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Small Town Big Dream: The World Turned Upside Down

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The latest season of our podcast project Small Town Big Dreams co-created by Graeme Watson and Karishma Kusurkar presents a 4-part audio documentary. Exploring the personal stories of how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted on the work, communities, networks and health of creative entrepreneurs, freelancers and workers within the creative industry sector in Northern Ireland.

All 4 episodes are available now to listen to via our website Small Town Big Dreams, Soundcloud, Spotify or iTunes


EPISODE 1: THE GREAT DISRUPTION

The New Year’s Eve of December 2019 seemed to most of us, just like any other. In cities and towns across the world, people took part in their familiar rituals to see out one year and welcome the new one. Maybe they went to get lost in a crowd watching spectacular fireworks at their city landmarks; maybe they gathered with friends or family, to drink and dance in warm conviviality. Or maybe – maybe they went to bed early with a notebook of plans and designs for the year ahead, which would start with a run at dawn. (Wait – do people actually do that? Apparently…

Episode 1 – The Great Disruption kicks off our 4 part audio documentary exploring the stories of creative industries entrepreneurs during coronavirus. It takes us back to the very beginning of 2020 and our guests – Jacky, Patricia, Noxy, Sean D and Sean McC – tell us their stories and experiences from the start of lockdown.

EPISODE 2: TOGETHER, APART

Self-Isolation. Social Distancing. Herd Immunity. Working From Home. Social Bubbles.  These phrases have all become synonymous with 2020 as we navigate the various relationships in our lives and how we can look after them even at a distance.  People have rekindled their long lost hobbies and found newfangled ones too, from music to DIY to making poetry. What’s been more important than ever before is community – which can mean different things to different people, from our families, friends and work colleagues to the collectives we belong to.  “We are all in this together” is a phrase we have heard many times before but this actually does ring true, both on a local and global scale for the first time this century.

EPISODE 3: CONNECTION LOST?

The restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic have escalated the adoption of digital communication technologies into almost everyone’s work and personal lives in a way that was unthinkable just a year ago.

In Part 3 of the World Turned Upside Down, we hear stories of how creatives have adapted to a life lived (and worked) almost exclusively online – the successes and challenges, disappointments and surprises. We’ll meet Shannon Dolores O’Neill from punk band Sister Ghost, stationary designer Emma Johnston, Newry-based American artist Lauren Taylor, and marketing expert Andi Jarvis.

EPISODE 4: STAYING SANE

With the world having been turned upside down, many people have struggled to make sense of the new normal. With so much uncertainty and when what’s at risk is as serious as people potentially dying, it’s no wonder that it has been so difficult to stay mentally well at this time, no matter how hard we try. For people living alone, this time has potentially been one of the most lonely experiences of their entire lives. For the introverts, this has been a chance to share their tips on how to enjoy solitude. The haves and have nots have been those with gardens and those without, those who can work from home and those who work front line, those who have good health and those who have underlying health conditions. In some ways, this time has highlighted the stark differences between people’s lifestyles.

But 2020 has also offered a pause for thought. It has forced us to re-evaluate how we live and work. Whether we really need to go to all of those in-person work meetings, or even have as many. Whether we need to buy fast fashion or whether we can do with consuming less. Whether we should finally do that thing we have been putting off, whether that is learning to cook or proposing to a partner.

Has 2020 fundamentally changed us as a society? Has it permanently altered the way in which we work in the creative industries? Or is it a glitch in time before we simply move on and Covid-19 eventually becomes just a distant memory?

In our season finale you’ll hear from creative entrepreneurs Paddy Raff, Tessa Ann (Sound Healing Spa) and Matt & Abby Bonner (Forever Social).

Thanks also to Chris Thompson, Meadhbh McIlgorm, Katie Ireland (Katie Ireland Designs & MALA), Dara Flanagan and Alex McMillan for their call-in contributions, reflecting on their experiences during 2020.


COVID-19 TOOLKIT FOR CREATIVES

Throughout this project we have worked with Dr Brian Dixon from Ulster University who used the interviews and research gathered to create a practical toolkit for creatives to help them cope with the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

 

Kindly funded by Future Screens NI and Northern Ireland Screen as part of their ‘Rewriting the Narrative’ project.

#blickstudios on
What one thing could you do today to push your business forward and get your week off to a positive start?

#mondaymotivation #creativestartup #creativebusiness #creativebusinessowner #creativebusinessowners #creativeentrepreneurs #creativeentrepeneur #noprocrastination #justdoit #betterbusiness #betterdonethanperfect
We hope everyone had a lovely July break and a chance to enjoy the good weather.

We are back in the office this week and wanted to share this podcast series that we were very kindly invited by @agencyofnone  to be a part of. The series is all about buiding sustainable creative workspaces for creatives and designers. The series focuses on Dundee but includes insights from throughout the UK. We feature on episode 3, talking about our journey from the initial concept for a shared creative workspace in Belfast back in 2007 to where we are today. It was really nice to reflect back on our journey, sometimes you forget how far you have come and the obstacles you have overcome and lessons you have learnt along the way.

The values of bringing creatives together are huge, particularly following the events of recent years when people are more isolated than ever. There is a lot of work to be done reconnecting and rebuilding networks and communities. Creative workspaces can be a very effective way of building these networks and communities. Working alongside other likeminded creatives gives you the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate, innovate and learn from each other as well as make valuable social and business connections. The challenge however is finding ways to run these creative workspaces sustainably. This is particularly difficult in the current climate with rising running costs and property prices and organisations still rebuilding following the pandemic so there is lots to learn from this podcast series, if you are interested in creative spaces its definitely worth a listen.

Details and links to listen on our blog (link in profile)
MEET OUR COMMUNITY: MALONE RESIDENT ALANNA OFFIELD SEASIDE BOOKS 

I love reading and I love books, I also like to support local creatives and buy local and independent, so I was very excited this week to get to chat with our newest Blick resident Alanna to find out more about her business @seasidebooksni

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

I’m Alanna, the owner of Seaside Books. I moved to Ireland from New Mexico five years ago, looking for a change in career after years of working as a social justice campaigner. I write poetry and have always loved reading. When I became disabled in 2018, books and reading were an escape from long days in bed and trips to the hospital. As a bookworm, I had always dreamed of owning a bookshop, so I decided to give it a go during the pandemic.

Seaside Books is an independent online and traveling bookshop stocking books from Irish authors and/ or published by Irish publishers. We travel to markets and community events across the country. We also offer writing workshops and help authors prepare their books to be published.

Any projects you’re currently working on?

Seaside Books recently turned a year old. I’ve got a long list of ideas for things we could do to celebrate all the fantastic writing happening across Ireland. Currently, we are planning to start a magazine to highlight emerging writers from underrepresented communities. We have been working with local authors and lovers of excellent writing to bring it to life. We are still in the very early stages, but I’m excited to move forward.

What was the biggest hurdle for you starting out and how did you overcome it?

The learning curve for starting a bookshop was steep. I didn’t have anyone who had experience starting a business in my life, so I had to do lots of research to know where to start. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing (I still feel that way sometimes). I started planning Seaside Books during the pandemic, which was sometimes isolating. Finding a community of other folks who were starting businesses was a lifesaver.

Full interview on our blog link in profile
---- Room Hire ---- 

Video of our lovely Main room in our Malone studios that's available to hire

Did you know you can hire out the ground floor of our Malone Studios. We have two rooms available to hire. Both rooms are situated off our lovely glass roofed atrium which can be used to gather for events or classes or as a breakout space during classes or events. 

- Affordable rates of £15 per hour and additional marketing support for long term bookings in our Main Room. We currently have availability on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons for long term booking in our Main Room 

- Affordable rates of £10 per hour for our meeting room for regular bookings. We currently have availability on Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons for our Meeting Room. 

- Main Room fits 10 - 12 for yoga or similar activities, seats 15 boardroom or classroom, 25 as a lecture theatre and about 40 people standing 

- Beautiful space with high ceilings and original period features 

- Free use of beautiful breakout space and communal kitchen 

- Safe, well-lit, vibrant location close to Queens University in leafy South Belfast 

- We wehave a small team ensuring you a friendly, personal and professional service  

- We are a local social enterprise meaning your money goes back into the local economy and to support the creative industries in Northern Ireland 

Full details and all our prices for both spaces are on our website (link in bio)
This week we had a quick catchup with our newest Cotton Court resident creative freelancer @emanuela_mae_agrini_art who told us a bit about herself and her creative work

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

Hey there! I am originally from Genoa, a seaside city in Northern Italy; my business was born there about ten years ago and bounced around a bit before moving to Belfast. My idea has always been to offer written communication for companies and individuals, but over time my core is moving more and more in the direction of a mix between visual and written communication. Although I still deal most of the time with content writing and copywriting (both in Italian and in English), I am developing some projects that can combine visuals and words, in the context of graphic facilitation, graphic recording and illustrated content.

What was the biggest hurdle for you starting out and how did you overcome it?

When I started as a freelancer ten years ago, the main obstacle was to convince companies and clients that remote work is still work: the mentality was very different from today and there was a lot to work to do on it. I always supported remote work and for long periods I have been traveling while working between the countries. Today luckily things seem to have changed.

How do you stay creative/inspired?

I pass pretty much all my free time reading books, drawing, and painting and when possible, I travel to see new places and meet new people. I love also to be around the city the more I can to listen to the stories of random people I meet. When I want to recharge, I go to the sea, which is my happy place.

What’s your top tip/piece of advice for anyone wanting to work for themselves/ start their own creative business?

Just make sure you are into it with all your energies and passion, and love every moment of it 🙂

You can read the full interview on our website (link in profile)
Don't forget to take a break for the long weekend. It can be hard when you're self employed to justify taking time off to relax and rest and not feel guilty about it and for many if you arent working you arent earning. But there is always more that could be done so take as much of a break as possible and enjoy the peace of these extra couple of days when people don't expect you to be answering emails or phone calls

#worklifebalance #bankholiday #longweekend #balance #rest #relax #smallbusinessbelfast #selfemployed #freelance #smallbusinessowner
Since the pandemic we have been very busy with new residents and behind the scenes work in the studios, but are planning to start picking things up again with more for the wider creative business community in Northern Ireland in coming months. So we thought it would be a good time to re-introduce the people involved with Blick. Who we are and more importantly why we do it, starting with Blick founder Christine. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How has your work at Blick compared to what you imagined you would end up doing? 

I'm Christine. I studied fashion and textiles at Belfast School of Art and worked briefly as a textile designer for fashion in Italy before returning to NI to start my own creative business. I was one of the founders of Blick way back in 2007 with a group of other creatives all struggling to find suitable workspace in Belfast, somewhere affordable and flexible alongside other like minded creatives. I will talk more about that journey and the story of Blick in future posts. I currently run Blick with my sister Rosy who does all our finance and operations with support from our board of Trustees as Blick is also a registered charity. 

I always wanted to work in fashion for as long as I can remember, so working at Blick is very different to what I imagined in one way, but I also always dreamed of working for myself. I just didn't think it was even possible. Not knowing any business owners and going to a very traditional grammar school starting a business just didn't seem feasible to me when growing up. So I ended up pursuing a career in fashion, but the reality of having to work in a big city, sitting at a desk all day, alongside the financial challenges of working within the industry led me to make the decision to return to NI to start my own fashion business. I struggled working alone at home and then met a group of creatives on a creative business course at Ulster University and we all realised just how important being with other like minded creatives on a similar path was and we came up with the idea for Blick. I ended up then taking over running Blick myself 
Link in bio to our blog with the rest
Hill streets lovely breakout areas, where you can sit and have some lunch or a coffee away from your desk 

#hillstreetbelfast #sharedstudios #coworkingspace #blicksharedstudios #cathedralquarterbelfast
Congratulations to our resident Dani McFerran, founder of award winning Graphic Design studio @doneanddusteddesign, as she was recently celebrated for her contribution to entrepreneurship at the House of Lords to mark International Women's Day! 

Read all about the F:Entrepreneur event, and Dani's amazing businesses on our blog - link in bio. 

#residentnews #residentpromotion #blickresidents #blicksharedstudios
Our lovely main room in our Malone studios is available for hire and we now have a special reduced rates for anyone wanting to make an ongoing longterm booking of 8 weeks or more, we currently still have availability for Thursday and Friday evenings and Sundays. Prices and details are on our website (link in bio) or email christine@blickstudios.org for more info 

#roomhire #maloneroadbelfast #belfast #eventspace #blicksharedstudios
Our Malone Road studios illustrated by resident and team member @jenny_eva_design 🌿

Offering private and shared studio space, 51 Malone Road is a beautiful space full of character and natural sunlight, perfect for finding some Monday motivation!

Find more of Jenny's work at jennyevadesign.com ✨

#blicksharedstudios #blickresidents #belfastcreatives #belfast #maloneroadbelfast #illustration #studio #coworkingspace