Young people: the events industry needs you

 13 December 2015

Nii Sackey is the chief executive of Bigga Fish, which provides education in events and marketing management for 14 to 25-year-olds. He explains why it's important to put young people at the heart of running events – both for them and for the sustainability of the sector.

Image by Kyle Farrant, student at Havering College
Image by Kyle Farrant, student at Havering College

At Bigga Fish we’ve spent 15 years providing brilliant opportunities for young people to get involved in producing events. Instead of telling them what to do, we ask them to take the reins and be instrumental in the whole process, from booking performers to marketing and project managing.

We took this approach to another level recently with UFest – London’s largest youth-led culture festival, which took over London’s Olympic Park in a mashup of music, dance, comedy and politics.

The challenge of running events

So what do young people get out of managing events? From our point of view, it’s massively important to give people real-life experiences in an events environment with all the pressures and challenges involved.

We think young people should stretch themselves and rise to the challenge.

When you’re running anything – whether it’s music night, a comedy show or a political debate – you have to be switched on, making lots of quick decisions.

There’s no substitute for being on the ground, getting to learn what’s actually involved. We think young people should stretch themselves and rise to the challenge as that’s how people make the most of their potential.  

The impact of young people on the sector

Putting young people in the driving seat isn’t just good for them, it’s necessary for the future of the creative sector.

We need young people to drive this kind of music forward because it’s theirs.

More than anything else, the sector needs new entrants who have got valuable workplace experience. Getting exposure to the running of huge events, with all the risks and rewards involved, gives people confidence. Our role in this is to provide a safe environment for this to happen and for confidence to grow.

There’s also the important point of what we want our arts and entertainment industries to look like. If we want them to be vibrant, resilient and sustainable, we need to make absolutely sure they’re made up of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Diversity is what makes London great – it should make the sector great too.

When you look at the kind of music that has widespread appeal to young people in cities – such as grime – these are also areas of music which are massively under-resourced.

We need young people to drive this kind of music forward because it’s theirs. It’s their culture, their scene and their area of innovation. It needs them.

How to get involved in events

There are loads of live events organisations and festivals I could recommend approaching to see if there are ways of participating. At Bigga Fish we announce new programmes (for London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham) regularly – the best way to keep up to date is to follow us on Twitter @BiggaFish.

Who else? Artichoke are brilliant and have lots of opportunities in live events. In Liverpool I’d recommend getting in touch with Africa Oyé – the UK's largest free African music festival. If you’re in Newcastle, get in touch with Generator.

My main advice to young people who want to be part of running events is to take the time to do the research, as there’s no central hub of opportunities. We believe that people should be self-starters – they shouldn’t just wait to hear about opportunities, but should ‘think bigga’ and find out what's out there that you can make yourself part of.

In partnership with Bigga Fish, Creative & Cultural Skills provided 40 students from Havering College, Lewisham Southwark College and Ravensbourne with live briefs and work experience at UFest. Find out more about becoming an education partner.