Emerging Creatives Kicked Off Their Careers During summer 2015, Shape worked with eight young people over the course of six weeks for our Emerging Creatives Professional Development Programme. Emerging Creatives is part of our Inspiring Futures Programme, which aims to foster the career aspirations of young disabled people and increase their employment knowledge and skills. The course covered areas such as identifying and tackling barriers, promoting oneself and one’s creative/career profile, getting to grips with Access to Work and how to make plans and work towards goals. The programme took place at several different arts venues across London, including the Albany, Camden Roundhouse, Southbank Centre and our very own Pop-Up gallery in Westfield Stratford. This year’s programme arose as a result of our Inspiring Open Day at the Royal Opera House in April 2015. The event brought together employers from the arts and creative industries with young disabled people aspiring to start their careers and find out more about the relevant opportunities and openings. We connected with more than fifty young people on the day and helped them to build towards the next step of their career. Supported by a number of experienced mentors and tutors, we offered career advice, individual sessions and professional skills development workshops to help boost self-confidence when facing barriers to employment. Eight young people finally signed up to the summer programme. The young creatives felt that the mentoring sessions combined with the skills development workshops were beneficial to their personal development; as a result they felt empowered, believing that their dreams were achievable and that they were now much closer to their goals. They also welcomed the opportunity to make friends with other young disabled people and share the experiences of applying for jobs and discussing their own artistic interests with their peers. Lilly Cook, one of the participants who is an aspiring journalist, reports her experience through the six week programme on her blog. The participants all agreed that the Emerging Creatives Programme made them much more aware of their potential as individuals and increased their confidence in order to take the next steps in their careers, confirming that the workshops motivated them to pursue their future aspirations. Most of the group stated that they had access to appropriate advice, training and pre-employment opportunities during the course, but felt that the ‘Remaining Strong Towards The Challenges’ workshop was the most beneficial to their career overall. This finding highlights the importance of addressing the obstacles young disabled artists and creatives face in seeking and accessing employment. It’s been very, very helpful...genuinely. It’s made me realise that my dreams aren’t out of reach – my arts dreams aren’t out reach. You only live once and you’ve got to seize the day! The personal stories of the mentors’ career journeys and their availability to offer support at any time were also considered to be one of the most important elements of the programme, as well as discovering new skills that they were not previously aware of. All mentors were experienced and acclaimed artists who acted not only as inspiring role models but also were ready to respond and personalise advice to each trainee’s aspirations and goals. The various workshops also exposed the group to a range of opportunities and tools that they found useful for goal planning and career development.The group consisted of musicians, artists, journalists and more. Diego, who is an artist with a strong passion for art performance and holds a degree in Graphic Design, will be continuing his art practice having completed the course with the intention of one day exhibiting his work at a gallery. Don’t give up. In this world there’s so many wonderful people that are able to help you to be successful, just surround yourself with these kind of people, be optimistic…. to quote Hellen Keller: "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." The last words of advice among the collective for other young disabled creatives in a similar position to themselves was, "Just go for it…" A special thanks goes to all the wonderful staff who led tours and made us so welcome at the Roundhouse and Southbank Centre – it made a huge difference finding out more about you and what you do. Our thanks to the group mentors and trainers: Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings, Rod McIntosh and James Monteith.