How to get the most out of your journalism course

I’ve come to the end of my three-year journalism degree. Soon I’ll officially be a graduate and I’m already worrying about grad jobs, salaries, my career and “adulting”. Having said that, I’ve enjoyed my degree so much and feel strangely optimistic, although uncertain, about post-university life.

Earlier this year I was asked to help out with university interviews and meet some of the prospective students who want to study journalism at Westminster in September. Meeting these young, bright, ambitious individuals was interesting; it made me reflect on my own experience as a journalism student. They wanted to know what advice I would give them to succeed on the course. After lots of thought, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help journalism students make the most of their journalism course.

1. Turn up

First of all, showing up and doing the work is a good start. Get out of bed and go to that 9am lecture. Skipping classes for no reason won’t do you much good in the long run, so make an effort to be there.

2. Put in extra work outside of the classroom 

Journalism is something that is best learned by doing it. As you know, this industry is incredibly competitive and it isn’t enough these days to simply attend your lectures and complete assignments. You should aim to spend your spare time blogging, making contacts, recording podcasts, producing videos, taking photos etc. Do more than the minimum that is required to get by.

3. Read the news

This is an obvious one, but anyone who wants to go into this field should be reading the news (or watching it or listening to it). If traditional newspapers aren’t your thing, there’s plenty other ways to consume news so you have no excuse to not know what’s going on in the world.

4. Get some work experience

Yes, you’ve heard it many times before but the importance of work experience can’t be overstated. It doesn’t only help you stand out when breaking into the industry, it gives you a chance to put the skills you have learned at university into practice and build a portfolio. If your university doesn’t help you arrange internships or work experience then you’ll need to organise these yourself. Write down the places where you might like to work in future (or have a genuine interest in) and contact them about work experience.

Gaining work experience isn’t the easiest task in the world. I’ve lost count of how many unsuccessful applications I submitted before landing my first editorial internship but it definitely helps to be persistent and enthusiastic, so don’t give up!

It’s worth noting that as useful as work experience is, it is not the only option for developing your journalism career, as explained in this article ‘5 alternatives to journalism internships’.

5. Read and write often

Writing skills are crucial for a journalist and it helps massively to write often. Writing will help you find (and develop) your voice and style as a journalist and of course, become a better writer. It’s equally beneficial to read as much as you can, and as widely as you can because you’ll expose yourself to lots of different styles. Read things you wouldn’t normally read occasionally, whether that’s newspapers, magazines, books or blogs.

6. Be open-minded

Before starting a course, you may already have an idea about what kind of journalist you want to be, or what topics you’re interested in covering but this could change over time. Be open to trying new things and don’t immediately dismiss things you wouldn’t have imagined yourself doing.

7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help

You are not perfect and you won’t know everything and that’s fine. The point is to learn and build skills and develop knowledge. If you’re seeking advice or have any questions or concerns about your studies/career, speak to course tutors and careers advisors. If there’s someone in the industry you admire, or whose job interests you, try reaching out to that person for advice. Most people won’t mind at all if you do this, just be polite and friendly.

 8. Know the industry

Regardless of what career you wish to pursue, it’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the industry you want to work in one day. is a brilliant site for anyone interested in the news business. Other must-read websites are Media Guardian, Press GazetteWannabe Hacks and Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog.

9. Network

Networking is absolutely key in journalism, especially for finding stories and job opportunities. All of my previous journalism-related experience has happened a result of networking. Get out there and talk to people, online and offline. Go to events, talks, conferences and job fairs. Your college or university should provide opportunities for you to meet employers and take part in workshops so take advantage of things like that. Introduce yourself to guest speakers or lecturers on your course and ask for their details if they catch your attention. Talk to as many different people at college or university as you can. Remember to use work experience as a networking opportunity as well and stay in touch with contacts you make after you leave.

Are there any tips you would add to this list?


The Revival Of Print

Starting a print magazine in today’s digital-first era might seem risky or pointless to some, but it’s hard to ignore the surge of independent titles that are thriving.

For years, we have been told that print is dead, but the exciting world of independent magazine publishing is growing by the day and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The demand for beautifully crafted print magazines has defied the countless bleak warnings of print being on its way out.

Jeremy Leslie is someone who knows all about indie magazines. He launched magCulture as a website in 2006, then a design studio in 2010 and more recently, a 400 square feet brick and mortar shop that opened in December 2015. The magCulture journal is well-respected in the publishing industry and has become an invaluable resource for everyone interested in editorial design.

There are currently around 250 magazines stocked at the shop, he tells me, most of which are independent and have been featured on the magCulture journal.

The idea for the physical retail space, Jeremy says, came about at the beginning of 2015. It was always a personal goal of his to open up a magazine shop, not only in response to the booming interest in indies but also his desire to present these magazines as beautiful objects. “I wanted to see a shop give the same amount of care and attention to the presentation of the magazines as the people making the magazines,” he says. The shop is impressive. Rows of beautiful magazines adorn the shelves including smaller niche titles and well-known titles such as POP, Fantastic Man, Little White Lies.

When I ask Jeremy to describe what an independent magazine actually is, I expect a definitive, almost immediate response but instead, he pauses before admitting it’s hard to define.

When he feels he has a satisfactory enough answer, he continues, “The best description I’ve heard of it – I think it was Steve Watson from Stack who came up with this – is that the financial decisions are made by the person who also makes the creative decisions.”

Steve Watson founded Stack, an independent magazine subscription service, in 2008. Every month, Stack sends a different magazine to some 3,400 subscribers around the world. Subscribers don’t know what they’re going to get next, so Steve keeps a range of magazines to ensure there’s something for everyone to enjoy. For him, it’s important that each magazine he chooses has something to say for themselves. “A lot of magazines look lovely but don’t have a lot there when you start reading. I’m sending these magazines to thousands of people around the world who I don’t know so I have to feel like people will be able to get something from them.”

Indie magazines might not be easy to define but many of them exhibit certain qualities. The most important thing, arguably, that distinguishes indies from mainstream magazines are their higher production values. They tend to be printed on thicker, often matte paper, feature images and graphic design of an exceptional quality and can offer a different perspective of the world. Indies feel more luxurious and that is often reflected in their cover prices. £10 to £15 per issue is a common figure, although titles can cost as little as £5 and more than £20.

Independently published magazines often operate with limited budgets and it’s common for contributors to go unpaid, or be paid very little, for their work.

Jeremy swiftly scans the shop before nodding towards a large, thick book-like publication behind me to illustrate his point. “Something like MacGuffin is made in Amsterdam twice a year by a couple of people and they both have full-time jobs. That’s just something they love doing. They’d love to be able to make a living out of that magazine but realistically they’re not going to make a living from it, not for some time.” On the other hand, two of his favourite titles, The Gentlewoman and Apartamento, have grown into successful businesses. For independent magazines, there are variations of success that are not directly tied to advertising revenue or high circulation figures as is often the case with mainstream and commercial magazines.

So why have larger, mainstream magazines been struggling to stay in print while independent magazines, in contrast, are thriving? “The big publishing conglomerates have huge overheads and offices and expectations…” According to Jeremy, they are stuck in a rut of relying on ad sales and cover sales. “Some of the magazines that are closing are selling around 80,000 to 100,000 copies but that’s not enough to finance the business set-up that surrounds them.” In addition, the fast turn-around of these magazines, many of which are weekly or monthly, and the growth of free online content, creates more pressure on mainstream publishers to keep their business going. Independent titles have more time to work on their magazine as many of these are published bi-monthly, quarterly or bi-annually. “They have a longer shelf life so it’s a slower, gentler process,” Jeremy adds, “I also think the mainstream publishers have cut a lot of corners, they’ve reduced the quality of their paper, they’ve done all the wrong things to try and make their businesses work. They’ve cut the number of people working [on the magazines], meanwhile they’ve still got big fancy offices etc.”

As much as they are celebrated, indies are not exempt from criticism. Jeremy is keen to stress that “just because something is independently made doesn’t instantly make it brilliant.” For him, originality is an issue within the scene, particularly when it comes to aesthetics.

“If you’re going to put the effort – and money – into making your own magazine, then I think it needs to be your own magazine… there are examples in various genres of magazines where you can sense that they’ve looked at certain magazines and I worry that there’s a certain look appearing across a lot of these magazines that’s quite common and the point is not to be common.”

The look Jeremy is referring to is a minimalistic design that’s abundant in white space. “It tends to be matte paper, all the typography is black and white, clean and simple, maybe there’s a section of photography in the middle which is glossy.” These design elements, he adds, have worked well for some magazines, which naturally lead to other magazines following suit.

In an information age where many of us are glued to our smartphones and spend more time online than ever before, the allure of print magazines for many people is their tactile quality. They enable us to switch off and disconnect. Indies prefer not to be thought of and treated as throwaway objects, but rather as something to be kept and appreciated.

A new crowd-funded digital start-up wants the best independent titles to our smartphones. For £5.99 a month, Readbug users can access and read a select range of independent, cult and classic magazines. Could an app like this take away from the experience of enjoying a print magazine?

Readbug CEO and co-founder Matthew Hammett acknowledges that opening an app and opening a magazine are two different things but maintains that Readbug has captured a similar experience to the real thing. “We’ve tried to include as much of the character of each magazine as possible. We include hi-res images, original fonts, and each one gets approval from the editorial team.” He also notes that Readbug helps titles to reach more people as a lot of indies can’t afford huge print runs. The app has a great user interface. Reading magazines on the app feels seamless and simple – almost like reading the print version – and it’s clear that great effort has been made to replicate these magazines in a way that’s truly mobile-friendly.

At the time of writing, Readbug has over 4,600 registered users and there are more than 50 titles available on the app including PUSS PUSS, Schön!, Huck, Bonafide and Boneshaker. PAPER magazine approached the Readbug team directly and decided to make the platform their only digital outlet.

The future of indie magazine publishing appears to be strong and healthy. Crowd-funding will likely remain an attractive option for new, smaller publishers. As Jeremy notes, there will inevitably be failures along the way as the indie publishing scene continues to grow, which is why it’s important for publishers to think about longevity when they begin to make magazines. “The first thing people often get wrong is they put all the effort into the first one and then think, ‘Ah shit, I’ve got to do another one! And I’ve got to do another one after that,'” says Jeremy. For new indies, the initial hurdle is trying to publish four issues. Getting past Issue no. 4 indicates that a magazine is doing something well and has a viable future, and the publishers can worry a little less after that point.

Steve’s advice for those who are thinking of publishing a magazine is simple. The central idea is key, especially at a time when we are all saturated with content.

“Nobody out there in the world right now is thinking ‘I wish I had something else to read,’ so you must have such a strong and clear idea of what your magazine is, why it needs to exist and who it’s going to reach because, without that, you just get lost.”

While the growth and influence of digital media cannot be denied, the fact remains that print magazines offer a distinct experience that online publications simply can’t. It’s a wonderful time for independent magazines. They have shown that they are more than capable of surviving and flourishing in uncertain and difficult times when mainstream magazines have had to fold. Print most definitely isn’t dead and it’s mainly the indies that we should be grateful to for that.

Meet Ballet Black, the company committed to diversifying the world of classical ballet

Like other high art forms, ballet is often seen as an interest reserved for upper-class white people, but is this changing fast enough?

The world of ballet can be a rather pale one. The stark lack of diversity in this field of dance means that white performers are simply the norm, but a quick visit to the Royal Ballet Company’s website surprises me. I’m browsing the ‘What’s On’ page and as my mouse hovers near a thumbnail, I see a brown face staring back at me. A handsome brown face. It belongs to Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. A quick glance at the principal casting for current performances of the Nutcracker shows a good number of ethnic minority faces.

Diversity in ballet is clearly an issue that should be discussed more, and it has been – partly thanks to renowned ballet dancer Misty Copeland. Earlier this year, she made headlines, and history, by becoming the first African-American woman to be appointed Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. In April, she was featured on the cover of Time and listed as one of the magazine’s most influential people in the world. Copeland, who is mixed race, has spoken openly about ballet’s race problem and the challenges and discrimination she’s experienced because of the colour of her skin.


Misty Copeland performing in La Bayadere, June 2015 | Source: Flickr

Here in Britain, there’s a company that’s working hard to change the overwhelmingly white and monocultural landscape of classical ballet. Ballet Black was founded in 2001 by Cassa Pancho to provide opportunities for classical dancers of black and Asian descent. In the fourteen years of running the company, she feels “there has been change for the better across the board” when it comes to diversity in ballet, and that audiences are open to seeing more non-white dancers on stage, including in leading roles.

Cassa, born to Trinidadian and British parents, founded Ballet Black not too long after graduating from the Royal Academy of Dance where she studied classical ballet. When writing her dissertation, she was shocked to discover that she couldn’t find one black woman working in ballet to interview, which ultimately led to the formation of her company. Although Ballet Black has received much praise from the industry and gone from strength to strength over the years, Cassa has had her fair share of challenges too. The main ones, she tells me, have been funding and institutionalised racism, which unfortunately isn’t surprising.

For Cassa, her top three proudest achievements for Ballet Black were performing at the Hackney Empire in 2009 (the same year Ballet Black also won the Critics’ Circle Dance Award for Outstanding Company), Senior Artist Cira Robinson being nominated for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) at the Critics Circle National Dance Award in 2013 and featuring on the cover of Britain’s leading dance magazine, Dancing Times in February 2015.

Does she think more could be done to increase diversity in ballet? Well, Ballet Black is putting in the work to make sure that happens.

“Role models are the key for increasing diversity further and this is being done by Ballet Black, as well as other excellent professional dancers of black and Asian descent in the other major UK ballet companies.” Cassa believes that if more black and ethnic minority dancers are visible, then younger aspiring dancers are more likely to feel encouraged to pursue ballet if they can see professional dancers who reflect them. The company also incorporates a ballet school that teaches pupils from as young as three years old.

The company have a full schedule ahead and some big plans for next year, including a premier of a new triple bill at London’s Barbican Theatre in March 2016.

So what can we expect when the performers of Ballet Black return to the stage? Cassa doesn’t give much away but tells me they are reviving an audience favourite, Storyville, created by Christopher Hampson in 2012. She adds, “We’re also excited to present new works from Christopher Marney and Arthur Pita and hope that we can develop a new and even more diverse audience through our partnership with the Barbican.”

In the next five years, Cassa would have liked the company to increase its visibility across the country and grow to 16 dancers. However, a part of Ballet Black’s website states it hopes that a day will come when the company is not needed anymore, as classical ballet dancers from ethnic minority backgrounds will be adequately represented on stage and offered the same opportunities as their white counterparts. It looks like that will remain a hopeful wish for the foreseeable future as ballet has a long way to go before a company like Ballet Black has no good reason to exist.

Ballet Black’s Triple Bill will be performed at the Barbican Theatre in London on 18th – 19th March 2016. You can buy tickets for the show on the Barbican’s website.

For more information about the company, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

*Originally published on The Voice of London

Are all artists really destined to be poor?

The ‘starving artist’ is a term thrown around often when we speak of art, creativity and money. But is the stereotype prevalent in 2015?

For London-based visual artist Mathew Viera, working a full-time day job to survive has become the norm. The fine art graduate, best known for his vivid abstract style portraits, feels that any time found to create at all is a blessing; currently, he only has the early hours of the morning available to do this.

He says, “The young artists coming through will find it hard because it’s always been difficult for an artist to establish himself or herself, it takes time. As long as you have passion, determination and are happy to put the hours in to make your work, promote it and everything else which comes into running your business, then you will achieve your dream.”

Mathew feels some new artists strongly underestimate the amount of work required to make it. “I do think that some artists need to understand that it’s not going to be handed to them on a plate, there is a lot of work to be done, keeping on the lookout for events and opportunities.”

thierry henry Mathew Viera

“The King” (Thierry Henry) by Mathew Viera. Source:

Many of us have our own ideas about what a starving or struggling artist actually is. We tend to picture them locked away in their rooms, pouring every fibre of their being into their work for several hours a day. They’re thought to show little to no interest in being paid for their talents and are usually willing to give up material desires for the sake of their art.

Today, the creative industries are an extremely popular career destination for many people, especially the young, as it can be exciting and hugely rewarding. However creative careers are also notorious for being financially unpredictable and unstable. The starving artist trope has been around for centuries, dating back to the late 1800s where it was a typical figure of Romanticism.

Among the new generation of artists and practising creatives a new mindset seems to have developed. Money may not be the first thing on their minds when they create but many are embracing opportunities that could lead to financial gain from their talents. Do people still buy into the starving artist trope today, or have we moved passed it?

According to Kenyan-born artist Dickson Kaloki, the starving artist will always exist. For him, the inherent assumption that artists are always struggling is due to art careers being seen as second-class and valued lower than other professions like law or medicine.

He goes on to say, “With the new generation of artists coming up, they have a different mindset where most of them think they can be successful overnight, if they play the game right, this is because of the rapid increase of successful artists across the world. The earlier generation did art for the passion or because that’s all they knew.”

Dickson is now able to make a good living from his work though getting to that stage was a tough ride. Like many other artists, he had to hold down a job to fund his education. In the first two years of his career, he sold three paintings and galleries weren’t interested in exhibiting his work. He went against his parents’ wishes by pursuing a career in art; they had hoped he would pursue engineering. He says that even though more people see art as part of their lifestyle and buy art more than before, it’s still difficult if an artist doesn’t have connections or representation from the gallery.

Dickson Kaloki painting

Painting by Dickson Kaloki. Source:

The advice that is given to new and aspiring artists is often similar. Work hard, give it your all, be persistent, don’t make money your top priority and everything will fall into place. Eventually. Hopefully.

Nevertheless, It’s difficult to ignore the need for money, particularly for artists who are based in London. The arts have suffered and continue to suffer major cuts. Recently, plans were made to close much-loved cultural centres such as East London’s Rich Mix and the Harrow Arts Centre, but thankfully they are still open today, and several of the capital’s studio spaces (London is home to almost two-thirds of the UK’s artist studios) have sadly been closed and/or are being redeveloped into housing. But there’s hope. Projects like somewhereto_ offer 16 to 25 year-olds across the country free spaces in their communities to pursue creative and enterprising endeavours.

So it seems that artists don’t have to be doomed to a life of poverty. Some artists naturally won’t want to make any money from their craft and that’s fine. But it’s also reasonable for artists to want to earn a living from their work (times are hard, guys!). Perhaps the stereotype of the starving artist will fade when arts careers are thought and spoken of differently.

*Originally published on The Voice of London.

Do emerging black artists in the UK struggle to gain recognition and visibility in the art world?

The issue of diversity within British art is a big problem. Numerous reports have shown over and over again how overwhelmingly white and middle-class the creative arts are in the UK and things don’t seem to be improving. Black British artists historically haven’t gotten enough props from the British art world and they still don’t. It’s only a select few that get to be truly celebrated and revered.

In the last 18 months I’ve been thinking more about the visibility and representation of black artists in British art, as well as how much art I view and consume from black artists. If you asked me to name 10 British BAME artists off the top of my head I wouldn’t be able to do it, and that bothers me, because if you asked me to name 10 white British artists, I’d quite honestly do a much better job.

I noticed there was a strong black art presence particularly late in 2014, with several exhibitions, shows and events coincidentally happening during and around October, aka Black History Month. For example, the work of Nigerian photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode was shown at Tiwani Contemporary from September to November; Charlie Phillips’ crowd funded exhibition ‘How Great Thou Art: 50 Years of African Caribbean Funerals in London’ at Photofusion in November; the third solo exhibition of Britain’s award-winning artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen was held at the Thomas Dane gallery in November; the Pippy Houldsworth gallery exhibited the work of American artist Carrie Mae Weems and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu’s work was shown at the Victoria Miro gallery. Not to mention that the ever-popular third annual 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair also took place at Somerset House in October.

I attended as many of these shows as I could but couldn’t help notice that most of these exhibitions showcased the work of mostly black American and other African diaspora artists. I decided to visit the Thomas Dane gallery on the last day of the Steve McQueen exhibition. It was a chilly Saturday afternoon in November. I slowly made my way into a dark room with a projector screen in the middle. When I entered there were maybe 10 people there, but the headcount soon increased to at least twice as much. All eyes were fixated on the screen, which continuously played McQueen’s new video work in a loop, a short film entitled ‘Ashes’. The work was unflinching and impressive.

But if this work hadn’t been produced by the Oscar-winning ‘12 Years A Slave’ director, would people have paid as much attention or shown as much interest? It’s questionable. What’s more, many people who are familiar with McQueen might not be aware of his background in art. I only learned this fact early last year when I watched an episode of the Culture Show on BBC2.

I spoke to art historian and author Eddie Chambers on the evening he delivered a talk at Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus based on his recently published book, Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s. The book is the first comprehensive study of its kind. In his presentation, he discussed some of the key people and moments within the black arts movement in the UK over the last 50 years. Steve McQueen is mentioned in it, along with Yinka Shonibare and Chris Ofili, two black British artists who have reached similar levels of recognition, somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ status. I asked Eddie about his thoughts on the recent string of exhibitions highlighting the work of black artists.

“I think it’s a positive thing that there have been many exhibitions recognising the work of black artists lately. Could it be a phase occurring seeing that Black History Month recently ended? I hope not. Ultimately I would like to see black artists just be considered artists as opposed to their work being racially and ethnically categorised, as is too often the case.”

According to Eddie, the reasons surrounding the apparent lack of recognition for black artists in art history are complex. It’s an uncomfortable truth, he says, “that many black artists have achieved their most pronounced visibility in ‘black’ exhibitions, or in festivals and commemorations that have an explicit or implicit raced agenda.”

This ‘othering’ of artists of colour it is highly problematic and even dangerous because it invites pre-loaded assumptions and categorizations regarding their work and/or artistic practice; e.g. that it must be concerned with issues of race, identity, politics etc. Whether the work actually addresses such issues shouldn’t matter to the extent that the ethnicity of an artist and social and political context of the work overshadows the work itself.

So, what does this mean for the new generation of BAME artists? Is it more difficult for them to achieve mainstream recognition and success?

Chantelle Nash, also known as NXSH, is a photographer, artist and the creative director of the ELDK collective (an acronym for East London Dope Kids). She always used art as a form of expression but never saw it as a career path growing up. Focusing on her photographic practice through her university degree allowed her to grow and develop her ideas, skills, techniques and find herself through art in her own time. It was only at this point, she says, that she started to believe that she could engage with art as a career and decided to go for it.

Erykah Badu by NXSH Image source

Erykah Badu by NXSH. Image source

This is what she had to say when I put the above question to her: 

“Yes, I do think it is difficult to gain mainstream recognition in the British art scene. Before I start going into the “politics” of things, just on a fundamental level we, black people, make up a small amount of the population in England. I think it’s somewhere between three and six percent; there is an even smaller percentage within the art industry so immediately that can be seen as an obstacle to face. Then there is the subject matter some black artists choose to work with; as artists of any race or cultural background we tend to make works in response to our lives, experiences, history (cultural and personal) and surroundings. Works from black artists based around the topics mentioned might not fit in with the visual ideals that the mainstream art world/ buyers wish to engage in.

However there are black British artists who have managed to break through to the mainstream doing just that, for example, Chris Ofili and Yinka Shonibare to name two.

In my opinion there are two types of people in the “art world”: The people who purchase art as an investment and the people purchase art because they appreciate the work or it moves them in some way. From my observations thus far it seems that in the mainstream art world there are more of the former than the latter so you can see where the problem comes in for the unknown emerging black artist.”

Award winning North London pencil artist Kelvin Okafor has made headlines for a while with his highly detailed, lifelike drawings. Okafor, who is of Nigerian heritage, remembers having a love and fascination for drawing with pencils at the age of 8 and spent most of his early years trying to utilize its technical use. Last Spring he had his first solo exhibition at the Albemarle Gallery.

Corinne Bailey Rae. © Kelvin Okafor

Corinne Bailey Rae by Kelvin Okafor. Image source

Okafor is an amazing success story. As a leading young artist in his field who has won praise from celebrities and media outlets like the BBC and the Guardian, I was keen to pose the same question to him. These were his thoughts:

“I only think it’s difficult when someone from any race or gender (being of black ethnic heritage) limits themselves by thinking of lack, fear and injustice. I feel it’s extremely important to live like there aren’t limitations even when we hear it from others. I believe that with love, faith and dedication for something that one loves to do, anything is possible.

To be honest I try not think about how the artworld perceives my art through my ethnicity. I would like to think that my work speaks for me and itself.”

The Internet has been beneficial in enabling people to showcase their work on their terms, engage in important dialogues and create their own spaces in the art world. Zines such as Motherlands and OOMK and collectives like Lonely Londoners, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable and Variant Space are just a few brilliant examples of people who are actively working on and offline to challenge the status quo and make sure that marginalised voices are being heard. It’s not just the whiteness of galleries, museums and art institutions where our attention needs to be focused, but the whiteness that dominates art criticism and writing too. Too often, the work of black artists is discussed from a predominantly white perspective and it matters. ARTS.BLACK, an online platform that launched at the end of 2014, is worth mentioning here as it seeks to ‘further expand the places and spaces for critical thought on Black art’.

It’s an exciting time for the new generation of black artists in the UK even though the arts have become whiter. Not enough BAME artists get the support and recognition they deserve, even though it’s clear that they are just as cutting edge and contemporary as their white counterparts and are so much more than their ethnicities.

I’ll leave you with this final word from Chantelle.

“Fellow artists shouldn’t be discouraged by what I have said. Once you genuinely engage with the craft you love, it will be more than visible in the work you produce and the right people will gravitate towards it in time. That’s just my personal belief, my humble opinion, it has been working for me thus far. I haven’t had any mainstream “success” yet but if I do that will be why.”

Check out Chantelle’s website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram too.

Visit Kelvin’s website here and keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram.

Catching up with Remel London

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Remel London who is an accomplished and award-winning TV/radio presenter and host. I became aware of Remel last summer when she chaired a panel discussion at the Youth Media Summit at the BFI, where I was a volunteer for the day. Her wit, charisma and bold and upbeat personality instantly made me a fan and I’ve been following her moves ever since. Big shout out to Youth Media Agency who published the interview on their website. Check out our conversation below.


At the age of 26, Remel London has successfully carved a name for herself as a renowned radio and TV presenter and live events host within the UK entertainment industry as well as producing her own distinctive live events and productions. She’s the perfect example of why youth media is so important and powerful. Now that the second season of her amazing talk show, The Show Room, has ended (sob!), we caught up with her to discuss role models, women in media, where mainstream media gets it wrong and her future plans.

What made you want to become a presenter? Was it something you’ve always seen yourself doing?

Growing up, I always wanted to do things within the media, performance-wise and entertainment-wise. I loved things like dance and musical theatre and always wanted to be a part of it and find out more. My general interest in all things creative attracted me to it but I guess the main thing that drove me to become a presenter was wanting to know more about production.

Previously you’ve hosted for ILUVLIVE, worked as a presenter for Link Up TV and Sky 1’s What’s Up just to name a few. You also founded the popular networking and showcase event RateMePlz in 2012 and more recently, The Show Room. Tell me a bit about how RateMePlz and The Show Room came about.

I’ve always wanted to go to networking events because I feel like they’re really beneficial. It got to a point where people always used to send me music and ask for feedback because they know I’m associated with events, like ILUVLIVE and Link Up TV. So I was like, do you know what? I’ve only been in this industry a few years. I’ve got an idea where I can create a platform where you can meet people who are more established than me and get genuine advice while everyone is having a good time. I felt like there was a need for more people to get out there and meet each other. Now it’s changed a lot and there are more opportunities for that but at the time I felt there was a need for talent to be able to meet the industry properly.

Again, The Show Room was another platform for people who have talent. I wanted it to inspire others that any little talent that you have, you can come and show it off. Whether you’re an amazing cook or amazing painter, The Show Room is a place for new talent. It’s filmed in front of a live studio audience so anything can happen and it’s always going to fun!

You describe yourself as ‘self-made’ and you’re a firm believer in the DIY approach when it comes to media. Why do you feel it’s so important for young people to create their own media platforms and content?

There’s a lot going on out there, it’s over saturated and it’s very hard to break through. Waiting for an opportunity is, in my opinion, a waste of time. If you’ve got a talent or a skill, make the most of it and at the same time you’re practising anyway. Then when that amazing, big dream job does come you can say, “Look, I’ve done all of this by myself. Imagine what I can do with you and for you.”

Doing it yourself is a lot more fulfilling, so you’ll find more enjoyment from a product if you made it yourself. It’s also a good way to develop and grow.

When it comes to representation, groups such as women and ethnic minorities are generally underrepresented and misrepresented in the media. What has this journey been like for you, as a young black woman, trying to make a name for yourself in the entertainment and media industries?

I think I’ve had a lot of support. A lot of people have noticed that I’m very self-motivated and although I do everything by myself, it’s great to know that loads of young women encourage me and cheer me on. Older women have also offered me the same support. I think when women see other women doing well, it’s always good to carry on encouraging and motivating them. I feel like the network has gotten stronger and we’ve helped each other out.

Even though it’s a male-dominated world, I don’t think you have to wait for a guy to realise how good you are. Don’t let any little comments or negative feedback get you down because there’s always room to grow and there’s a lot of support out there. There’s a lot of women’s networks, women’s award shows, women’s meetings… There’s loads of stuff going on. I feel like we’re at a great time for women to feel empowered and it should carry on.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you in your career so far?

I guess, breaking into the mainstream. Once you’re associated with the urban world, they [mainstream media] do feel like you can’t do anything else. I’m not really a fan of the word “urban” but it’s what I’m usually associated with. This is going to sound weird but, it’s almost like, they think you can only talk to black people because you’re black.

Yeah, I get you. They box you in.

And it’s like, OK… but I can talk to anyone! It’s annoying that sometimes they don’t see the potential in young urban stars to be popular. Like, they don’t feel we can be popular. It’s the same with music artists, they think that a rapper isn’t likely to be popular in the mainstream world, but yeah they will be because if a song is good, then it will do well regardless of who’s singing or rapping.

I feel like we need to see that in the presenters as well. Presenters are a key part of a show being good. If you enjoy the show and you enjoy the presenter, why not allow that presenter to do a lot more? Young talent needs to be given the opportunity to do new things. Like, Ant and Dec are great, you know, but how many more shows are they going to do? Haha. We need to see more young talent come through and host some of the big shows because it’s time to see new faces.

With everything you’ve achieved to date, you’re no doubt a role model to a lot of young people. Who do you personally look up to?

At the minute, one of the strongest representatives for me is Oprah Winfrey. I know it sounds cheesy and it’s not just because she’s a black billionaire, but because she was unconventional at the time she came out, for a presenter. I feel like if I was given that break, that opportunity that she was given, I could do so much with it and I could be as big as Oprah or bigger.
I love that she didn’t look how they wanted her to look. At the time, there were loads of white male presenters, much older and blonde, blue-eyed people on the TV and as a minority, she came along and changed the game. She not only hosted the show but she took ownership of it as well. Having her own show, then her own production company and making her own productions, that’s exactly what I want to do.

I think I’m good at what I do, but once you see me take control of it, it will go crazy, it will get out of hand! that’s why I made The Show Room. Looking to Oprah as inspiration for taking something good, making it your own and seeing that she has a great team behind her encourages me to do the same.

On a UK scale, there are loads of women who are taking the lead themselves, like Angie Le Mar who’s amazing. She’s a producer, a comedian and a former Choice FM presenter. Also, Clara Amfo is killing it. She’s shown that the colour of your skin is not that deep anymore and that being talented is really important.

What advice would you give to young people who want to follow in your footsteps and get into presenting?

Practice as much as possible. Learn about the industry and what you want to do. I’m learning all the time and trying to figure out who have I got to meet. Have loads of meetings, ask people for advice. Get out there and let people know who you are. Introduce yourself to people and let them know what you want to do. Ask for opportunities and don’t be afraid to work for free because it’s all going to be a huge gain in the long run. Keep in contact with the people you meet and work with good people.

The second season of The Show Room finished last week (sadly). What’s next for you?

Well, everyone wants another season so we’re going to work on season 3! I want to work on loads more productions and plan on doing a lot more of my own now that I’ve done The Show Room. We’re looking for more people to work with. I’m also hosting loads of shows over the summer, going abroad and filming stuff. I’m going to be all over so if you’ve got an idea, get in touch and we can work together ’cause there will be loads more happening!

Visit Remel’s website

Watch both seasons of The Show Room on YouTube

My sit down with East London Hip-Hop artist Rageouz


Still from Rageouz’s ‘Eastside [Sup Preme]’ video

2015 has been a great year for East London Hip-Hop artist Rageouz. In January, he had everyone talking when he dropped the visual for his track ‘Eastside [Sup Preme]’ and shortly afterwards, he was selected as one of GRM Daily’s favourite emerging independent artists. I caught up with the 21-year-old for a chat about growing as an artist, his involvement with creative collective one50, originality in the UK music scene and his upcoming EP.

Rageouz’s route into music stemmed from growing up in a family full of music lovers. “My mum made garage music in the late nineties. When I was younger I just grew up watching everybody so interested in music around me. My uncle and aunty used to make music. My mum would bring songs home from the studio and play them. I feel like I got a great understanding of it from young,” he says.

Like so many other UK artists and MCs, he fondly recalls the days where he would spit 8 and 16 bars in the playground with his friends at secondary school, during the Golden Age of Grime. ”Even though I started in Year 7, I only really thought I started properly last year… As someone who enjoyed the hobby before, I feel like I’m a musician now. Before it was like, I was just another rapper but now I feel like an artist.”

Would he say he’s finding his place in music? “Yeah, definitely. I had to take a lot of time out to figure out what I really needed to do because I think a lot of people feel that music is just music, like you write some lyrics then put it on a track, or you talk about something and put it on a track. But to be an original artist, you have to know yourself. I am me in my music now. Before I felt like I was a lot more entertaining as a person than as a musician, so it was like, how do I put the entertainment in the music?”

Last Spring, Rageouz and fellow artist Ayar released their collaborative project ‘Authentape’, which received rave reviews. The project was hailed most of all for its quality, something that is often considered to be lacking in UK Hip-Hop. The two are part of a creative collective called one50, which also includes artist Preacher Soul and director Manny Grey. The team has been friends since school, with the exception of Preacher Soul, who Rageouz met at university. ‘Authentape’ was born after Ayar and Rageouz decided that working together on a mixtape was the best way to back out there, as they didn’t get to release much material previously. “We’ve kind of gone through these music stages together”, he explains. “We’d come to a new understanding musically, together, but we done it on different paths.” This new understanding clearly translates on ‘Authentape’. The musical chemistry between the two very different artists is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable to listen to, something that has been echoed by many fans. “Ayar is deeper lyrically whereas I’m a bit more bouncy, aggressive. I feel I’m a bit easier to understand on first listen. Ayar is a bit more poetic.”

Both were determined not to conform to each other’s styles and wanted the tape to be as consistent as possible. Rageouz admits to feeling confused about why this isn’t happening more often [UK artists being distinctly themselves]. “I personally feel that a lot of people in the UK conform to each others styles…I think people are too similar, you know what I mean? And that’s only now. Maybe it wasn’t like that 5 or 6 years ago.”

Around the same time Ayar and Rageouz began working on ‘Authentape’ (around December 2014), Rageouz started producing, making a beat every day for a couple of months. At the moment he’s doing sound engineering, so he’s able to engineer for himself. Producing is something he wants to do more of one day so he’s making it a task to improve his knowledge in this area.

Rageouz’s musical influences span widely. It started with Dizzee Rascal, Kano and Wiley in his early teenage years. He also cites Skepta, JME (and the rest of the Boy Better Know group), Giggs, P Money, Griminal, Lethal Bizzle, Chipmunk in his early days and Ghetts as influences. The list is long and he takes his time, not wanting to miss out any names, eventually saying, ”All the best UK artists have influenced me at some point.” They tend to be on the grime side, as he admits he doesn’t listen to much UK rap. He also name drops Loyle Carner, Coops, Novelist and Stormzy as current inspirations in the UK scene. The last three are artists he would like to collaborate with in future. “I think me and Novelist would go well together on a track,” he muses.

Before we move onto his US influences, Rageouz tells me that when he was 16 or 17, he stopped listening to UK music as he found it too generic and opted for American music instead. I understand why because I did the same thing a few years ago for the exact same reason. At the moment, he’s particularly rating J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and Chance the Rapper. “I think there’s a lot to be influenced by now,” he says. “I try and listen to as much good music as I can, as I feel it helps me make my best music. But at times, it can be hard to remain yourself after listening to something so inspirational, so even though I listen to all these artists I don’t let it sway me.” He expands on this point by using Drake as an example. “I know a lot of people who listen to, specifically I think, Drake. They listen to a lot of Drake and they make a lot of Drake music,” he laughs. “If you’re not conscious of it, it can be hard. I don’t think a lot of people are ‘cause they’re making Drake music and they don’t even know.”

One year on from ‘Authentape’, the release of his forthcoming EP is around the corner. It’s a project that, he says, will help people understand him. “I don’t think they had a lot of me to understand in the first place, other than the mixtape I put out with Ayar and the [Eastside] video. This will let people know where I’m at now, definitely.” It will consist of six to ten songs and won’t have many features, as it’s his first serious project. He also plans to release a second EP before the end of the year and reveals that there could possibly be an ‘Authentape’ part two in the pipeline with Ayar. I really want that to happen, and I know I’m not the only one.

He makes it clear that Ayar definitely shouldn’t be slept on, and that we’ll be seeing more of him in due course too. “I think he knows what he’s doing, basically, as much as myself. He should be looked out for as much as I should.”

Rageouz isn’t too interested in categories or labels, saying, “I don’t want to limit myself, as in, the best hood rapper, or in terms of videos, say, I make the best hood videos. When we make our stuff, we try and make the best, that’s it.”

Rageouz is an artist with a lot to offer. His realness and self-assurance are unquestionable and inspiring, no doubt. There are many promising up-and-coming artists in the UK right now and we need to celebrate those who are being their authentic selves. Rageouz is someone who is taking his time with it all and it’s working. Everything he has done up to this point has spoken for itself. “I’m going to have a lot more to say,” he says with a smile. And when that time comes, we will have to sit up and take note.

Follow Rageouz on Twitter and SoundCloud

Keep up with one50 on Twitter and SoundCloud

Download ‘Authentape’ here

Film Review: The Fourth Estate

Cast your mind back to 2011 and think about which news stories dominated the headlines that year. The phone hacking scandal should be one of the things that pop into your head. The intense and rigorous scrutiny of the media that was prompted by the scandal was momentary and the dust settled fairly quickly. The Fourth Estate, a new no-holds-barred documentary directed by Lee Salter, examines the people and practises of the media industries and shows us how, post-Leveson, its flaws and inadequacies are not as few and far between as is let on.

The documentary is split into nine sections, starting appropriately with ‘Business’, that includes a definition of the term ‘political economy’. This approach works very well as it allows the viewers to draw their own connections and link ideas together as the documentary progresses. Though the approach may seem ‘scattergun-like’ to some, it actually makes for a reasonably coherent film. There is a lot of ground covered in the space of 90 minutes, with topics ranging from the history and business of the press, politics, representation and of course, journalists.

Contributors include Goldsmith University Professor Dr. Natalie Fenton, author and writer Laurie Penny, Chair of the Media Reform Coalition Des Freedman, Goldsmiths University Professor James Curran and The Guardian’s Joseph Harker.

In addition to exploring the media business as a whole, and those who run it, the film also offers an insight into the challenges that many journalists (new or otherwise) may face at work particularly at the hands of their editors. Former Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt recalls his experience working at the tabloid paper as one where he felt uncomfortable with some of the things he was asked to do, and the way he was asked to cover certain stories. He particularly took issue with the paper’s coverage of Islam.

The way minority groups are portrayed in the media has a huge impact on the way society views them and the film deals this topic in a frank and thoughtful way. A sizeable portion of it is devoted to issues of gender, race and class representation and it is good to see the subject of transgender representation mentioned, however brief (considering that there simply isn’t enough time to discuss everything in detail). One of the film’s pleasant surprises is a spoken word piece called ‘Cog’ from the lovely poet and actor Deanna Rodger. It is very effective, although it goes on for a little while.

The documentary does a fantastic job showing how problematic the UK’s media business is and insists that it needs to take a good look at itself and do a lot better. The influence of the media means that it affects the way we experience the world, and the documentary highlights the link between political power, financial power and representation.

It also makes it clear that although all these problems and issues exist, there is still hope for the press to become truly independent and critical outlets for the public (rather than acting as propaganda tools with often little regard to public interest) and the media business to operate with a lot more integrity and dignity than it currently does. It’s an important watch for media and journalism students especially. The main message I took away from the documentary is that, as shitty and corrupt as the media industry can be, change is possible and the next generation of editors, reporters and journalists can be a part of it.

For more information about the documentary, check out the Fourth Estate website and follow its social media profiles for updates on further screenings.