We’re very pleased to introduce you to yet another one of our amazing Zealous X judges, Anthony Gray.
Anthony is a Programme manager at the Barbican Centre and Guildhall School for Music and Drama. His programme focuses on artists’ professional development and as part of that programme he is about to launch Young Arts Academy, which has been set up to help young people develop as artists and build careers in the creative industries.
Anthony is one of our judges for the Performance category at Zealous X.
Hello Anthony, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hiya. I’m a Programme Manager in the Creative Learning department of the Barbican Centre and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
How did you end up at your career and do you enjoy doing what you do?
When I was younger I studied as a classical singer and after a few years realised that being a performer wasn’t for me. Living out of suitcases and never seeing friends and family was a bit too much for me at that time, but I still loved the arts as a whole so started working in other fields and fell in love with education work. I worked at different organisations such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Opera House and am now loving life in the Creative Learning department at Barbican and Guildhall. Being able to work with musicians like Big Narstie, Terry Riley and Pantha du Prince; directors like Simon McBurney and David Harradine or visual artists like Eddie Peake is just one of the reasons that I love my job.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Barbican right now and the education and learning field at large?
The biggest challenges are really the same challenges that the whole business sector is currently facing. Funding has been cut across the UK which means that money and resources are a problem for everyone, and working out how to build a programme that has even greater impact with less resources is a challenge. Addressing employability is also a huge challenge that I feel every organisation needs to be helping with. The Barbican Centre run a brilliant apprentice scheme and some of our Creative Learning programmes are specifically focused on employability and offering different pathways for young people but there’s still a lot to do and it’s always something that the Barbican and Guildhall are looking at. The other challenge that Barbican and Guildhall, as well as the whole sector, are facing is making sure the arts become more representative of the diversity of our society. Work we’re doing to contribute to this includes holding networking events to bring artists and young people from a range of diverse backgrounds into the Barbican to talk about some of their ideas, thoughts and concerns; and running projects that encourage people from a diverse background to see the Barbican as a safe space to experiment and create work. These projects alongside other initiatives that Barbican and Guildhall are working on are just some of the ways in which we are working towards increasing accessibility and giving our audience more of a voice.
How has innovation changed the way you do your work at the Barbican? And for the visitors to experience music and drama?
Barbican and Guildhall School of Music and Drama have always been at the forefront of innovation and nothing showed that more than when the Barbican put on Digital Revolution which was an immersive and interactive exhibition that brought together a range of artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, musicians and game developers, all pushing the boundaries of their fields using digital media. I’m also working on a programme called Fish Island Labs that works with artists who don’t fit into the usual art forms and whose work tends to span digital technology and the arts. With regards to our audience and how they can experience music and drama, there are some amazing plans in place that I really wish I could tell you about but for now you’ll just have to keep an eye out.
What your typical work-day looks like?
I’m a bit of an early bird so I tend to get into the office for about 8am so that I can deal with any really important things in those first two hours when there are no phones ringing or emails pinging around. I’m always meeting new people to talk through potential collaborations on various projects or talking to colleagues in the various art-form departments to see how my programmes will connect with their shows, exhibitions or concerts. There’s always room in my day for lots of tea and when things aren’t going quite to plan I’ve been known to get my football out and have a quick kick-about to think through any problems.
You are about to launch Young Arts Academy, could you tell us a bit more about this project?
Young Arts Academy has been set up to help young people to develop as artists and build careers in the creative industries, at a time of cuts to arts funding and education and high youth unemployment. It is a new network for artists, aged between 14-25, that opens doors to the creative and cultural industries with free monthly training, seminars and workshops to develop skills and provide industry insight in an exciting and innovative way. We had our launch on the 17th October and it was so exciting to see so many young people who were determined and focused on building on their skills in order to survive and flourish during these tough times. Now I just hope that I can build a programme that is dynamic enough for them and can match their hunger!
What lesson do you have for young entrepreneurs like yourself?
I would say that young entrepreneurs need to look at themselves and believe and understand that they are first and foremost a business. Calculated risks can make you stand out from the crowd but just taking a risk, with no thought behind that risk, invariably means that your idea or product will fail. Know your business inside out and then every decision you make means that you’ve made that decision with your business plan in mind. Sometimes you’ll get it wrong but for me when you fail that is the biggest and most important lesson that you will learn.
What advice would you have for someone breaking into your field?
Apart from join Young Arts Academy?! I would say that if you want to break into the education sector then try and meet as many people in different organisations. Get your CV under as many noses as you can and try and volunteer everywhere. That means that when a job comes around that hundreds of other people will be applying for you will be able to show that you already have a good understanding of different ways of working in the sector, you will show that you have the hunger and focus to work within the industry and you’ll also just get to know lots of different people who may remember you for doing that great job for them when you’re sitting across the interview table.
Zealous X is committed to unleash creativity and facilitate a dialogue between creative talents, brands and not for profit organisations. You are one of our amazing judges, what drew you to being involved in this discussion?
For me creativity is one of the most important things in life. Without creativity how are the future leaders going to work through problems that the current education system can’t possibly equip them for? The more opportunities that are out there for creativity to be nurtured the better. Zealous X provide an amazing platform for talent to be showcased but also create a space where important conversations can take place that can hopefully effect change. Being part of that discussion is not only very exciting but also essential.
Three artists that have changed your life….
Michael Jackson. “Bad” was the first album that I bought for myself and it really changed my life. The quality of the music, lyrics and later on the videos made me fall in love with singing and allowed me to dream about being a famous singer.
Es Devlin is one of the leading stage designers in the world and I absolutely see her as an artist. When she lights a stage it’s as if she brings another character or element to the stage as well as making the people still look amazing. She made me understand that you don’t have to be the leading performer on stage to have an impact.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste was always someone I recognised from “Without a Trace” which was one of those American shows that you only saw on daytime television. Then I saw her in “The Amen Corner” at the National Theatre and was blown away by the show and her performance. I found out she was British which again blew my mind and wondered why she wasn’t involved in more British theatre. She is such a strong voice for more diversity in the arts world and her thoughts on diversity always come to my mind whenever I’m looking at building a programme.
Last question: favourite theatre play?
I have to cheat on this one I’m afraid. It’s impossible to have one favourite play as I’m always seeing amazing productions. The one play that always sticks in my mind is Complicite’s production of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”. It is one of my favourite books and to see how McBurney managed to recreate the world of Bulgakov was something I will never forget. The cast was amazing and Es Devlin was at the pinnacle of her genius when lighting the show; it was the complete dream team.
I always have to have a rolling favourite and at the moment it is Clean Break’s “Joanne” which is at Soho Theatre. Tanya Moodie puts on one of the most powerful one-person shows I’ve ever seen and it’s just so relevant to this day and age in regards to the prison system.