In the last BRIT Trust Logs blog, we focus on education and the untapped potential that creative industries could realize by embracing diversity, equity and inclusivity more fully.
ELAM, a college for 16-19 year olds, which prides itself on a revolutionary approach that sees, for example, more non-binary students forging careers in game programming.
Read on for key insights from Matt Sheldon, Principal, East London Arts and Music (ELAM)…
Last year, the All-Party Policy Group (APPG) for Creative Diversity launched its excellent Creative Majority report. Through meticulous research and analysis by their research team at King’s College, they have detailed a roadmap for the UK’s creative industries to become more equitable, diverse and inclusive. As they put it, and with an understatement of the admiral, “the creative economy of the United Kingdom did not use the diverse talents which exists in the UK. The report is recommended reading.
Earlier this year, the Times Education Commission released its report after Rachel Sylvester and her team scoured the UK education landscape for a year. Among other areas, they concluded that creative, industry-focused vocational education was crucial to unlocking opportunities for young people as well as the UK economy.
East London Arts and Music (ELAM) is a creative college for 16-19 year olds. We specialize in music, film, TV and game design and are firmly aiming to resolve the issues highlighted in the reports above.
At ELAM, our guiding organizational vision is that all children growing up in the UK see themselves reflected in British culture. This is not the vision of your middle school. So why would we do this and encourage others to do the same? We have this as a vision because if all children and young people saw themselves reflected in the culture, their opportunities would increase exponentially. Simply put, more would believe they could also “do/do it”. The resulting creative, societal and economic benefits would be enormous. After all, is there anything that really defines the best of the UK more than its diversity and creativity?
ELAM was founded in 2014 by a small group of founders – including Hunting and status‘ Will Kennard – who recognized the huge potential of untapped British talent. We have been supported by the music industry – including the BRIT Trust and Universal Music UK – from the start.
Now in 2022 we have alumni realizing Ivor Novellos, Grammys and BAFTAs. More importantly, we are also reimagining what creative professional education can look, feel and sound like (see some of the recent work by interns here). Despite the Covid-related challenges, our alumni are increasingly successful in securing entry-level positions in the creative industries without needing to go to university and be burdened with the £50,000s in debt who as a result.
Our graduates connect, collaborate and succeed
By cooking inclusion and diversity in our guiding vision, we have ensured that our strategy is both representative of London’s communities while seeking out young people who have traditionally been under-represented in the creative industries. For example, part of our student recruitment strategy has focused on increasing the number of women entering the gaming industry. We have run bespoke “girls in games” workshops at local schools from east London, showing schoolchildren that their creative skills were valued and, just as importantly, that there were great opportunities and jobs available for them. As a result, 35% of our latest cohort of game designers are female or non-binary (compared to a current industry figure of 11% of game designers and 3% of coders being female) while 75% of our class of game designers are from racial groups. minority environments. This is just one example of how we source, train and support the diverse talent pool the industry needs.
ELAM is an inclusive school with ambitious goals and high expectations. We have a large number of young people who are in care, who have educational health care plans and who receive free school meals. All of our interns take English and math classes in addition to their “major” – far beyond what their peers do at similar colleges – because we not only want them to get into the industry, but that they prosper in the industry when they get there. We strive for (and achieve) excellent academic results with almost 70% of our trainees achieving distinction in their UAL Extended Diplomas (equivalent to 3 A* at A level).
This model works. ELAM alumni are making more and more noise in all the right ways. This summer alone, artists such as Flo, Tendai, Sekou, Nia Smith, Ashley Singh, Chrissi, JClarke and Molly Rainsford have been in the music media and recognized as names we will hear more about. Other alumni hold industry positions at places such as 0207 Def Jam, EMI, Snapper Music, UTA, AEG, Island, News UK, Ridley Scott, Warner, Universal and the BPI. Meanwhile, a group of our recent film alumni have just made and shot the first-ever feature-length documentary about East London’s iconic All Points East Festival. Our alumni connect, collaborate and succeed.
We invest heavily in our pastoral care, world-class facilities and industry-focused team so that we can support, inspire and then connect our interns to a life of creative and professional success. The BRIT Trust helped us create our fantastic performance theater and, when our interns really needed help in the dark heart of the pandemic, the Trust supported us so we could provide the mental health support they needed.
Pastoral care, excellent equipment and support for young people to establish links with industry all cost a lot. But, most importantly, they differentiate between the negative cycle of underrepresentation and the virtuous cycle of success that inspires others to emulate. Ongoing support from the creative industries – from financial support to the provision of mentors and sponsorship of individual projects – is needed to continually make this difference at ELAM.
Please come visit us to see for yourself, you are always welcome and we hope you leave inspired!