A Day in The Life of A Digital Native – NOISEfestival

 NOISEfestival launch featuring Alistair Darling and Badly Drawn Boy

In between covering social media usage amongst FTSE 100 companies, I try and post blog articles sharing interesting industry events I attend.

Last week’s post about Manchester’s first Social Media Café drew lots of comments and readers and I’m pleased to announce that the guys and gals behind the PR Media blog have since uploaded the video interviews they created from the event.

Click through here to watch a 3 minute video in which myself and Sarah Hartley, Head of Online Editorial at the Manchester Evening News (MEN) talk about what inspired our interest in social media and where we see things going in that space.

On to the next…

I spent much of last Tuesday at Manchester Town Hall, Manchester City Council HQ at a unique networking event for new creative talent under 25 called Creative Futures.

The Manchester City Council-sponsored event, organised by NOISEfestival.com, the UK’s first virtual creative festival which showcases artistic under-25s, offered young creatives industry feedback and portfolio reviews from over 30 creative individuals and media organisations including MTV, BBC, Badly Drawn Boy, Wayne Hemingway, Warp Films, The Independent on Sunday, Babycakes, Big Active and Zaha Hadid Architects.

NOISEfestival.com is essentially a virtual showcase for artists aged 25 and under whose work can be presented digitally.  It covers work in music, fashion, film, design and written word.  Funded by the Arts Council and North West Development Agency (NWDA), it is a biennial online arts showcase which so far has reached 6000 young artists.

The two-day Creative Futures event featured an Indoor Festival complete with customised tents inside the Town Hall’s historic Great Hall, portfolio reviews and one-to-ones with industry experts and a number of live art installations.

What follows is a write up of my experience at the event’s launch.  The cheeky title alludes to the ethos of the NOISEfestival: showcasing work created by the digital stars of tomorrow, today’s digital native.

Highlight of the day for me was the Creative Business debate featuring Babycakes, the much talked about Manchester-based fashion company founded by twenty-year old MySpace entrepreneur Paul Griffiths (previously covered in our Glimpse Into The Future article), idiosyncratic DJ and artist, Andy Carthy (aka Mr. Scruff) and Manchester-based cultural impresario and entrepreneur, Gary McClarnan.

The eclectic panel, expertly chaired by Manchester music producer Johnny Jay, explored the relationships between creative people and their managers and also included Matt Johnson, General Manager of the Babycakes empire.

As usual, I’ve typed up my favourite quotes and tips from the debate, sharing standout points from each speaker in their own words.  If you were there and spot something that wasn’t, please pipe up in the comments.

First up was Gary McClarnan:

He is director of Sparkle Street, an artist management company.  He started out as a photographer, working on such magazines as ID, 2020, NMESounds, MixMag in the 80s.  He was the retained photographer for the Hacienda night club from 1986-89.

Whilst carving out an illustrious career in photography, he branched out into music management, managing the DJ Sasha for a while. He also successfully put on club nights across the North West, learning how to make money and be resourceful.

Despite his success, he suffered because he wasn’t able to negotiate contracts and manage his own accounting.

Heavily involved in the ‘clubbing’ scene of the time, the suicidal death of any employee from amphetamine abuse made him realise he was headed that way.

He closed everything and walked away and did a course on Business and Finance at Manchester University and then studied music law.

A chance meeting with Manchester arts curator and music promoter, Barney of Doodlebug led on to him putting out the first Mr. Scruff record.

He went on to manage a number of music projects: from Toolshed, a huge project by Graham Massey (808 State) featuring a 16 piece band with 4 drum kits, to Fingathing, a pioneering Manchester hip hop ‘band’.

Alongside the music management, he now manages the ‘business’ that is Mr. Scruff, Andy Carthy.

Andy Carthy has a team of around 6 people around him and performs 120-150 shows a year including festival gigs playing to tens of thousands of people at a time.

Very hands on, he hand draws a flyer for every gig/club night he DJs at and designs his own vinyl covers.

Alongside that there’s the tea brand that Mr Scruff recently launched, Make Us A Brew and Cup, a Manchester café Gary owns which recently won Casual Dining Venue of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2008.

Got involved with Babycakes after hearing about them through a band he manages, The Earlies.

Paul was getting pitches from people who might not be able to help him.

Proved by example what they could do for him.

Now to hear from Paul Griffiths himself:

Started Babycakes a year ago.  It’s basically an online store that sells t-shirts and hoodies.

Bought 50 shirts, sold half and gave half away.

Covered his costs this way.  So he bought 50 more and did the same.  Now selling hundreds of shirts a day by mail order.

Employs two friends to sell shirts.

Was previously selling gas and electricity on the phone.

Met Matt Johnson and Gary McClarnan and opened up shop.  Designs the shirts in Photoshop, creates something he wants to wear and what his friends would want to wear.

Didn’t plan on becoming a business.

Met Matt from The Earlies at a Babycakes Manchester party and mentioned he wanted to move to Manchester and open a store.

The store opened on 10th August with people from as far away as the US queuing from 9am to make the 2 hour store opening.

Now works with a General Manager (Matt Johnson) who manages the day to day running of the store and a team of around 10.  He (Paul Griffiths) is Creative Director of the company.

The buzz and interest in Babycakes is phenomenal.

They have nearly sold out of tickets for a London event even without people knowing who is playing.

They are often featured in Trend reports highlighting underground youth culture.  That is in fact how I first heard about them!

What’s Next for Babycakes:

Babycakes music aka Chip tunes: releasing tunes made using a Gameboy, a handheld video game console manufactured by Nintendo. They also have a London event coming up and a trip to Norway that will include a meet up of Norwegian Babycake fans!

After the debate I wandered around the festival and soaked up what was on offer for the young creatives who had come along, often travelling considerable distances.

I listened in on an industry One-to-One with Kate Fewins of Warp Films in which a new graduate from London called Riffat Ahmed pitched her work.

Recently featured in a Channel 4 programme about making music videos on a small budget, she showed an intriguing music video that displayed a smart, MTV-friendly directorial style.

When asked she said she would like to ideally work in music videos or short films.

Kate Fewins was magnanimous in her advice, not a mean feat since she had probably seen scores of videos so far that day.  She advised Riffat to join forces with a screen writer to provide writing support, look into ways to get her name around and perhaps get an agent.

I also interviewed an up and coming artist lucky enough to be featured in the Creative Futures event programme.

Zulaica Yusaf was responsible for my favourite art installation on the day.  Part live art installation, part giant soft toy, her My Big White Boyfriend, a giant hand made rag doll, attracted much attention at the entrance to the Great Hall.

A recent design graduate from Napier University in Edinburgh, she has moved to London to pursue a career in the design industry.

Selected by NOISEfestival curator, designer Tom Dixon as a “Curator’s choice”, she said she really liked the exposure provided to new artists by the event.

When I asked her about what she felt would be the way forward for her interesting art piece, she said she would like to explore branding opportunities.

And I guess that’s the point of the NOISEfestival, bringing together artists, companies and imaginative folk with the will to make money from art.

Power to them, I say.

What do you think?

What would your advice be to young artists like Zulaica Yusaf starting out?

Share in the comments.

Photo credit: NOISEfestival’s Flickr Stream

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  • http://www.glow-sticks.org/Glow-Gloves.html Glow Gloves

    I think that the NOISEfestival is a great festival. It is a chance for many young minds to exhibit their talent and creativity. I hope it continues successfully every year.

  • http://www.AndreasAndews.com Andreas Andrews

    Great article… some interesting things in here I’m suprised I didn’t already know. Shame I missed this event, it sounded pretty good. I’m gonna have to start going to my favourite city a little more…