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This network helps young people succeed in the creative arts

Words by Abi Scaife

It’s no secret that it’s hard to break into the creative industries - hello Nepo Baby debate - but it’s definitely harder for some than for others. Individuals from marginalised communities, including ethnic minorities and those from low-income backgrounds, are going to find it a lot harder than many others to find a job in the creative world.

What most people need when they are struggling is a mentor - someone to listen, give advice, and connect them - and that’s exactly what the Creative Mentor Network provides.

The Creative Mentor Network was founded in 2014, based on the belief that “our industries should reflect the diversity of our society” - something we love and agree with wholeheartedly!

Today, the Creative Mentor Network mentors young people - partnering them with adults who are already working in the creative industry and can give advice. They run partnerships with companies to help them reach young creatives through their jobs board, to help diversify the creative industries.

Smiley News had the amazing opportunity to talk to one of the brilliant mentors from The Creative Mentor Network - Adam Oyejobi, who is a Producer at Biscuit Films. Adam worked one-on-one with a young person hoping to build a career in the creative industry.

Outreach Manager engaging with young people - credit: Matthew Kaltenborn, Barbican, 2023.

Initially, mentors are connected with a mentee by the team at Creative Mentor Network, to create the best match. 

“My mentee was interested in short films, and he wanted to do a producer's masterclass of how to be a producer,” explains Adam. “I had just produced a short film … in the London Film Festival … that's why they matched us.”

Mentor-mentee pairs meet at least eight times over a 16-week course, but Adam says he and his mentee met or talked online far more often than that, just because of how it worked naturally.

“It's all about finding a balance,” explains Adam. “My mentee was studying and also working full time. Everyone has mentees of different ages and … it's about finding the balance between what works for both you and your mentee.”

“We had a relationship where we could contact each other whenever. Even if it was [just] for 15 minutes, we'd have a conversation. It was just about [being] flexible with each other and making sure that he was getting [what] he needed to get out of the programme.”

Alumni mentee and mentor

Adam was initially uncertain about being a mentor, thinking he was too young and new to the creative industry himself. However, he discovered that he was more experienced than he realised.

“[The relationship was] super fulfilling. It made me realise I know more than I think I do. For someone that doesn't know anything about what you do and has never been in that environment … I have five years experience to [give], but I wasn't thinking of it that way because of my age,” says Adam. “It's not [about having] a parent-child relationship. You're supposed to offer more of a support system.”

“It's about listening to that person's needs and helping them find solutions and come up with a plan on how they can attack some of their goals and reach some of their targets. There’s more you can offer than you think.”

Showcase picture from Positive Influence with Sony Music

Creative Mentor Network trains each mentor, covering safeguarding issues and teaching mentors how best to work with their mentees. As Adam rightfully said, it isn’t about a parent-child relationship full of orders and instructions, it’s about giving advice and learning more about your mentee so you can give them the best help possible.

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or a mentee, with the Creative Mentor Network, you can get in touch through their website.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

The Fawcett Society. This is the UK's leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women's rights. Support them here.

The Diversity Trust CIC. This Community Interest Company, established in 2012 in the UK, has a mission to ‘influence social change to create a fairer and safer society’. Learn more here.

Equally Ours. This s a UK charity that brings together people and organisations working across equality, human rights and social justice to make a reality of these in everyone’s lives. Find out more here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs