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  • Writer's pictureClaire Venus

Hey Northumberland based creative/ cultural sector colleague!

Since setting up my creative mentoring business Creatively Conscious, I've made a conscious effort to connect and network with other creatives and creative businesses in Northumberland.

It's made a huge difference to both my confidence and skillset in my unique offer to the world.

Working freelance and being based in Northumberland, you can find yourself plugging into existing infrastructure and meeting brilliant people but often feeling disconnected from others working in the same way. The pandemic has given us more efficient ways to network whilst still honouring our rural position and it's been a change I've welcomed with open arms!

I'm in a very unique position in that I took maternity leave for most of 2020 and haven't been to an actual event, show or gallery opening in person for over 24 months.

Staying connected to a cultural sector and colleagues I cant see in person

I'm ALL for shared expertise and believe there is room for us all to take up space without the need for competition or closed door expertise.

I thought it might be helpful to offer a little download of all the ways I've learnt to stay connected and discover partnerships, up-skill and find new opportunities.

  1. You can sign up for updates from Business Northumberland. Business Northumberland offers free training in lots of different elements of running a creative business from wordpress website building, canva, seo and social media training. On a personal note I was able to understand enough about design to design alot of my own online graphics last year which in the past I would have outsourced. I also learnt lots about utilising my website functions too. We have area managers who understand our specific area and challenges so drop them a line and sign up. Here's a video interview with Rachel Williamson, one of the Northumberland growth advisers/ managers.

2. Join a zoom network - following a successful first co-hort last year, you can now join 'Rural Create Net' cohort 2 led by Newcastle University. The 1st meeting was on 1st Feb 2022 and there were some brilliant and unique people in the zoom room. I'm really looking forward to our future conversation and connection.

And before you worry this is a network for networks sake - the faciliators value your time as much as you do and describe their programme as 'action learning' which is an incredibly successful model of working;

Through a facilitated action learning approach, delivered over six sessions, we will hear from and work with practitioners, businesses, and new projects and organisations working in and across the rural creative economy, and consider what it means to be based in the rural North East, outside of larger population centres and cities. We hope to use this programme to share learning and identify calls to action and areas for response or collaboration.

Drop them a line if you'd like to join this co-hort and see what your options are. Email -

3. Make some noise on facebook groups - North East Cultural Freelancers (previously Tyne and Wear Cultural Freelancers) and Artists and Creatives Northumberland are GREAT places to check in once a week or so. You can shout out with your issues, frustrations or offers or read advice from others. Leila D'aronville runs the group and has offered brilliant insight from funders such as Arts Council and co-hosted surgeries to help us navigate new policy and streams.

4. Come to an online event! Here at Culture Northumberland, our next event 'If not now then when - diversifying your income in the cultural sector' takes place Thurs 10 Feb from 10-11.30am - ALL are welcome and it's free. Email me to book your spot and please tell your colleagues too!

5. Get social and share your social media presence. I don't know what it is about our sector and shouting about our work but I know it's difficult. I've watched creatives go from strength to strength showing up online consistently. Berwick based illustrator Katie Chappel has grown her social media followings to over 13,000 people from across the world. Hexham based paper artist Yvette Ja is on course to hit 7000 followers on instagram really soon and graphic designer Ebony Newton has pivoted away from freelance work to run her online shop Dotty Black Gifts full time. These creatives are brilliant in their own right but they have also fearlessly shared their art online and built online presence around their brand and products. Not sure where to start - see Business Northumberland for courses or follow the creatives I've linked to see how they do it!

Let us know if there's any other networks you're part of and you'd like to share here, we'd love to broaden our knowledge!

Blog written by Northumberland based creative mentor Claire Venus, Freelance Co-ordinator for Culture Northumberland and online here; @creatively.conscious and here.

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