Our 2018 Northern Ireland Creative & Cultural Skills Awards

 21 January 2019

On 6 December we held the fourth Northern Ireland Creative & Cultural Skills Awards hosted by North West Regional College.

Now in the fourth year, the annual Northern Ireland Creative & Cultural Skills Awards celebrate the unsung heroes of the creative industries who epitomise Creative & Cultural Skills’ values of giving young people the opportunity to work and learn in the creative industries and the young interns, apprentices and students who are already excelling in the sector.

This year the awards were highly competitive, and we were delighted to present six awards to these very deserving winners.

We enjoy a wealth of young talent here in Northern Ireland and the awards this year showcased that more than ever. Students from our leader colleges North West Regional College and Belfast Met were involved at every level. The catering and technical support for the event was provided by students from our host North West Regional College. We also enjoyed incredible performances from Belfast Met bands High Hopes and White Noise and North West Regional College House Band and dance group.

We enjoy a wealth of young talent here in Northern Ireland and the awards this year showcased that more than ever.

This year we focused on the theme of ‘My First Break’, something which young people looking for a career in this sector still find challenging. It is clear that a disconnect remains between the wide variety of opportunities available in the growing creative sector and the young people trying to establish careers in the creative industries. Dominated by micro-businesses and self-employed freelancers, there are many opportunities, but finding a clear path remains challenging.

We wanted to explore the questions of how we can better support young people into this sector, ask how have people done it before and see how we can help young and talented people to realise their ambitions.

We were delighted to be joined by Suzanne Doyle, Mark Hanlon from Rumour Mill Music and Hannah Richardson from Derry based band Cherym to give their insight into working in the music industry. Suzanne has 30 years’ experience of working in the international music industry in a wide range of roles including with U2 over a 13-year period, representing independent labels with MTV Europe and booking and managing musical performances for 'The Late Late Show', 'The Imelda May Show' and 'Electric Picnic'. All three had great stories to tell and were glowing examples of how determination, persistence and an unwillingness to take no for an answer is essential at all stages of a career in the creative industries.

Hearing from well-established industry professionals can prove invaluable but it is also vital to hear from also those at the very start of their careers. Our panel of past NWRC students Sarah Smith, Matthew McCracken and Tomala White spoke about the importance of taking all the opportunities provided by their college, being open to different jobs, being pleasant to work with and maintaining a drive to reach that dream of working at what they loved. They also highlighted the challenges of getting their first break and the uncertainty which can come along with a career in the creative sector.

The Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme, which we have run for the past three years, has done a lot to challenge this as we aimed to create fair, transparent and most importantly paid jobs for young people looking to build a career in the creative sector. Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Funding. The programme committed £275,000 towards the wage costs of 89 jobs through paid internships and apprenticeships. An evaluation of the programme will be released later in the year, but initial results show that young people involved in the programme have flourished. Many have retained the positions past the end of their internship or apprenticeship showing that all they needed to succeed was that initial ‘break’ into the sector.

By June 2019 the hub will be a snapshot and celebration of what the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme has achieved

I was delighted to officially launch our new online Northern Ireland Creative Employment hub. By June 2019 the hub will be a snapshot and celebration of what the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme has achieved with the voices of funders, industry and young people detailing what impact the programme has had.

The continued and unfailing appetite that local industry and education have for championing young talent and providing that first break is clear. But, the industry needs ongoing support and strategic investment to maintain and develop the clear paths into the industry through apprenticeships and paid internships which have been opened by the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme. These should be available for any passionate school child or student in the future.

The Northern Ireland Creative & Cultural Skills Awards 2019 were a fantastic celebration of outstanding young people in the creative industries and those from industry and education who help them along the way here in Northern Ireland. It is an honour to recognise and celebrate the next generation of talent who will ensure that the creative industries continue to thrive.

Read about all of our 2018 award winners.


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