From Christmas ads to interactive exhibitions, December’s Nicer Tuesdays was a celebratory end to 2022
The final Nicer Tuesdays of 2022 saw adam&eveDDB, Aysha Tengiz, Anna Fearon and Universal Everything take to the stage.
Some say that Christmas is all about giving, and December’s Nicer Tuesdays was certainly full of gifts. Not only did we give you four brilliant creative talks, Stack Magazines left out indie publications on seats for guests and we got to try a brand new Love Corn flavour – chocolate! We also had our very own Christmas market take place, with a whole range of sellers – including Naomi Anderson-Subryan and John Molesworth – providing handmade, independent gifts for all your family and friends.
While the weather outside may have been sub-zero, and the streets a treacherous slip risk, the talks provided some well sought after warmth. First up we had adam&eveDDB take the stage, which saw audiences and the team at It’s Nice That alike shed a tear to the latest festive John Lewis ad. Then we had illustrator Aysha Tengiz, who discussed the trepidation of freelance life, and Anna Fearon whose powerful talk highlighted the importance of platforming unseen stories. The night ended with a talk from Universal Everything, lifting the curtain on its incredible interactive Lifeforms exhibition. What a brilliant end to 2022 ey?
Creating a Christmas ad during a cost of living crisis, with adam&eveDDB
As you can probably imagine, creating a Christmas ad is no mean feat. Especially when said Christmas ad is for John Lewis. Now sitting at the forefront of the Christmas advert game, many would argue that the short has become the most anticipated of the festive season. Opening this month’s Nicer Tuesdays, we had the pleasure of welcoming Matt Gay, creative director at adam&eveDDB, the ad agency behind every single one of John Lewis’ famous Christmas ads. Kicking things off, Matt explained that things really got going in 2011, when the agency set themselves on crafting a proper narrative throughout the ads. In the decade following, the spots were propelled to stardom, with Elton John even making an appearance.
However, this year, things were a little different. With the UK experiencing a cost of living crisis that would see many struggling this Christmas, Matt said the team realised a typical approach would not be right for the current climate. And so, gone were the fantasy, dragons and spaceships, and “thoughtful gifting” turned into “thoughtful gestures”. The result was a one and a half minute tearjerker that saw a man determinedly learning to skateboard to welcome a foster child, with proceeds being raised for Action for Children. Despite the more naturalistic approach, the journey was no less intensive, as Matt explained that each ad takes one year to complete, with 700 scripts drafted and an intensive decision around music involved, which “causes an unbelievable amount of arguments”. Well the hard work certainly paid off; there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house.
Aysha Tengiz on overcoming her trepidation and going freelance
Aysha Tengiz's work is exceptionally welcoming, much like Aysha herself. Beginning her talk, Aysha mused on what it’s really like to be an illustrator, detailing how she has always wanting to be one – starting with her love of story books; Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Cops and Robbers to name one. She also covered how character outfits and fashion have always fuelled her work, especially from the 70s and 80s, which is clear from the clothes that often adorn her characters.
It’s perhaps this fact – of how personal illustration can often be – which makes it both so brilliant, and so hard to deal with at times. “It’s a manifestation of your own personality, so critiques hit harder,” Aysha told the audience. “Your mental health is impacted by the work that you create.” Moreover, she highlighted how difficult it can be for many creatives leaving the bubble of university and entering the world of freelance, an issue she faced when discovering how “vulnerable” it can make you. Luckily, Aysha landed a job at a small shop where she “took the piss” and built up her portfolio while on the job. Cudos! Rounding up her talk, Aysha talked of a recent project Helsinki Curious which saw her depict Helsinki, despite never having been there. An illustrator whose practice is often centred by a recurring colour palette, exploring a whole new world of colour – centred around more pastel colours as opposed to her penchant for bright colours – it’s a work that really got her out of her comfort zone, and showed the range of her talent.
How Anna Fearon strives for authentic and nuanced storytelling
There is one objective that fuels Anna Fearon’s practice: the desire to platform unseen and unheard stories. Taking the stage at Nicer Tuesdays, Anna shared that this desire is rooted in her own personal experience as a queer Black woman; growing up she recalls “feeling hyper visible and feeling unseen at the same time”. Anna then told the audience that the central figure in helping Anna lead her practice with such foresight and drive, is the poet, feminist, professor and civil rights leader Audre Lorde, sharing a quote from Lorde: “Visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”
Leading us through some of her projects, Anna highlights Blue Magazine, a publication she created which celebrates Black beauty: “all types of beauty, all types of skin tone, hair textures and features” and her film Motherhood, a short which explores diverse experiences of Black motherhood. “I wanted to tell stories that encapsulate the softness, joy, pain and laughter,” Anna added. Anna finished her talk by breaking down her music video for Hope Tala and Aminé’s Cherries. A deliciously decadent and historical affair Anna told of the joy she experienced going to town with the art direction and bringing in period and renaissance styling to the video. “I love period dramas, even more when we get to see Black characters in them.” A creative practice that places equal weight on representation and stunning visuals, Anna’s work was one to behold this Nicer Tuesdays.
Universal Everything gives the lowdown on its interactive Lifeforms exhibition
Rounding up December’s Nicer Tuesdays was Claire Cook, executive producer of the Lifeforms exhibition from Universal Everything. Summarising the thought process that she and founder Matt Pyke went through before the exhibition, Claire says that they started exploring “what we could do that would feel alive, and minimise it down to an abstract form”. Soon, the broad idea of an animation that could change over time emerged. Not very simple stuff, that’s for sure!
While the ideas present in the Lifeforms are broad – a digital rave out of microorganisms, stained glass windows and a rave – the concept behind it all is stripped back. Claire says, they decided that “You can take anything and turn it into a character,” focusing on “minimal characters that have joins and legs”... but no head. Experimenting with lenticular prints, back projects and habitats, Claire also told the audiences that the final exhibition ended up not being far off from the very first sketches they devised. The final experience allows people to interact with lifeforms of which no two are the same, where characters tower above you and you can do things as fantastical as growing plants with your body in a sparse, desert landscape. A work of innovation and energy, the exhibition is one that shows how modern technology can be used to make live, in person experiences incredibly sensory, active ones.
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We’re excited to partner with Love Corn the UK’s first crunchy corn brand as our snack sponsor. Its delicious crunchy corn kernels are packed with flavour and made with love. On trend with being low sugar, gluten-free and vegan, it’s the feel good snack so please enjoy!