set up your own brand DIY style.

We will be covering how to create your own logo, what font to use, and what important things you need to include in setting up your own brand.

As a creative, it can be hard to know where to start when designing your own brand, especially at the beginning as you may not have the finances to pay for a professional graphic designer to put it together.


Whether you are just starting out in business, wanting to create a personal brand, or need a refresher on how to create a brand, this is for you.

We wanted to create an event where you can walk away with practical tools that you can apply and implement into your brand.

This is a DIY workshop to help you get started on your own. Even if you are planning to pay for a professional, you may not know what is required to ask for, so in this workshop, we will be covering the following:

A simple break down of what branding is

Brand Guidelines


Brand Identity - what is a brand identity, what is it used for, and what is in it?

Logo ( how to create a logo that translates well throughout various platforms, what format it should be in, where your logo will be placed, where it needs to be,

Fonts ( what fonts are suitable & what they communicate)

This event will be facilitated by @karishmasworld
We have put together lots of free business and self-care resources for creative businesses as part of our Dig Deep Programme. We will be adding more content each week, to help you on your business journey
Looking forward to having our spaces filled with busy creatives again. Hopefully in the not too distant future
We just wanted to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a Happy New year! ⁠
What a year it has been, with everything going on. We hope that you all take the time to relax, and have a well deserved break and slow down over the Christmas season.⁠
Spend time with your loved ones and stay safe! ⁠
See you all in 2021!
Gorgeous sunny start to the week at our Hill St studios 🌞☀️
All 4 episodes of our @stbdpodcast audio documentary 'The World Turned Upside Down' on the impact of Covid-19 on the creative industries in Northern Ireland are available now for listening on Soundcloud Spotify and iTunes with full details on our blog (link in bio)

Big thanks to project co-creators and hosts @karishmasworld and @graeme_theory and academic partner Dr Brian Dixon and project funders FutureScreensNI and @northernirelandscreen
@belfastdesignwk took place from 2nd-8th November 2020 and included a Pop-Up Design Museum in venues across Belfast city centre with work by commissioned designers.

It was great to see such variety of work from designers & makers, the different types of people collaborating together and the will to keep going and showing up, despite how testing 2020 has been. 

The theme of Belfast Design Week 2020 was "Environment" and it was great to see the broad spectrum of how people interpreted the theme within their work. 

Thanks to everyone that joined us and supported us this year!
These are some of the highlights from this year's Belfast Design Week as filmed by @foreversocialweddings