This week, The Fetch London’s Community Ambassador, Alexandra Leslie spoke with Ben Cooper Melchiors, Hub General Manager for IdeasTap.
So let’s get to know each other! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a theatre creative and an arts manager. So I see producing and managing in the arts as an inherently creative process. My background is in theatre and arts admin, previously working in management roles at Battersea Arts Centre, starting with Punchdrunk’s Masque of Red Death, the National Youth Theatre, producing for artist Franko B and project managing the building of a theatre from 3 tonnes of reclaimed timber within The Red Room’s Oikos Project. Now I am Hub General Manager for IdeasTap, providing 50+ companies with an office via our skills swap programme, Creative Space.
I like building creative stuff: projects, performances, buildings, systems, companies, etc.
Before it’s launch in 2008, IdeasTap was just an idea. How did IdeasTap become a reality that’s helped other startups come to life?
Founded by the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust, arts charity IdeasTap is a creative network that provides funding, opportunities and advice for creative people. At its heart is the idea that placing yourself within a network is key to professional development, as well as gaining access to the opportunities and resources needed to build a creative career. Since 2008, the charity has developed a really useful website and partnered with creative industry leaders while looking to deliver the best opportunities possible to our members. And now IdeasTap specifically helps startups through Creative Space.
How did you come to be involved with IdeasTap?
I have been an IdeasTap member for years. However, after working in the same building for one of their partners the National Youth Theatre, IdeasTap offered me the job to develop Creative Space, since I knew the facilities well and could apply my MA research on creativity and professional experience in arts management.
What is the IdeasTap Creative Space programme?
Launched on a large scale in June 2012, Creative Space offers creative startups and freelancers access to Central London office space on a temporary basis, paid for via skill swap. This programme mirrors what the whole charity does: providing self-starters (often) their first office, meeting rooms, events and a network of other creatives needed to reach “the next level.” We have theatre companies, dance producers, film production companies, graphic designers, illustrators, writers, journalists and more working from hot desks and “paying” for it via a few days of creative freelance work for IdeasTap per month. Check the current residents out via our Twitter list.
What are some things you enjoy that you incorporate into your work with Creative Space?
I think creative culture is a big part of succeeding as an artistic company or freelancer. That means understanding your working culture, creative process and the professional nuts and bolts of managing your work. So I love it when I can help startups in Creative Space learn and find their right balance between chaos and structure to enable creativity on a professional level: work space, hours, inspiration, contacts, context and efficient ways of managing the requirements of business.
What has been one of your favourite projects you’ve been able to work on at IdeasTap?
Due to the skill swap, there’s always hundreds on the go! Some a few hours and some months long. We’ve had fantastic free events for the IdeasTap Spa pitched and delivered by Creative Spacers, such as how to monetise online content or sort out your freelance working lifestyle. We also commissioned a radio play project delivered by Creative Spacers Heritage Arts Company. Writers submitted a radio play treatment, received feedback from leading playwright Ella Hickson, had their full-length scripts read by actors in a workshop at our headquarters and finally the best scripts are being recorded now for publishing on SoundCloud. It’s exciting to commission our members in Creative Space to deliver excellent opportunities for other members, where, for example, a writer can be really imaginative, go on a journey and be showcased professionally to agents and venues—without needing a huge theatre production budget.
If you could choose any sort of business to work with Creative Space, what would it be, and why? Be creative ☺
We are excited by all creative businesses! The key for applicants is to be beyond just the idea phase and to know where you’re going, with a realistic plan for how to get there. That means companies must be trading for six months or working as a freelancer for a year. We do keep an eye on what skill sets we need as a company, and we’re looking to fill our remaining spots with those with digital/web design, graphic design and professional journalism skills.
What are your favourite things about the IdeasTap website?
It’s immense! I’m surprised by the depth of it sometimes. The search engine can be quite cool, to find IdeasMag articles, opportunities, events and people based around a keyword that matters to you. I also think the free IdeasTap Spa events are invaluable to learn about or top up on niche professional creative topics. Lastly, the Education Resources, Funding and Finance hub pages are hidden gems.
Written by Alexandra Leslie, The Fetch London Community Ambassador. Video blogger for Newspepper.com and TechFluff.TV. American student in London, finding her way around the city one iPhone app at a time. Follow her on Twitter at @AlexandraLeslie.