Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention team brought together young aspiring dancers, MCs, music producers and graffiti artists to learn new skills and create a music video as part of Future Elements. The free, annual project engaged 28 students aged 13-16 with hip-hop culture during the February half term.
Over the course of a week, professional artists led the participants into an exploration of various aspects of hip hop, from choreographing routines and creating artwork to lyric writing and music production. The week culminated in the creation of a professional music video, which will premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 21 March.
The seven mentors to the group of young students were: Breakin’ Convention’s artistic director Jonzi D; b-boy and founding member of dance group Rain Crew Clint Sinclair; Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey from dance company Boy Blue Entertainment; rap artist Capo Lee; graffiti artist Boyd Hill; film director Sebastian Thiel; and TSB, a music producer who has worked with rappers including Stormzy, Dave and AJ Tracey.
spoke to some of the participants and TSB to find out about their experience, inspirations
and highlights of the project.
“I’m Jordan. I’m 17 years old. My favourite artists are Stormzy and Dave. I joined the programme because it’s all about Future Elements, so it’s all about us – the future! The experience this week has inspired me and my music.”
“My name’s Caleb. I’m 15. My favourite artist right now is Santan Dave. I like performing, rapping and acting. I got involved in Future Elements because I had the experience with Breakin’ Convention before, when I took part in the East Education summer school, and I wanted to do it again. This week I learned to be more confident on stage. TSB gave me a few producing tips as well, which was really good.”
“My name is Havin. I’m 14 years old. Right now, I’m listening to Dave. I wanted to do Future Elements because it was a new opportunity and I knew there would be good networking and good mentors. The biggest thing I learned this week is that TSB is actually alive – before this, I didn’t know if he really existed or not! He’s a bit low-key, so I was shocked when I met him.”
We spoke to music producer and mentor TSB about his experience as a mentor on the Future Elements project.
did you hear about Future Elements?
I heard about Future Elements through Shay [Rafati, Breakin’ Convention’s Education Officer]. I’d got involved with Breakin’ Convention’s [artist development course] Minor Art Surgery before, but this was the first time I’ve done any sort of mentoring in this capacity. When Shay contacted me about Future Elements, it looked like something I definitely wanted to get more involved in, so I did.
you tell us a little bit about how you work?
I like to start from scratch. I didn’t come with any beats ready; I made everything on the spot in front of them, making sure there was more of an immersive element. It allows you to understand the young people quicker – what they dislike and what they like. Involving them in that capacity allowed things to run a bit smoother.
there any surprises along the way?
I was surprised about how capable they were – they were able to just jump on beats and do their thing. It’s crazy because I didn’t actually start making music until I was 16. Meeting kids who are younger than when I first started out, it’s good to see how that generation has advanced and developed and grown already. I found the whole process comfortable.
you share a highlight of being a mentor on Future Elements?
There’s been a few. Seeing the joy that the young people get from this – that’s been a highlight. Music is an amazing way to express yourself. Seeing some of the kids that are multitalented – that can dance as well as rap and sing and do other things. It’s been exciting to see the talent overall.
Being able to witness how good these young kids are has really been a big highlight, especially the ones that didn’t even know they had the ability to do this. For them to try and achieve what they’ve achieved this week has been great to see.
What three words would you use to describe your experience on the Future Elements programme?
Caleb: entertaining, exciting and fun.
Havin: amazing, great and enlightening.
Future Elements in three words? Very, very good.
Fun. Motivating. Inspiring.
Images throughout: Ryan McAneny.
Tickets for Future Elements Night on 21
March are available here.
To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we celebrate the contribution of three talented apprentices working at Sadler’s Wells: Campaign Marketing apprentice Amy Falla, Digital & Content apprentice Angharad Mainwaring and Breakin’ Convention Support apprentice Ryan McAneny.
We ask them about some common misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships, tips on how to break into the creative industries and what the future holds for them.
Tell us about yourself. What have you been watching or reading recently? If you could master a new skill in an instant, what would it be?
Amy: I’m the Campaign Marketing Apprentice here at Sadler’s Wells and I’m doing business association at [tech startup] White Hat. I run an art collective back home in Suffolk to help connect and promote young artists in the region. My role here has really inspired me to communicate art to a younger audience and engage young people in the arts.
I recently read How To Fail by Elizabeth Day. I noticed someone in the Campaigns team reading it so I went out and bought it. It’s really good! The skill I would learn if I had the chance is knowing how to save money.
Angharad: I’m currently studying digital marketing level 3 and I’m the Digital & Content Apprentice at Sadler’s Wells. I really like art and creating things digitally. I’m also interested in advocacy around disability and I’m trying to do a lot of research on that at the moment. I run my own blog and it’s really fun being able to merge my interest in accessibility with the digital content skills I’m using at work.
I’m currently watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. If I could learn a skill overnight, it would be to learn a new language. l think it would be so cool to be able to whip out Russian any time you like!
Ryan: I’m 23, I’m studying business administration and I’m the Breakin’ Convention Support Apprentice. I dance outside of work, I teach dance outside of work, I’m a dad outside of work (laughs). At the moment I’m re-watching Prison Break because it’s the best thing that ever happened and I’ve just finished Suits. If I could learn anything, it would be a new language.
does your apprenticeship involve day-to-day?
assist the marketing managers at Sadler’s Wells and at The Peacock with
campaigns. That might involve helping to brainstorm ideas on how we’re going to
promote a show, researching the audience we’re going to promote it to,
grassroots and e-mail marketing. I also help out with the access scheme as well
as admin duties, such as working on print and posters.
Angharad: Day-to-day, I help [Digital Manager] Mark and [Digital Officer] Sarah to build web pages, make videos for our front-of-house plasma screens and edit smaller trailers. I also help [Content Officer] Rosie and [Content Manager] Rosanna with subtitling video content. Now that I’m a few months into the apprenticeship, it’s quite nice that I don’t have to keep asking them what I need to do. People know that we’re here and things fall onto our plate quite naturally.
Ryan: I do a lot of research for [hip hop theatre festival] Breakin’ Convention’s national tour – specifically around where we can utilise our outreach, especially at the grassroots level with local schools, dance and production companies. As we tour around cities and towns across the country, the aim is to start sparking conversations [between venues and local hip hop artists] and leaving a network in place. I’d say I spend a lot of my time here asking questions, mostly about hip hop theatre.
is a common misconception about apprenticeships? Could you share some ‘myth-busters’
and tips from your experience so far?
Amy: Apprenticeships in the arts can be quite hard to come by. Working for a really renowned arts organisation like Sadler’s Wells, we’re proving that actually apprenticeships are out there. University isn’t the only pathway into the creative industries, you just need to dig a little deeper. Platforms like gov.uk and the Arts Council’s website are really good starting points for apprenticeship opportunities and arts jobs.
Angharad: I think a misconception around apprentices comes from our age. Usually, apprentices tend to be younger so there’s that assumption that we’re personal assistants or that we get the teas and coffees. I think younger people in the arts sector give organisations more of an insight into younger audiences. My advice to employers is: don’t be afraid to challenge the youth. We can be given more responsibilities, if anything.
Ryan: My initial thoughts before working at Breakin’ Convention were that apprentices did the jobs that no one else wants to do. I used to think that you don’t really have much of a say or hold as much importance in the organisation. But I actually think I’ve learned more coming in as an apprentice than if I had jumped straight into a job here. I’ve been able to learn a lot of things rather than focusing on the one thing. I have way more responsibility than I ever thought I would.
aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
the auditorium packed full of all different types of audiences. It’s really
encouraging to see that the marketing campaigns we’ve worked on have that kind
of impact at the end of the day. One other thing that’s great about working at
Sadler’s Wells is that we’re encouraged to make the most out of the experience.
I did some shadowing for the costume department, which was different to what I
normally do, but also really interesting in terms of seeing the other side of
Angharad: I like everything about my job! Recently I made the grid poster for Sadler’s Wells Sampled. It was so cool, because Amy sent me photos of it being projected on the front-of-house screens and in the auditorium. It’s really rewarding to see that something you’ve worked on has contributed to a show in the grand scheme of things.
Another highlight was helping the Content team with the Natalia Osipova video in the ‘Confessions of a Ballet Star’ series. It was amazing to see it go viral, it made me feel like a proud mum.
Ryan: I recently helped out [Breakin’ Convention Digital Communications Officer] Dave with the filming and editing for the highlights reel of Back To The Lab, Breakin’ Convention’s professional development programme. It was my first time having that much control over a digital project like that, and I probably would never been able to do that anywhere else.
I also love watching the creative process of the artists on our professional development courses. I’d love the opportunity to do Open Art Surgery one day. Seeing the opportunities here in London just makes me think of how I can help to take the same opportunities to Birmingham, where I’m based.
Have you encountered any challenges?
Amy: Leaving the office at 4pm! You need to
remember that you do have a life outside of work, and it’s just as important.
Angharad: It’s hard to juggle the responsibilities of doing a course and your day-to-day job. It’s not like you’re in a classroom. You’re at your desk and people assume you’re just getting on with Sadler’s Wells stuff, when actually you’re dedicating time to assignments, which need to be the priority sometimes.
Ryan: Balancing my workload with my college
work. I get very into my work, so sometimes it’s hard to switch off when I get
home. There’s also so much more time management you do with a new-born!
Jobwise, I never really look back at anything I’ve done and see it as a
challenge. It’s more like, “that was a lot of effort and hard work, but it was
How has your apprenticeship benefited you?
networking opportunities have been really great. I’ve been able to meet people
in similar roles at other organisations, theatres and galleries. I still don’t
really know where I want to go in the future, but I think understanding the
different pathways into an arts organisation is the first step. The insider
knowledge you get from working in an arts organisation on things such as Arts
Council funding, audience development, tone of voice – it’s all really useful
stuff, which I’ll go on to use personally and professionally.
Angharad: I definitely feel like I’ve learned so many skills already. Being able to practise what I’ve always been interested in has been amazing. The guidance from Sarah, Mark and Rosie has been great; hearing from arts professionals about how they got to where they are and learning from them on a day-to-day basis, I’m just in pure admiration. If I could think of a word to describe Sadler’s Wells, it would be ‘inspiring’. Being inspired makes you want to express your creativity more and explore what you’re passionate about.
gained loads of new skills and networks. I can now write fancy emails (laughs).
I’ve been given the opportunity to be the Breakin’ Convention rep for
Birmingham thanks to [Head of Breakin’ Convention] Chelle and [Breakin’
Convention Tour Producer] Emma, which is such a bonus for me. Liaising with
artists and freelancers has helped build my confidence in what I do. To be able
to say you’ve worked in the Breakin’ Convention team at Sadler’s Wells, having
that behind you – people are very interested in that.
To be honest, I never saw myself in an environment like this. Being a dancer, I was always used to everything being a bit rough around the edges, but here it’s really professional. Working 9 to 5 in an office doesn’t seem all that bad when you’re in the right environment, doing what you love. Theatre wasn’t a place I ever really saw myself working in, but now that’s where I want to go.
Apprenticeship Week 2020 takes place from 3 to 9 February 2020. The annual
celebration recognises the value and impact apprenticeships bring to employers
and the wider industry. This
year’s theme, ‘Look
on the value of diversity. The aim is to showcase the talent and contribution
apprentices bring to the workplace, as well as the breadth of industries and
roles available to young people considering routes into employment outside of