The 5th union of the Birmingham 2022 team opened with Kerry O’Coy of Fused magazine sharing some of her top tips for being both a natural and proficient journalist. Developing interview skills is crucial to the success of the project as they will be our point of contact with the artists involved, making them our chance to build the foundations of unique and meaningful content.
Here are the main points to come out of Kerry’s advice:
– Know your angle. Think about what you want to get from the meeting. Consider how much information you need for the article and what format it will take (Q&A, extracted quotes, etc)
– Come prepared. Bring more questions than you think you need. This will make you less nervous about running out of things to say, but make sure you ask the most important stuff first. Always check your recording equipment works!
– Adapt. If the interviewee is reeling off an interesting story in line with your intentions for the article, go with it! If they go off on an unrelated tangent, gently steer them back in.
– Do your homework. Research the person you’re interviewing. They will appreciate your interest and they may share more with you as a result, making your article more unique.
– Zip it! Encouragement should come through nodding on recorded interviews; don’t ‘um’ and ‘ah’ over their speech. It’s not about you, it’s about them, so don’t interrupt.
– Say thank you. End on a genuine and positive note; take the opportunity to ask if you can contact them again for anything else.
For the next part of the session we were joined by representatives from the culture sector to discuss their insights into the future of Birmingham.
Caitlin Griffiths – Capsule Project Manager for the Discovery season (@BusyCaitlin)
Alex McCorkindale – Independent Creative Producer (@AlexMcCork)
Kerry O’Coy – Co-creator of Fused magazine & Area Guide (@KerryFused)
Amy Martin – Independent Producer and all round cool bean (@amyrozelmartin)
Topics of Discussion:
Library of Birmingham opening season, ie. The Discovery Season
Caitlin describes that the essence of a library is a place to discover information, with Capsule working to rediscover the Library of Birmingham as a fresh cultural venue. Exciting changes to its function include the introduction of gallery and theatre spaces, bringing with them new ideas and ways of working. Capsule are working with smaller arts organisations in Birmingham to deliver this new programme, moving the role of the library in an innovative direction.
Subsidised vs. Commercial arts in Birmingham
Alex explains that subsidised arts are not linking as well as they could with commercial arts; they’re not blending / they ‘miss’ each other. If this was to change it would benefit both sides, both economically and in terms of bringing diverse types of people together. The idea of accessibility to the arts is discussed, with notions that the language used to advertise events can put people off, feeling that it ‘isn’t for them’. Trust and building relationships with people seems important, breaking down barriers between institutions and a wider public. The Home of Metal exhibition at BMAG is an excellent example of this, with Caitlin telling us a huge percentage of its visitors had never been to the venue before.
What do funding cuts mean for the creative and culture sector in Birmingham?
What Next? is a movement to come out of the cuts, with the ‘shake around’ in the arts forcing people to think differently, and work with people they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Kerry adds frankly that it is the survival of the fittest, and those that can adapt will endure.
Frustrations are also voiced that bigger companies are safe in terms of funding and can be unadventurous in what they put out, with the most exciting projects can be found coming out of the smaller independent organisations.
Amy’s advice is that people need to lean on their creative capacity to consider different revenue streams. Other types of funding include philanthropy (boards of trustees), sponsorship funds (red bull and absolut vodka are examples) and crowdfunding (including online resources such as kickstarter).
The future of Birmingham: what do you want to see?
Caitlin wants to see more recognition for the smaller arts institutions in Birmingham such as ESP and Grand Union for the great work / quality programming that they do.
Alex wants happenings to be more geographically widespread around Birmingham, with people travelling in to the city for events and vice versa.
Kerry wants the council to shape up; delivering freedom, having vision, and making it easier for fantastic projects to operate in Birmingham so as not to drive them elsewhere.
Amy wants to see more aspiration and pride for the city i.e. swagger about what Birmingham has to offer.
To round off the session we all shared our individual views of what arts and culture may be like in Birmingham in the year 2022; the first stage of writing self-directed articles for the publication. Interesting angles were presented by all, with key subjects coming out as:
– How the past will inform our the future
– Ethnic diversity and cultural sharing
– Virtual realities changing and contributing to experiences
– The changing wants and needs of consumers
Amy suggests that collaborations could be made where ideas overlap, and encouraged us to develop each avenue further due to an overarching awesomeness.
Great session, gang. Until next time.