On Friday the 3rd of December, Winchester University hosted an event for Winchester Creatives to explain their journey and success in their mission to give young people hope to a room full of eager students, lecturers, former WC mentees and supporters. The event was truly an occasion for celebration, and the university did not disappoint in providing an array of food and drinks for all present.
Richard began the discussion by marking Winchester Creatives’ journey as a ‘story of hope’. He and Dan Benham, the founders of the organisation, started by facing down the greatest recession in 300 years. The pandemic had gripped the world by storm. The Resolution Foundation said after the first lockdown 1 million young people under 25 would be unemployed for the foreseeable future. Something needed to be done.
So Richard and Dan took it upon themselves to step up to meet the moment that institutions nationwide were failing to acknowledge. They decided: ‘screw it, let’s do it!’ and set about to change the lives of 25 (and counting) young individuals forever. The Winchester Creatives logo, modelled after the iconic Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols, visualises their approach of rebellious, unfettered self-expression.
This Mind the Gap 15-second video encapsulates the goals of Winchester Creatives and how it helped give young people hope and inspire them to start their careers in the digital and creative industry.
The following video is an online presentation where Richard explains the full extent of Winchester Creatives Year of Hope.
Two years after they started their journey, Richard, Dan, and all those involved in Winchester Creatives are proud to note that the mentees collectively reported a 72% decrease in hopelessness, a 67% decrease in feelings of job despair, and a 63% reduction in feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Taking motivation from this success, the team calculated using the HACT social calculator that Winchester Creatives could potentially quadruple the benefits to society of every single pound donated.
The team has delivered significant social impact, and can only continue to do so with help and support from those around them who want to see more positive outcomes for young people. It was heart-warming to see the heartfelt support from those attending the event; as I heard multiple people explain to their peers how they had ‘bought a mug or a t-shirt last year, and wanted to see how else [they] could help’.
So, a year later, those who had shown support for the enterprise in the first months of Winchester Creatives’ journey are prepared to rally yet again to move the team from strength to strength.
7 weeks into crowdfunding last year, the team had already amassed £6k from their friends and families. This initial boost allowed Richard and Dan to have what they described as the ‘best moment’ in the two years of their journey: welcoming 25 young mentees into their program. Giving this group of young people the chance to express themselves, excel and fulfil their ambitions was nothing short of a dream to all those at Winchester Creatives.
From their selflessness and dedication, a generation of young creatives has risen to the challenge and accomplished some incredible things. Richard and Dan saw the evolution of mentees from Waitrose cashiers to published illustrators, struggling university students to full-time videographers at Winchester College, and many more remarkable rags to riches successes. These individuals are truly a credit to Winchester Creatives and most importantly, to themselves.
The mentor program was intended to give new graduates skills applicable to the workplace and increase their chances of being hired. One mentee, Ella, shared that her joining Winchester Creatives was the ‘first time [I] felt excited about [my] career and what was to come. It gave me hope’, she claimed.
With resilience workshops to adorn CV’s, real-life experience in projects like the Casella family brand Pepperbox wines (now available in Tesco!) an SEO and copywriting course that markedly improved the mentees marketing skills, and bucketloads of valuable experience that Dan and Ella (ex-mentees) both admit were integral to their achievements in getting their new jobs. At this event, Matt (another former mentee), speaking on his experience with the program, found himself at a loss for words: ‘thanks just isn’t enough, is it?’, he expressed.
Richard asked all former mentees present at the event to share what Winchester Creatives has meant to them. All of them expressed their gratitude for the program, but some responses stood out particularly.
Cain shared that Winchester Creatives was ‘incredibly selfless, and ‘able to strike the exact right notes each time’. Gabriele said that while she didn’t initially expect too much from the experience, it ‘went above and beyond’, and she had ‘no words’ to describe how thankful she was. Ella explained that her own experience had inspired her to help others when she was able to, in an effort to give back and support others as she had been supported.
Matt shared the story of his employment at Doc Martens, who had told him ‘we are not hiring you based upon experience (of working in the field), because you don’t have any’. Instead, they created a new role for him based on the skills he gained in the Winchester Creatives mentee programme. Hearing them speak, the true value of the work Winchester Creatives has done truly sank in.
Winchester Creatives is also striving to not only change the lives of multiple young individuals in the creative industries but also encourage people to challenge systemic injustices within the industry itself. Only 13% of people in the UK design industry are BAME. Despite that 63% of students in the creative arts are women, 78% of the design industry is male.
There is evidently an inequality in the industry, and only by listening to and uplifting minority voices (as all those in the mentor program did) can this be changed. The mentees were fortunate enough to receive a talk from Sabrina Chevannes allowing them to recognise the systemic issues within the industry as they prepared to move into it.
Sadly the funds needed to support a new set of mentees is now somewhat lacking. To keep this enterprise’s hopes alive, a coalition of willing between founders and members of Winchester Creatives, institutions, and those who wish to see a change in rising levels of unemployment for young people needs to develop.
Winchester Creatives has worked hard to try and establish partnerships with University of Winchester, the University of Southampton and Southampton Solent, Portsmouth University and other institutions to garner the support they need. It’s taking a lot longer to get these local partnership relationships going.
Hendog (a local graffiti artist whose work you may have seen dotted about) has said that our city has become ‘stagnant’. The creativity that once flowed abundantly through Winchester has slowed to a trickle. Feelings of hopelessness and despair in young people have been brought to the fore during the pandemic. Gifted people have been forced to waste their talent struggling to make ends meet in low-paid and uninspiring jobs, or at the very worst, no jobs at all. We desperately need to give more young people hope that they can start their careers confidently.
Winchester Creatives promises to and has proven that it can deliver, change.
With a proven scalable model in hand. The team are always open to offers of support and support to try and help change young people’s lives for good in Hampshire.
Here’s to a brighter future for young creatives everywhere.
including a 2022 BIMA10 Finalist Award
young people helped to find work in the digital industry
people and volunteers involved
reduction in the feelings of hopelessness
reduction in the feelings of job despair
increase in mentees’ feelings of confidence
Net Promoter Score
raised to support young people