At the first session of Night School, a training programme launched by Yellowzine and The Brooklyn Brothers, the students learned about imposter syndrome. For many, the lesson simply gave a name to a feeling they already knew well: a fear that you’re not really up to the job, that you don’t belong. And what could reinforce this feeling more than walking into a room where no-one looks like you?
Over the next eight weeks, Night School’s teachers set about dismantling this doubt in the 14 young people who came with hopes of forging a creative career. Yellowzine and The Brooklyn Brothers started the free programme in London in the summer to educate and empower ethnically diverse talent to enter the creative industry. Each week covered a different area, from strategy and writing to production and design, with guest speakers and exercises to develop their skills and voices.
The graduates were then tasked with making a "manifesto", a personal project that they will unveil at a show on 19 November in Shoreditch. They’ve made a spoken-word film, illustrations that tackle sexism, a tarot installation, a photography series and more. Their aspirations within the creative industry all take different shapes, but now they know there is room for them there.
"I couldn’t see myself in the creative industry, because there weren’t many people who looked like me," Saffron Renzullo, an artist and Night School graduate, told Campaign. "Now I feel like I can go into this industry and belong."
Here, in their own words, the Night School graduates talk about their projects and what they’ve learned over the past couple of months. After you read this, Campaign hopes you’ll get to meet them and make space for more voices like theirs.
I did an art foundation and specialised in illustration, but I couldn’t see myself in the creative industry. I couldn’t see myself in that space, because there weren’t many people who looked like me.
After I came out of uni, I worked in a shop and went travelling. When I saw the post on Yellowzine’s Instagram account, I was like, I have to apply – this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It was an open avenue to be creative in a space that would allow me to be. I never felt like I was here [at Night School] because I’m black. It was never even mentioned. Now I feel like I can go into this industry and belong.
For my manifesto, I’m doing a series of illustrations comparing the commonality of drinking tea with the commonality of casual sexism in the UK. It comes from the phrase "What’s the tea?", which is about telling the truth. I want to tell the truth about sexism while highlighting that it’s as common as drinking tea.
Don’t think that you’re not good enough to do something, because you definitely are. We can be assets to companies and we should put ourselves out there. We have to be present. It’s important to push yourself and get past not wanting to do something because you’re scared of failing. People will love what you have to say and what you can bring.
Precious Joy Oni
My most important lesson was finding my creative voice. I’ve learned so much on how to showcase myself creatively, as well as the various opportunities available for creative individuals – there’s a whole new world of jobs that I can explore. It’s given me a more colourful outlook on careers and finding my purpose.
My creative manifesto aims to captivate people by helping them realise more about the self through film and spoken word.
Night School taught me that the best insights are always where you don’t expect them and, whether professionally or personally, I should always use my curiosity. Discovery, in the form of asking questions and having new and varied conversations with diverse groups of people from unexpected places, is crucial for staying up to date with trends and movements, as well as identifying new opportunities.
"The seasoning of Britain" is a visual and poetic exploration of my perspective, namely the cultural transformation of the UK through Afro-Caribbean influences. I aim to express my worldview and ignite a conversation about our national "seasoning".
Your creative voice has no fixed form and your perspective is limitless. I also learned that it is important to find yourself in the projects you work on and understand why you care about them.
My manifesto is a short video montage featuring past footage, images and elements I have collected over the last few years, dealing with themes of intersections, nostalgia and memory.
The most important thing I learned from Night School is how to find the core of a project. I found it easy to get caught up in the potential of a project and run off on creative tangents, so I didn’t truly investigate why this project was important and what impact it could make on the world. Looking for these insights has changed my entire creative process and it has helped me understand both what I am passionate about and the differences I want to see in the world on a new level.
My creative manifesto is a short pitch of a documentary I have been working on for about a year-and-a-half. The topic focuses on how limiting labels can be, with a specific look at a particularly criminalising system of labelling that existed in London. I had been intensively researching it for over a year before I came to Night School, and upon telling the team about the topic and my ideas for the documentary, they were super-supportive, putting me in contact with the right people and making time to give me great advice. The documentary turned from something I was hoping and praying for to a revolutionary project I know I am capable of completing, thanks to the confidence boost and support I have received from everyone along the way. The pitch will showcase at the Night School graduation and I am so excited to take this next step towards a dream that I believe will make a difference in more ways than I can imagine.
Jordanne Cameron-Da Costa
The most important lesson I've learned from Night School is the power of showing up as your authentic self. Finding the intersections of your passion, the personal and your purpose is a recipe to reimagine a creative industry that creates space for a richer mix of voices.
The world needs more neurodiverse stories. People who exist outside of the neurotypical binary are often dismissed, ignored or only shown in moments of crisis. This is not the whole experience of what it’s like to live with a brain that works differently from other people. It’s half of a story and poor representation often encourages more stigma and misunderstandings.
Yellowzine and The Brooklyn Brothers taught me the power of asking. Be brave enough to shoot your shot, ask provocative questions and ask for help. There is a world full of people who have paved the way for your dreams to become a reality.
My project "Past, present, future" is a mixed-media tarot instillation that uses watercolour, acrylic, found materials, digital design and pattern-making.
Reflection is key for a greater discovery of self. Night School provided space for critical reflection. Pausing midway during projects helped me understand why my story matters and how to engage with a community that connects with that story.
My manifesto is a poetry film that charts my hair journey and the politics of black women's hair, asserting that the personal is political.
Night School encouraged me to be authentic, providing a safe haven to explore ourselves with passion and sincerity.
My final project is a set of playing cards and poster that question how we deem objects valuable. It shows my authenticity while forcing the audience to consider what they value and why.
The most important lesson I learned from Night School was to believe in my right to a seat at the table. It’s so important that people of colour have the tenacity to write our own narratives from our lived experiences and to determine the trajectory of our ideas so we can produce authentic content.
We need to be fearless with our intentions in the creative and advertising industries and take the initiative. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back from achieving what you want to do – you are worthy! There is potency in difference and in real representation.
My manifesto is a short film that revolves around a poem I wrote, translated into Cantonese. It is a visual and audio manifestation exploring my experience as a second-generation immigrant in the diaspora, my sometimes strained relationship with my Chinese heritage and how it has evolved over the years. I want the piece to challenge stereotypes of East Asians and the societal constraints that are often imposed upon us, as well as to cultivate new conversations regarding the "othered" experience.
A lot of times when diversity initiatives are run, it’s easy to look at yourself as just a way for a company to help. Every week showed us what role we can play in the industry. It was looking in rather than looking out. I’ve never gotten that anywhere.
My manifesto is a film project titled "A description is not a definition", which looks at all the areas of my life. I have a lot of areas that people say don’t go together, like being British and being Nigerian. It’s showing how embracing all of those areas makes sense in the picture that is me, and championing being your true self and sharing that with the world to provide authenticity and transparency at a time when that’s hard to find.
All of my photography projects are looking at representations of black women. One is about black women in museums and art – museums determined what culture is and women aren’t really seen there, especially black women. For one of my shoots, I’m going to the V&A and shooting among Greek sculptures.
I had loads of stuff I wanted to do but I just wasn’t doing it. I needed that push. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to develop ideas. When I was planning shoots, I would do one mood board, but [a Night School mentor] said I should do mood boards for lighting and for the poses I want from models. Making things more meticulous is helping me refine my ideas to exactly what I want.
Every session of Night School brought out different sides of myself. Gradually I came to a point where I was clear that this is my life story and what I’ve been working on my whole life. On the first day, nobody was really confident, but in the end everyone knows what they’re going to do. Everything’s just flowing now.
My manifesto is about how I’ve loved cars my whole life. My dad used to own a car and I would run out and open the doors for him when he came home. I’m making a video showing my transition from my love for cars to when I started driving and was stuck in traffic. It’s encouraging people to change to electric vehicles.
If you’re really creative, you need to start doing what you love the most, be it paintings or collecting stones on the beach – anything. Keep doing that and one day you may reach a platform where people will see it.
I’m more inspired to go out and actually put things into fruition. Before I would think about something and there was always a "but" that followed after. Now I’m more confident in my ideas.
When I moved to London for uni, I felt there was this lonely underlayer or people didn’t want to be themselves for fear of not looking the part. I was disillusioned by how disconnected we are and thought about how we could become more connected through conversation. In this city, people seem so averse to speaking to each other. I’m making these T-shirts of an alien and a human hanging out together and the tagline is "You’re not an alien", in the sense that we don’t need to alienate ourselves. I’m going to make a video of people wearing them and ask them questions. We probably have a lot more in common than we think, but we just don’t talk to each other.
I’ve learned that I just need to go for it. I’ve always set too many limits on myself, but it’s just making excuses. Even if something doesn’t work out how I want it, it’s still useful for me because otherwise I wouldn’t have known what to do after.