Creative approach to career choice

1st April 2005 at 01:00
Songwriting, stage design and dressmaking are just some of the range of jobs in the creative industries being introduced to pupils in Falkirk. Miranda Fettes reports.

A few landmarks stand out in the flat landscape of central Scotland.

Grangemouth's giant cooling towers can be seen from miles around, pumping out thick smog against a backdrop of snow-dusted Ochil Hills. A few miles away, the Falkirk Wheel welds a sturdy arc in the sky, while the brand new Falkirk Stadium gleams in the sunlight.

On the third floor of the stadium building, 90 S3-S6 pupils from Falkirk's eight secondary schools are gathered for a careers fair with a difference.

Creative Futures is all about how to find a job and relevant training in a creative industry.

Falkirk council cultural co-ordinators Fiona Ferguson and Gayle Martin dreamt up the idea.

"Creative industries," they say, "is a term used to describe careers covering advertising, architecture, crafts and furniture design, fashion, film, graphic design, interactive leisure software, music, performing arts, television, radio and internet broadcasting, visuals arts and antiques, and writing and publishing.

"We realised there isn't a lot of guidance or support for pupils interested in a creative industry or information for parents and teachers," explains Ms Martin.

They approached the Scottish Executive's Determined to Succeed programme with their idea and secured pound;3,000 of funding for the day, plus another Pounds 2,000 for follow-up outreach projects.

Representatives from Careers Scotland and Scottish Enterprise are taking notes, and Ms Ferguson and Ms Martin say the Executive's cultural policy unit has expressed interest in it as a blueprint for something on a national scale - or adapting hand-picked aspects once feedback from the pilot reveals which elements prove most successful.

The day begins with four hour-long talks, in architecture, art and graphic design; song writing, DJ work and sound engineering; film, video and theatre; and interior design, dance and costume design. The pupils are divided into four groups and each attends one of the talks.

In the theatre and film talk, Marianne Maxwell, marketing and education manager for touring theatre company 7:84, tells the pupils about the broad range of jobs in theatre.

"Acting is the visible part of it," she says. "There's such a wide spectrum of jobs." These range from stage and set design, sound and directing to front-of-house work, designing programmes and posters and co-ordinating.

In another room, costume designer Alison Brown shows a DVD clip about the costume and make-up design for the film Pirates of the Caribbean. She explains how the process involves dozens of jobs, from cutters, wardrobe assistants and dressers to make-up artists, hairdressers, prosthetics experts and wig designers.

She passes round a scrap book of fashion and costume pictures and drawings cut out of magazines and explains various techniques used to "distress" clothes, such as scraping them with a cheese-grater and staining them with tea, coffee or soap, or throwing them in a cement mixer with bricks to make them ragged and dirty.

Megan Buhrmann and Ashleigh McGeorge, S4 pupils at St Mungo's, found the talk interesting.

"I want to do something creative," says Megan, "something to do with costumes for films or fashion."

Ashleigh doesn't know what she wants to do when she leaves school but says:

"I was interested in the aspect of dance. I didn't realise there were so many different jobs and things you can do."

Ashley Brown, an S6 pupil from Braes High, has a place at Heriot-Watt University's fashion design course on its Borders campus: "I'm in the middle of doing my own portfolio and it's really inspiring to see how other people do it," she says.

Zahra Yasmin, an S4 pupil at Braes High, enjoyed the talks. "I'm still deciding what I want to do. Something to do with fashion," she says. "The only problem is I haven't taken art, but I think I'll try to do a crash Higher in art."

After a break, the pupils choose one of six workshops, in dance, videofilm, drama, songwriting, samba (drumming, not dancing) and ejay (electronic DJing).

Musician and songwriter Tippi takes the song-writing workshop, discussing and demonstrating how to source ideas and inspiration for melody and lyrics, structure, arrangement, tempo, drum pattern and so on.

"There is no right or wrong way to write a song," she says. "If it was as easy as taking a piece of bread and putting jam on it, everyone would be doing it.

"Song writing is a very personal thing and should always be done in a way that feels most natural to the writer. If you have a great melody and a great lyric, you have a great song. In the first 45 seconds, you need to attract a listener and keep them listening to the end."

Ross Anderson, an S6 pupil at Bo'ness Academy who plays the guitar and the violin and plays in a band, says: "It was quite inspirational."

In the drama workshop, taken by 7:84, pupils are participating in games and acting techniques, before splitting into three groups to create a scene, build their characters and perform a mini-play.

In the videofilm workshop, taken by the Edinburgh film company Strange Boat, two boys are being videoed and recorded with a giant microphone by four girls. The tutor explains to the camerawoman how to frame the picture:

"Just as you would frame a still picture, you want to take time to frame every moving image."

Round the corner, two groups of girls are being shown various dance moves with pop and street influences, building up to a short choreographed sequence, in which they can choose how they want to interpret certain steps.

After lunch, the pupils have the option of sampling a second workshop, and in the evening parents, teachers and more pupils together with musicians and representatives from art colleges and local businesses are invited to an event to promote creative careers.

"It's targeted at parents. It's to let them know if their child wants to get into creative industries or media, there are stable jobs," explains Gayle Martin, who says many parents are anxious that there is no secure financial future in artistic careers.

Further follow-up sessions have been arranged, including bands visiting schools, 7:84 travelling around delivering a drama workshop, and portfolio advice sessions for youngsters eager to pursue a career in art or architecture. There is also a long-term objective to set up a website.

"It's just a pilot at the moment so we'll see what feedback we get from the day, but we've arranged to run it in the first term of every year and we do envisage it growing and growing," says Ferguson.


The Creative Futures project has three parts to it:

* an annual creative industries careers fair for pupils, teachers and parents;

* a support and guidance service for pupils, teachers and parents; and

* ongoing outreach visits to schools from those working in the creative industries.

The outreach events include bands, drama workshops, dance performances, industry talks and portfolio seminars for pupils interested in a career in art. The provisional line-up includes bands Cinephile and the Donald Lindsay Band, Stuart Cassells (the Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2005), theatre companies 7:84 and Nonsense Room, the dance company Freshmess and art presentations and seminars by Falkirk College.

Cultural co-ordinators Fiona Ferguson and Gayle Martin hope the event will grow so that they can offer places to as many pupils as wish to attend.

Future developments, they say, will include running a similar event with the active schools team and creating a website for pupils to access information, in addition to running a series of outreach workshops.


* An estimated 100,000 Scots work full-time in the creative industries, with an annual turnover of pound;5 billion.

* 6.7 per cent of Scotland's jobs are in or related to the creative industries.

* Scottish Enterprise predicts a growth of 30 per cent within the next three to five years, creating up to 2,000 new jobs.

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