The creative industries are already an anxiety-ridden area to get into and this has increased ten-fold in recent months. A new podcast by Brighton-based company, LOOKOUT has been produced in an effort to help young people aged between 16 and 24 gain more experience. Sam Nicholls talks to both its founder and host/ producer.

According to the Cultural Learning Alliance, funding for the arts in UK schools is in a downwards spiral: making up only 0.011% of the National Education Budget in 2016, and ostensibly being squeezed even further since then, its not difficult to see why a lot of industry professionals feel arts education is slipping through the cracks. Moreover, with this drop in funding, many are scared that young people are getting only a partial understanding of the realities of the industry.

“Because arts education funding is so tight, students are only shown the ‘glamorous’ but ultra-competitive roles – the film directors, actors etc. – and are never taught about all the possible careers in the industry,” says Charlotte Vivian. The Co-Founder and Co-Director of LOOKOUT, a Brighton-based company that aims to educate young people on possible careers in the arts, Vivian has spent much of her working life trying to explain to students that there are so many opportunities that they aren’t being shown. “We’ve organised work experience placements, in-school workshops, trips to local theatres… young people never get taught about some roles: how can they want to be a ‘runner’, if they don’t know what a ‘runner’ is?”

Many students will feel more lost than ever right now, and they simply aren’t being taught all the possibilities that are out there. Luckily, LOOKOUT have launched a new venture to educate young people on the realities of the industry: the LOOKOUT Creative Careers podcast.

The 6-week series for 16-24 year olds will feature interviews with a range of professionals from an eclectic mix of careers: from ‘Tru Thoughts’ record producer, Rob Louis to 2nd Assistant Director, Helen Fraser, to award-winning artist, Victoria Melody, the LOOKOUT podcast will highlight career paths that often go overlooked or uncelebrated.

The idea for the series came to Vivian and the other co-directors earlier this year when they asked themselves a pertinent question: what was the best way to start an accessible conversation on career paths in the arts? Whilst they’d found great success in the past with their in-school workshops and mentoring schemes, engaging young people who perhaps thought the arts “weren’t for them”, they wanted to build a resource that broke down a profession and that could be revisited time and time again. “In that regard, a podcast is perfect – you can listen to it once, and then return later if you want more tips and tricks,” explains Vivian. “Plus, you’re hearing from the professionals themselves. You’re getting great advice straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Moreover, the series doubles down on its attempt to engage young people by having one of their own host and produce: 19-year-old Ben Lintott who had previously experienced the benefits of LOOKOUT’s opportunities, obtaining work-experience with Big Egg Films through the company. “I’ve experienced first-hand how great it is to talk to professionals about how they got to where they were,” Lintott says, “and I thought it was invaluable. A lot of young people know where they want to go, but don’t know how to get there… I think this podcast will help with that.”

For Lintott and Vivian, the podcast format was the obvious choice to create an accessible conversation. According to the Edison Research Centre, 61% of young people listen to over 7 hours of podcasts a week in the UK and subsequently, it’s the nation’s fastest growing medium, so one of the best ways to engage young people. Additionally, Lintott has made the episodes as accessible as possible. “They’re available literally everywhere,” he explains, “on YouTube and anywhere podcasts are found. That was really important to me – I really wanted to ensure people always have a way to access it”.

Furthermore, structurally, each episode is quite simple (just a conversation in which the professional explains their role and career) and includes a glossary of industry terms in the description. LOOKOUT have truly gone out of their way to ensure young people can find these episodes and have no issue understanding its content. “For me,” says Vivian, “it’s all about removing as many barriers as possible – you’ve got to do all you can to get this information as accessible as possible”.

Recorded before the coronavirus disrupted the industry so completely, the series consequently doesn’t touch on how the pandemic impacted the arts sector. LOOKOUT debated for a while on whether to include a recorded addendum to the series explaining this but decided against it. As Lintott explains, they felt they didn’t need to, “one thing that keeps coming up in the interviews is that no career path is linear and no one’s professional journey is ever smooth. So, by not talking about the coronavirus, I feel we’re telling young people that we’re confident we can return to normality and these professionals have weathered storms in this past, so we can weather this.” Indeed, as long as we have companies like LOOKOUT looking out for us, providing education and resources despite this tumultuous time, we can certainly weather anything.

For more information on the podcast, visit the Project Lookout website.