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Meet the team behind Small Town Big Dreams – Karishma Kusurkar

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

I’m Karishma, a multidisciplinary designer and more recently, podcaster and pod-reviewer. I’m a self-employed creative entrepreneur, Co-Director of Belfast Design Week, and Co-Founder of Small Town Big Dreams alongside Christine and Graeme.

Has your creative work been impacted by the pandemic?

Due to the fact that I work in a multidisciplinary way, some of my work has been impacted – events and some client work – and other work has been fine and actually relatively easy to do remotely and socially distanced – design, facilitation, some event work.  At the start of lockdown, it was very difficult to predict what was going to happen. Projects that were meant to start in April were indefinitely postponed and everything was up in the air.  We started planning this new podcast around this time as a way of capturing this historic year but also to hear people’s stories and experiences.  Our interest in how the creative industries can work during something like the pandemic is not just out of curiosity, but because we work in that sector too, we all care about it immensely.

Personally, I feel very grateful and fortunate as a few months after the start of lockdown, the postponed projects were back up and running and we were successful with some of the funding applications we had applied for and embarked on those projects too during the lockdown.  I know that there are people whose entire livelihoods depend on sectors that have shut down completely or whose businesses have fallen through the gap in support and I’m sure this year has been an incredibly tough one for them in particular.

How was the lockdown for you?

It was interesting, I think me, like many others can safely say that this is a year we won’t forget in a hurry.  Not good or bad, just weird.  We don’t have a garden, but we live near Botanic Gardens, so I took a lot of walks – just to clarify, just the legal amount of allocated walks – to the park and Stranmillis Embankment too. I decided to take up Couch to 5K – a 9 week running programme – and actually completed it too which I was delighted by.  I fell down the stairs the following day – of course that was going to happen – and haven’t run properly since!

A group of my co-working pals set up a lunchtime Skype call which we kept going from the start of lockdown to August.  I spoke to them more during that time than I had during our entire friendship and now know all of their most intimate secrets. It was lovely having that call as a constant each day.  My family and some family friends started a Sunday lunchtime call during which a different topic would be chosen each week to discuss and you’d have to present something during the call like your favourite movie, or poem, or even your favourite geographical feature – an unusual pick by my aunt, but most popular! That group is still going.

Of course, I had a great selection of podcasts going, a couple of my lockdown faves were The Coronavirus Newscast – informative and funny and Call Your Girlfriend – two pals chatting long distance.

What was the biggest change to your life?

I realised that I meet a lot of people each week face-to-face and I had hardly any meetings in comparison to pre-lockdown. It was great! I was less caffeinated though.

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

My foot has had something wrong with it ever since I fell down the stairs, so once it recovers, I would love to properly start running again, I think it’s a great hobby to have and one you can do anywhere.

What did you find most challenging?

The uncertainty and to be honest, still the uncertainty. It is difficult to predict when a vaccination will be ready and even so, when the pandemic will truly be kept at bay and things will be able to be planned as normal.

What kept you sane during this period?

Having a focus of some sort, whether that was planning and doing work or taking on a programme like Couch to 5K or speaking routinely to family and friends, having something constant and structured during an unpredictable time was a boon.

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

My biggest insight from speaking to all our guests was how resilient everyone was.  No matter what the pandemic, subsequent lockdown and 2020 had thrown at them, every single guest was impressively resilient in their own way, seeking out creative coaching, taking on new hobbies like sea swimming or writing poetry or pivoting their businesses.

My biggest takeaway was that each sector in the creative industries has been impacted so completely differently and has had widely differing support.  I hope that our podcast offers up some information as to how different sectors are coping and how they can be best supported as well as a sense of community and togetherness.

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

I’m currently working on lots of exciting projects including  – of course –  this podcast, design facilitation, design work for clients, and this year’s Belfast Design Week. Will, there be a lockdown, will there not be a lockdown? It’s all terribly exciting, but we’ll stay resilient nevertheless!

#blickstudios on
Looking forward to having our spaces filled with busy creatives again. Hopefully in the not too distant future
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We just wanted to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a Happy New year! ⁠
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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.⁠
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Spend time with your loved ones and stay safe! ⁠
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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) 

https://www.blickstudios.org/.../small-town-big-dream.../

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
We are excited to introduce our newest Blick Resident - @dannisimpsonart ⁠
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Danni is an Australian artist who specialises in Commercial murals and Illustrations. Her style is an urban fusion of detailed floral illustrations where wildlife clashes with architecture and typography, sprinkled through with dashes of art deco and mandala patterns.⁠
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Danni has a side project, The Creatives Market which showcases local NI Makers and Creators will be holding a virtual Black Friday Christmas Market to encourage people to Shop Small and local this year. ⁠
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Head over to her page today to check it out or visit her website at www.dannisimpsonart.com⁠
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Be sure to check out the full interview on our website https://www.blickstudios.org/meettheresidents/meettheresident-danni-simpson/⁠
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Filming this week in our main room in our Malone studios which is currently available to rent hourly or for the day or evening, prices and info on our website or get in touch for more info

#creativespace #creativeworkspace #coworkingspace #creativehub #workspace #studiospace #Belfast #southbelfast
We had some gorgeous light shinning on our Malone Road studio this morning! Feels like the last of those crisp autumnal mornings before winter arrives!
Monday morning vibes at our Cotton Court Studios! ⁠
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We love how different all of our different studio spaces are but still have the same feel about them. ⁠
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We make sure in all studio spaces that there is a relaxing communal place for everyone to come together ( socially distanced of course). ⁠
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#blickstudios #creativespaces⁠
We've got that Friday feeling at our Hill Street Studios! We hope that you all have a great weekend and keep cozy!
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact across the globe across all industries.

As a creative business-focused organization, we wanted to understand how other creatives have been affected by the pandemic as well as how they have coped with the situation that has been forced upon us.

The toolkit provides an insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the creative industries in Northern Ireland and gives practical advice and guidance on how to stay positive during this period of uncertainty.

The toolkit was compiled by Dr. Brian Dixon Ulster University from evidence gathered from the Small Town Big Dreams audio documentary ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ about the impact of the pandemic on NI creatives.

To get access to the toolkit, click the link in our bio and it can be downloaded or visit our website at www.blickstudios.org
Very sad to see the Cathedral Quarter so empty on a Saturday evening 😥
The 4-part audio documentary series has come to an end. It has been amazing to hear different people's experiences and perspectives on how they have been navigating the pandemic. We wanted to revisit the 4 episodes which are available to listen to on our website - www.blickstudios.org⁠
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Episode 1 - The Great Disruption ⁠
Our guests - Jacky, Patricia, Noxy, Sean D, and Sean McC ⁠
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Episode 2 - Together Apart ⁠
Our guests: Aisling Rusk, David Moody, Nisha Tandon & Ryan Ward ⁠
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Episode 3 - Connection Lost?⁠
Our guests: Shannon Delores O’Neill, Emma Johnston, Andi Jarvis & Lauren Taylor⁠
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Episode 4 - Staying Sane⁠
Our guests: Paddy Raff, Tessa Ann, and Matt & Abby Bonner.⁠
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We will be releasing a creative enterprise toolkit designed by Dr. Brian Dixon on Sunday as part of @belfastdesignweek⁠
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We are looking back to our final episode of the 4 part documentary - The World Turned Upside Down in collaboration with @stbdpodcast

This 4 part audio documentary series of sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland. 

In part 4, we find out how creative entrepreneurs have attempted to maintain mental health and well-being during this very challenging time. 

Here is a snippet of comedian @paddyraffcomedy sharing his experience during the pandemic.

You can listen to all 4 episodes at www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk
Belfast Design Week is starting next week from  2/11/20 - 8/11/20 and we are very happy to be involved again this year. 

The theme for Design Week this year is Environment. Design influences all aspects of our environment which in turn impacts our lives and surroundings and how we experience and live in the world. 

All of the events are now live on the Belfast Design Week website, so visit www.belfastdesignweek.com
Behind the team of Small Town Big Dreams - Dr Brian Dixon

Dr. Brian Dixon was our academic partner for Small Town Big Dreams audio documentary 'The World Turned Upside Down'. He worked with us throughout the series to shape the direction and select participants and to use the evidence gathered to create a Creative Enterprise Toolkit which we are launching next week as part of Belfast Design Week.

We asked Brian to tell us a bit about himself and share his experiences of the pandemic and its impact on University education as well as what he learned from the interviews for this project.

To read the full article, visit https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/meet-the-team-small-town-big-dreams-dr-brian-dixon/
The World Turned Upside Down is a 4-part audio documentary sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland.

In Part 4, we find out how creative entrepreneurs have attempted to maintain mental health and wellbeing during this very unusual time.

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. 

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.

But 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 Tessa Ann of the Sound Healing Spa, Matt & Abby Bonner from Forever Social - Film + Photo, and comedian Paddy Raff.

Thanks also to Alex McMillian, Katie Ireland, Chris Thompson, Dara Flanagan, and Meadhbh McIlgorm for their call-in contributions, reflecting on their experiences during 2020.

Presented by Karishma Kusurkar and Graeme Watson.

Produced in association with Blick Shared Studios, with support from Future Screens NI, Northern Ireland Screen, and Ulster University.

Supporting Academic Research by Dr. Brian Dixon.

Full Episode Details: https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/audio-documentary-the-world-turned-upside-down-episode-4-staying-sane/
Behind the team of Small Town Big Dreams - Introducing Karishma Kusurkar who is one of the co-founders of Small Town Big Dreams, Co-Director of Belfast Design Week, and is a multidisciplinary designer based in Belfast.⁠
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We asked her to share her experience of how lockdown was for her, what impact the pandemic caused for her business and how she was able to get through the experience. ⁠
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Karishma's key takeaway from the guests she had on the series, was how resilient everyone has been.⁠
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This seems to be the key theme in all creative businesses in the current client. Learning how to adapt to the uncertainty and learning how to move forward despite the chaos of the world. ⁠
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To read the full interview, visit our website at https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/the-team-behind-small-town-big-dreams-karishma-kusurkar/⁠
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We love to share the new residents that join Blick Studios. We are passionate about the creative industry here in Belfast because we get to learn and develop long-term, meaningful relationships with other creatives. 

We want to introduce our newest resident @jenny_eva_design

We got to catch up with Jenny a few weeks ago where she shares her journey of becoming self-employed, what keeps her motivated, and tips for other creatives that are just starting out. 

It is always lovely to hear other people's experiences because it can give you the clarity that you need, or just hear that other people share the same struggles. 

To read the full interview, please visit our website https://www.blickstudios.org/uncategorised/meettheresident-jenny-eva-design/
We are reminiscing about our Belfast Design Week Big Design Day Out 2019, where we had created an array of different events last year for both kids and adults throughout Belfast City. 

It was a magical time being able to connect with different people and celebrate all things design related!

Unfortunately, this year isn’t possible to run the same type of events as we have done in previous years, but there are still lots of exciting things coming up for Belfast Design Week 2020!

The program is being released next week, so be sure to keep an eye on their feed to see what’s coming up! 

Follow @belfastdesignwk or visit www.belfastdesignweek.com for details on this years festival 

Video by Ross McConaghy
Part 2 of our new Small Town Big Dreams 4-part audio documentary ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland is out now.

In Part 2 we look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected communities and networks. We speak to architect Aisling Rusk Studio Idir, videographer and fellow podcaster Ryan Ward Morning Coffee Podcast , film-maker David Moody, and arts organisation director Nisha Tandon Arts Ekta

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.

The World Turned Upside Down is presented by Graeme Watson and Karishma Kusurkar with support from Future Screens NI, Northern Ireland Screen, and Dr Brian Dixon Ulster University.

Full episode details and info: www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk or listen on Soundcloud Spotify or iTtunes