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"Arts Emergency helped me connect to other freelancers, who helped me connect to theatres."

Dominic from Bolton, is a freelance theatre technician. Mentoring helped him navigate networking after the lockdowns, and he's since worked on over 100 different performances.

Why did you apply for an Arts Emergency mentor?

I decided to go straight from university into self-employment, which was a job and a half in itself. I hadn't really had any experience in terms of actually creating connections so I thought of having a mentor, someone that's been in this field a while, to kind of help guide me through the process, and set me up for what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to build my self-confidence.

Have you made any contacts through the Arts Emergency Network?

Using the Wish List I met Andrew, who talked me through the finance side of freelancing. I also met Hannah from Box of Tricks who talked me through networking, and how to initially send that email, or send that message or find that person to go, ‘Hey, I want to work with you and here’s what I can offer.’

Another person I met through my mentor Jason, was his colleague Lindsay, who worked for Manchester International Festival and their Factory Project working with people who are 16 to 24 who were on Universal Credit at the time to help build their work skills, and prepare them for work in the art sector. At the time, I was myself on Universal Credit, because I didn't have any work in the middle of the pandemic, and it was all still a bit uncertain. So talking to her and her connections with MIF helped me gain a place on that course, and in turn be a part of their festival group. Next year, I’ll hopefully try to get a production role at the festival or get involved with the new Factory venue.

If I wanted to go into pharmacy, I could just ring up my uncle who runs a pharmacy and go ‘I’d like some work experience’ and bosh, done. I don't have that in the arts and it is, at the end of the day, about who you know. 

What other opportunities have you had through Arts Emergency?

I discovered that I had dyslexia in 2016. When I went on your Dyslexia and Creativity course I met other people on the mentorship program that had dyslexia as well as the course leader who was dyslexic. Talking through their processes and how different accessibility measures can now be offered, that's helped me whenever I'm going to employers to say I've kind of got my own way of doing things.

How has being part of the programme moved you further towards being able to pursue your career?

My mentor Jason, the courses and opportunities offered, and the Wish List have have helped me understand both the volatility of freelancing, and also the options that are open to me as a freelancer.

My family, before myself and my sister, had absolutely zero creatives. They are teachers and pharmacists. We had plenty of support from them, but they weren’t able to give us the relevant experience and advice. If I wanted to go into pharmacy, I could just ring up my uncle who runs a pharmacy and go ‘I’d like some work experience’ and bosh, done. I don't have that in the arts sector and it is at the end of the day about who you know. Arts Emergency helped me connect to other freelancers, who then helped connect me to other freelancers who then help me connect me to theatres. It's easier once the doors are open - the hardest bit is finding the key to open the door.

I was very worried that I would have to go and get what some of my family would call a ‘real job’ at one point, but where I am now, I'm content. I never, say I'm happy, but content.

What have you achieved during your time with Arts Emergency that you are most proud of, so far?

I’ve improved in my confidence. I'm actually doing a talk at my old college, a presentation about getting into the arts industry as a freelancer or what you can do after your music course, which isn't something I ever thought I'd be in a position to do.

In the six months since the UK reopened - from July until the New Year - I’ve worked on four different festivals, one local tour, and about 103 different performances of shows in the space of half a year. I kept myself very busy. I should probably take some time off at some point! I was very worried that I would have to go and get what some of my family would call a ‘real job’ at one point, but where I am now, I'm content. I never, say I'm happy, but content.

What are your hopes and next steps for the future?

I would love to be a designer - design lighting for either concerts or theatre shows - I haven’t picked a specific discipline yet. Right now they tend to get me in for more music shows than comedy nights etc, because I have that experience as a musician. I have that musical timing, and so I would absolutely love to do some lighting design work for a whole touring show. That would be that being the next big step to me. Arts Emergency have definitely prepared me to take the next steps to get to my future plans.

Who inspires you?

My grandfather, who emigrated from Gudra in India to Africa with my grandmother, they eloped together to Africa, and then they had my dad and then they all moved over here. Without taking those risks and those chances, by moving not once but twice to completely different countries, moving to Britain and of all places Bolton, in the sixties. My Grandpa would always say that life is a bus journey. It may be delayed, it may take a diversion, but at some point you'll get to where you want to be. That’s what always sticks with me. My friends are sick of me saying that!

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to Arts Emergency for mentoring?

I would say the same thing someone said to me the first call that we had with all the new mentees: you get as much out as you put into it. If you put in a lot, you'll get a lot out of it.