First off, a big thank you for jumping into this page and giving this article a quick spin. I'm hoping you'll take away a solid nugget of motivation to shape your world just the way YOU want.
For Black History Month, the Bute Street Festival pulled together a powerhouse duo: Akua Gyamfi, the driving force behind the British Black List, and the remarkable Gabrielle A. Smith, to co-host an industry discussion.
Akua's introduction hit home with the very essence of why the British Black List came to life - a response to the frustration of black talent not getting the recognition it deserves. She emphasised the crucial need to spotlight and nurture our own culture and heritage across all spaces, not just in the creative industry. Fuelled by relentless ambition and with her young daughter in her handbag, she made it happen!
“Through this journey I have had to create a platform that my own people can trust and with consistency and quality, the industry started to trust me more and from here I was able to gain that access and connections were made and I was able to usher in the new generations of black creatives that were well connected, doing things and levelling the playing field a little bit.”
Next in line was the outstanding Gabrielle A. Smith. Let me tell you, having her as part of the Luton residency is a major source of pride! Gabrielle is the visionary force behind THE NUBLK, a platform that beautifully shares stories of the black diaspora through art, film, and meaningful conversations. This month, THE NUBLK is celebrating a whopping 15 years of shining a spotlight on, celebrating, and now, preserving these invaluable conversations and celebrations of black excellence. Do yourself a favour and give her page a follow, and sign up for their mailing list!
We then brought Sherise Blackman and Jodie-Simone Howe into the mix to share their creative journeys and industry experiences. In our collective reflections, we hit on a truths: the creative industry can be a tight-knit community where knowing and working well with someone can dictate who gets opportunities. This often leaves heaps of talent overlooked, and competition for roles gets fierce. For people of colour, breaking into the industry can feel impossible, even when you're in a city of opportunities!
Sherise shared how she bounced back to writing and creating after dedicating two decades to being a stewardess for an airline. Her experience on Bridgerton was eye-opening - there was diversity in the cast, but a serious lack of diversity behind the scenes. This prompted the production to reassess their approach. Early in her career,
“I was handed a golden goose and I used it to help kick open doors for creatives of colour and other marginalised groups through the creation of the ladder program.”
This gave them the chance to step into impactful production roles in TV, and you better believe they went on to even bigger and better things.
In wrapping up the discussion, the group agreed on something crucial: finding someone you can relate to, sharing experiences, and keeping the dialogue alive is what holding bigger organisations and corporations accountable to supporting and highlighting the inequalities faced by minorities. On an individual note, it was truly inspiring to hear these powerful female success stories! They've faced their fair share of challenges on the way up, but that's what's equipped them to be the stellar industry leaders they are today.