Read how our founder, Lorelle Skelton, went from designing emails for BOGOF burgers to launching our creative community.

Lorelle, what’s your creative occupation?

Founder, Graphic Designer & Creative Changemaker

Where have you been?

You could say my journey began with BOGOF burgers. Back in 2010, I’d just graduated from The University of Manchester. Despite a childhood dedicated to creative pursuits, I initially failed to follow my passion and instead got a degree from a ‘good’ university in what I deemed a ‘safe’ subject. But the creative itch wouldn’t go away, so after graduating I set about rediscovering my creative voice.

I completed a couple of internships, front of house at an art gallery and arts administration at a theatre company, before getting my first permanent job in digital marketing. It was there that I stumbled upon my chief vocation… graphic design. I started out designing simple HTML emails for our leisure industry clients. I worked with an amazing team, but the nature of the job meant I was hardly getting dream briefs – lots of cutting out images of beer bottles and typing ‘BOGOF burgers’ into web banners. Nevertheless, a seed was planted.

My decision to go freelance wasn’t driven by a need to be the boss, what I was after was the freedom to discover my purpose.

Lorelle on going freelance

The next few years saw me; study at Shillington (which I’d highly recommend), secure a job at an ad agency as a mid-weight designer, and move to one of the UK’s fastest-growing education and tech companies, where I rose to acting Chief Brand Officer. It was at this point that I took the plunge and set out on my own, which was as scary as it sounds.

My decision to go freelance wasn’t driven by a need to be the boss, what I was after was the freedom to discover my purpose. This drive lead to me working with some brilliant charities through my studio Great Good Creative, as well as exploring the complex history of race and glamour through a self-directed art and community project, Black on Paper.

Where are you now?

In 2020, the combination of becoming a parent and a national lockdown prompted me to reflect. I realised that it was harder than ever for someone like me – a freelancer and self-confessed introvert – to access the networks and resources that would see me thrive in my career. And it turns out, I wasn’t the only one to notice the dearth of opportunity for professional development in our sector. In 2019, the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) identified the ‘lack of industry investment in learning and development for those already in work’ as one of the critical issues we face*. And freelancers, those of us going it alone with no access to formal career development tools, account for almost half of us (47%**, to be exact).

Photo credit: Ellie Grace Photography

Around the same time, I’d started to wonder how it was possible that I’d worked with so few creatives that share my ethnicity, none of whom were in leadership positions. Once again, research provided the answer. There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) creatives may be subject to biases that affect their employment***, hindering their ability to even access the creative industries, let alone thrive within them. Studies have also concluded that there’s a ‘lack of diversity across gender, disability, sexuality, age and socioeconomic background’, too. For example, the PEC found that ‘those from privileged backgrounds are more than twice as likely to land a job in a creative occupation’****.

I’d started to wonder how it was possible that I’d worked with so few creatives that share my ethnicity, none of whom were in leadership positions.

Lorelle on representation in the creative industries

I searched for tools and networks that might help counter this experience but what I found frequently felt elitist or exclusive, catering to a specific personality type or attitude that doesn’t reflect me or the creatives I know. I started to imagine a space that welcomed creatives from all backgrounds and of all persuasions, a space that allowed them to support one another on their career journeys. Could a platform exist that would help nurture all creative talent, foster meaningful connections, and provide opportunities for learning and inspiration?

I reckoned it could. So, today I launched The Creative Occupation. A community, movement, and tool for the collective professional development of creatives in the UK.

Where are you going?

I’m going to pour all my energy into growing our community. Right now my focus is on helping to guide fellow creatives on their career journeys. Enabling people from all backgrounds to support one another through community, peer partnerships, and mentoring; providing practical resources, and advocating for a more diverse creative industries. After that, I can’t wait to see where this journey will take us. Physical resources? Courses? A podcast? Who knows!

Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?

Teething. The juggle is real!

Whether you’re thinking of becoming a member, or you’re looking for opportunities to collaborate in tackling the challenges we creatives face, feel free to get in touch with me by emailing info@thecreativeoccupation.com.

*Skills, talent and diversity in the creative industries, PEC, 2019
**Creative Freelancers, Creative Industries Federation, 2017
***Creative Diversity, Creative Industries Federation, 2015
****Getting in and getting on: Class, participation and job quality in the UK’s Creative Industries, PEC, 2020

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