Starting my journey as a Creative Mentor Network mentee

  • ella fradgley

This April I received life-changing news that I was successful in my application to be a mentee with the Creative Mentor Network. The programme pairs young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds with creative industry professionals to help remove barriers to access within professional spaces. I grew up on free school meals as a young carer in a household where both my parents were long-term unemployed. This start to my life has laid foundations that I am still only now becoming aware of, barriers that I have been jumping over without knowing they were there, feeling the exhaustion regardless. The stigma, shame and trauma that I carry with me from growing up financially marginalised attends all the professional spaces I go to with me. It is always whispering into my ear about how I don’t belong here, how I’m going to be found out as a fraud whose had to teach herself everything she knows, how I might have been “doing well for a free school meals kid” as I had been described at parents evenings, but how the rough-at-the -edges presentation of my hard work has never quite lived up to the clean and confident professionalism of my peers. Work experience at school is a time in which many young people go to work at their parents company or were helped and encouraged by family to get experience within their dream role, something that felt ironic to me who had been working as an unpaid young carer my whole life following in my Mum’s footsteps, but had to go to the school and embarrassingly ask them to find somewhere to place me as I had no connections of my own. While I may have achieved all As and A* in my A-levels, the level of mental ill health I encountered through balancing studying with caring responsibilities and living in an unsafe environment made my journey to those results a lot more complex than others around me. When starting my foundation we had to make an introductory zine, a project I spent months of time perfecting, researching and pouring myself into but still the DIY tatty pages made from what I could afford did not compare to the slick and impressive quality of work made by those who could afford to print their work professionally. There are hundreds more stories like this which have defined in me a feeling that I will never be good enough, that there will always be holes in my understanding that dismantle my efforts and learning and keep me underneath those who have support, who do things properly and have that insider knowledge. Although I am still only at the very start of the journey with the Creative Mentor Network programme I am already feeling some of these wounds beginning to heal through having a mentor to whom I can candidly share the areas I need support and have them work with me to fill those gaps in my knowledge with advice and insight that will allow me to thrive and represent myself in the way I deserve to be represented . I am so excited to see how I and my professional practice develop through this programme and incredibly grateful to have been selected to experience something so impactful.

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