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Life after Kingston University

Posted 2 Apr 2014 by Alice

 

After my final Degree Show, and once my contract on my lovely house in Kingston had run out, I made the sad decision to come back to Lincolnshire. I remember the sunny day on which I left, driving through Richmond and watching people sitting and socialising on the grass. A tear in my eye, I felt so upset to leave the amazing time that I had at Kingston, not to mention the wonderful people I lived with; friends for life.

Ok, so I'm sounding rather fragile right about now... but in all seriousness, I moved back home with the hope of it being a temporary placement- all the time wanting to be back in London! Obviously being a poor ex-student, I decided that being at home for the time being would allow me to save, and also I could work as a lifeguard and swimming teacher whilst applying for work back in London. I didn't want to stay in London and get even poorer without a promise of employment (granted there are pros and cons to either choice).

In my head it all seemed rather simple. Move back home over summer, work at the pool, save, apply for jobs, get a job and move back to London in September or early October.  But it really wasn't that simple! I'm not going to lie, it is hard in terms of jobs out there (especially in the arts), in that they ARE out there; it's just EVERYONE is applying to them, as well as you! Without wanting to sound too egotistical, I'd class myself as someone who has always been very hard working, having many interests and undertaking many pursuits, all of which have helped to build up my job prospects.

I must say though, I think my time as a Student Ambassador particularly helped in my applications. For example, it offered me countless examples of when I had communicated with all different types of people, from disengaged school students to prospective university students and parents. It also enabled me to carry out marketing design work for the university, which left me with a small profile of published promotional material adhering to a live brief, as well as some knowledge of what it is like undertaking this kind of work. Having worked in the KUSA office quite regularly, my experience as a Student Ambassador also left me with the opportunity to evidence areas in which I had undertaken admin responsibilities, as well as previously acting as one of the student editors of the ‘ASK US' website.

Moreover, on my course I was always encouraged to go out, talk to people and seek experience and advice from fellow artists, curators and practitioners. In my second year I took it upon myself to undertake a voluntary internship at a gallery called ‘Standpoint Gallery', near Old Street. In order to do this I literally emailed a list of galleries and asked if there would be an opportunity to volunteer, setting up three interviews. All three galleries offered me a position, but in the end I went with Standpoint.

I felt it was a good idea to gain experience whilst still studying- complimenting my degree and the thoughts I was having. Furthermore, I thought it would be a good idea to do it whilst I had the opportunity of easily getting to a potential central London location, as well as having the benefit of a student loan and income via my Student Ambassador and swimming part time work.
This experience at the gallery allowed me to build up various relationships with artists, gallery directors and curators, as well as leading to occasional paid weekend work and research; whilst all the time actively learning about the ways various gallery spaces are run. (There are lots of different types- commercial and studio-led which I never would have known, had I not had the experience.)

The galleries I met with were impressed that I was interning whilst studying as I remember them saying that they had many people working and volunteering for them, who were often more qualified than them themselves- sometimes with an MA. I am really glad I chose to do it when I did and I truly believe that it was worthwhile, as it has opened up more opportunities for me, as well as enabling me to suss out what kind of gallery space I'd like to work in. (I know friends now who have graduated but have no work experience in the arts sector and are thus having to intern for free. It's a bit of a problem in the arts, but I won't go on for too long, otherwise I'll open up a whole can of worms!).

But yeah, I had various interviews- one at the Royal Academy, one at South London Gallery, one at Kingston, and finally one in my home of Lincolnshire. It got to November and I must admit, I really was feeling frustrated about things- I felt like I had regressed by working full-time at the pool (even though I needed the money) and I wanted everything to happen straight away, all at once, now! I wanted to be in London, like NOW! But then I went for this job in Lincolnshire as I really liked the sound of it; thinking I'd never get it as I didn't have enough experience- but then I did get it!

Teacher and Artist workshopOpen Mic Night at Lincoln Drill HallSo now I've been in this job for 3 months, I have learnt so much and I love it! I am a Project Worker for a Paul Hamlyn funded project called ‘Lincolnshire One Venues Young People's Programme'. Our remit is to engage 12-25 year old into the arts and local arts venues as participants, audience members and decision makers. (www.lincolnshireonevenues.com- let's give it a plug!) Ten arts venues across Lincolnshire are involved in the project and I predominantly work with 5 of them. The venues are multi-disciplinary, specialising in theatre, music and visual arts. There are various ongoing groups of young people that meet at some of the venues weekly, putting on various events from Open Mics, to live gigs, to Arts Festivals incorporating various workshops, to exhibitions and visual arts events. Furthermore, the project commissions groups to produce new work.

The Collaborators workshopFor example, I recently worked with a group of artists called The Collaborators, who ran a series of art workshops by which we invited young people, who are supported by an organisation for young homeless people, to participate and create work. The work they produced was stimulated by words to their favourite song or book, or something similar, which was then broken down and summarised into two words. The group explored this using various techniques such as drawing, writing in sand, using glow sticks, photography, filming, stop frame animation and making music. The work then culminated into a film that was projected onto the side of a market building in the centre of Lincoln. Watch a clip here.

I really got a lot out of this particular commission as I saw its numbers in participants rise from just 1 to 6 by the end of day four and, as we were working with vulnerable people, this really was something to be pleased about. Furthermore, I felt that it married my interests in the potential for art and creativity; along with the experience I gained in working with lots of different people whilst as a Student Ambassador at Kingston. Granted, it's not London, and that is the one thing I am really missing- especially some of my best friends. But, I do say to myself, if I wanted to move, I could, and London will always be there- it's not going to magically disappear! For now, I feel like I have uncovered a fantastic opportunity that I'd be silly to miss out upon. I guess here, I am a big(gish) fish in a small pond and I am meeting people all the time who have had years of experience in the arts sector, who are all able to offer me various pieces of advice and opportunities. 

Helping to curate a show at the Bohunk IFurthermore, I have also continued to volunteer at a gallery in Nottingham called the Bohunk Institute, when I can. This space has offered me lots of opportunity- I am even curating one of their shows in July! Furthermore, I am still practising (when I get a chance) as a Fine Artist and some Kingston graduate friends of mine (and me) are putting on a show at Bohunk in May! (http://www.bohunkinstitute.co.uk/mmntm another plug!)

Before I eventually move away again one day, I also really want to do a local community arts event. This will involve projecting old slides onto a derelict building in my local village- creating a local event by which we include people studying Lincolnshire dialect and other endeavours. The Collaborators artist group and my Manager are going to help me with the Heritage Lottery Funding bid I have to do, so everything is go, go, go at the moment!

So... who knows where I'll be in the future?! London's still in my bloodstream, and... did I mention that I want to live in Italy for a bit one day... haha! One step at a time...

Thanks, and keep doing what you love!
Alice xx

An update since graduating

Posted 2 Apr 2014 by TJ

 

Well, what have I done since I graduated?

Let's see, I finished my undergraduate degree in Music in 2009. Since then, I spent two years running the Kingston University Students' Union and then I went off to perform at a number of venues around Europe. I've done Geneva, Prague, toured the south of Sardegna, where I met Tarak Ben Ammar (managed Michael Jackson's HIStory, still have his card!) and played in Le Louvre in Paris (to date one of my proudest moments!) Afterwards I went on to study for my Masters in Music Performance, which I graduated from in January of this year. I currently work at the university's International Office, and will be here until the end of July, when I plan to return to the music.

What I specifically love and continue to love about Kingston is that it develops you as a person. More than simply providing you with the academic knowledge, which is of course needed. Rather, in being employed as a Student Ambassador, I got to develop skills I already had and gained new ones. So speaking to people at open days from different walks of life and telling them about Kingston, adapting my communication methods when speaking to students or parents, assisted greatly when I moved to work on the board of governors at the University. Adapting communication methods when speaking to members of the board and then changing again when dealing with students in the library or the canteen and adapting yet again, when speaking to members of the wider Kingston community.

As an undergraduate at Kingston, I wanted to join a Gospel choir, the university didn't have one. So I was encouraged to create one, if that's what I wanted. In my second year, I created a Gospel choir, which I led for two years. I learnt so much about musicality and managing people from that experience alone. Part of my music degree was a module called ‘Arts Management' which was a module designed around what musicians will face in the real world, i.e we won't always make our money from performing, rather sometimes we will manage music events or artists. We organised and ran all of the lunch time concerts that were performed at the music school throughout the course of that academic year. That bit of real-world experience was invaluable.

It's strange to say that my degree was only a small part of what I got out of Kingston. Studying in an area like Kingston meant I had lots of venues to perform in. Doing this week in and week out in various venues in the area helped to improve my performance style and build my confidence. It's been a great training ground. I came here to find my feet as a solo performer. I've done exactly that, and then some. I've far surpassed what my main aims for university were. I came here to do two very clear and simple things:

- Improve as a singer
- Become a more confident performer.

I have:

- Improved dramatically as a singer
- Become a very confident performer. (And not just as a musician)
- Gained further experience in management (inc managing senior staff)
- Helped to run a company.
- Selected and interviewed candidates for senior posts.
- Sat on a board for the board for the Kingston race Equality Commission

The list goes on...

What comes next for me? I'm partially uncertain, but I honestly cannot wait! In more ways than one, I am indeed made In Kingston. And I am immensely proud.

 

I finished my degree at Kingston in June 2012 and contrary to popular opinion about life after a humanities/arts degree... life has been filled with opportunities since. I studied History of Art and Design, a course now offered as joint honours with Fine Art. For me, studying a degree at Kingston didn't just mean turning up to lectures and submitting essays- there were constant opportunities for interaction with people from the vast number of pathways available in the creative industries. Volunteering at Dorich House Museum, attending guest lectures and major conferences led by people in industry, and trips to galleries, museums, heritage sites and auction houses opened my eyes to all sorts of careers that I would never have previously considered, beyond the more obvious museum and gallery work: from working in auction houses, heritage sites, conservation, film, as an arts administrator, archivist, museum education officer, editor or researcher, teacher or lecturer, exhibition or events organiser, antiques dealer... the list goes on.

A degree in the arts from Kingston equips you with a new skill set, that I didn't fully realise I had until it came to my final semester, when whilst juggling writing my thesis with other essay deadlines I found myself continually being asked ''so what are you actually going to do with your degree?!'' Filling in C.V.s and wondering what the past three years had achieved beyond that final grade, with the guidance of the careers advice team I realised I'd learnt to write and orally communicate, to analyse and interpret, to be visually and critically aware and manage my time so that I could work independently... and not spend hours on Facebook. Now, I'd be lying if I said you can walk straight into a fully fledged career in the arts sector straight after your BA. But with these skills I found myself meeting all manner of work criteria. And so it was, that I ended up a month after leaving Kingston, working at English Heritage HQ, as a technical assistant in the archives. I spent a year in the job and met people from all sectors of the organisation, in varying roles from archiving and research to conservation, marketing and retail. Part way through the year I found that as much as I was learning and opportunities to move around the organisation were gradually presenting themselves, I was missing the independent research and writing that had become part of my life at Kingston.

The support offered throughout my time by lecturers at Kingston continued once I left, and when I contacted a few of my tutors they were brilliant at offering advice, and with their guidance I decided to embark on an MA in design history. I'm now coming to the end of a very intense year in Dublin, and will be returning to London next month to write my thesis, ready to submit in September. Kingston taught me the joys of historical research and equipped me with the tools to do it. I now know that I want to continue to develop a career in academia: researching, writing, teaching and hopefully publishing! After I return to London next month I will be applying to work as an assistant in one of the roles mentioned above, hopefully gaining further experience for a year or two whilst putting together my Ph.D. research proposal and applying for funding and studentships.

Studying at Kingston prepared me for life after university by presenting an array of career opportunities to me, and giving me the foundations of knowledge, skills and experience to be eligible for them. Career guidance was always realistic in terms of immediate job prospects, but also encouraging, showing me the skill set that I had gained whilst at Kingston could be applied in a variety of roles, and giving me the confidence to seek them out. The willingness of staff to offer advice and support after university has been great, eliminating any chance of feeling lost and adrift.

If you are considering a career in the arts, be it practical or research based, don't let social pressure and opinion put you off pursuing your passion. It will take work, commitment and drive, but with a degree from Kingston the journey will be made much easier.

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