But alongside these two very public events, I spent the day yesterday on a stand at FeshFest in Bury St Edmunds’ apex conference and concert venue. This is a new careers fair featuring all the avenues your careers master may not mention. Two if us were sharing knowledge about the arts and cultural industries alongside a jeweller, a tattoo artist, a video games designer, a cup cake maker and all manner of music industry folk. There were professional session musicians, graffiti artists and young bands, all showing 16 years olds that they are allowed to dream.
And that brings me to my fear of butchers shops. Let me explain. As a child I did some shopping for my Nan who brought me up. I’d go off to the sweet shop or the chemist, the local sainsbury’s counter, or the butchers shop. In most cases I felt, for an 8 year old, relatively ok. But an immense shyness came over me when I walked into the butchers. He’d look down at me and ask what I wanted. I couldn’t just point – I was meant to know the differences between different meats. If I then said “a piece of lamb, please” that wasn’t enough. I’d then be asked what cut, what weight. Loads of questions I didn’t know how to answer. The result was, and still is, a real fear of standing in a queue waiting to be served in almost any shop where I might be asked what I want. What has this got to do with Freshfest….
One of the things I observed was the number of young people 15-17yrs old who siddled along the corridor of stalls not looking anyone in the eye and not knowing how to engage in a conversation with the stallholder. I also saw that, sometimes, we didn’t help. We waited for them to talk to us.
On a contrary note there were a few young people who came, with a sparkle in their eye, straight up to us, and when asked what their career path might be, or what they were interested in, would answer very clearly. I want to work in a zoo, be a journalist, go into the army and deal in air take-off, or go into business/accountancy. They had found their personal way through the fear of the butchers queue to be able to answer clearly.
Many people who know me will find it bizarre that I can, and have, walk onto the stage of Drury Lane Theatre and introduce an Awards ceremony gala, or chair a conference, or facilitate a room with 200 doctors and patients exploring the NHS. But I remain frightened everytime someone asks me to circulate at a party and network, or (even now) go into an electrical shop or a butchers.
The challenge for all of us working in the arts, or any career, is to see that shyness in people and help to encourage them to grab every opportunitiy, follow their dreams and have confidence that we will want to help them if they help themselves.
It was a great day at Freshfest. I hope the Theatre Royal, Menta, West Suffolk College and the Princes Trust, with The apex will come back together and do it again next year. Young people have to be encouraged to dream. Freshfest can help.