At November’s Nicer Tuesdays, we learn about building a creative vision and challenging the status quo
At this month’s Nicer Tuesdays we had the pleasure of welcoming Bricks magazine, KLVDR, Ollie Olanipeku and Ruby Etc. to the stage.
With the clocks going back, the days are now much darker and things are feeling a whole lot colder; autumn is well and truly in swing. And of course, nothing screams autumn like torrential rain. November’s Nicer Tuesday’s certainly began as a soggy one, but there’s nothing like some brilliant creative talks to get you feeling all warmed up. Taking the stage this month was Bricks magazine founder Tori West, director Kalvadour Peterson (KLVDR), creative powerhouse and founder of Flock Together Ollie Olanipekun, and illustrator Ruby Etc. If there was one thing we learnt from this month’s talks, it was that challenging the status quo is an integral part of creating a unique, representative and community driven creative vision.
Tori West shines a light on the class inequalities of the publishing industry
The first to grace the stage, Bricks magazine founder Tori West started with the stone cold facts: “statistically, this shouldn’t be my job.” She continued to explain that the publishing industry is "80 per cent led by five cishet, billionaire men". And so, to see a queer working class woman founding a magazine is something of a rarity. It’s this very fact that has formed the ethos of Bricks since its birth in 2020 – challenging the status quo and providing a multi-faceted platform for marginalised creatives. One of the ways in which Tori has created such an atmosphere is through a candid, honest approach. Prior to the pandemic, she told the audience that she was working as a cleaner, a fact she initially hid from many. But when she did start talking about, “it started a lot of conversations about not being embarrassed about your day job”. It was then after losing all of her work and relying on universal credit over the lockdowns that Tori reevaluated her career, and decided to take the plunge.
This said plunge resulted in one of the most dynamic, varied and inclusive magazines in the publishing industry today. She walked us through a whole host of jaw-dropping projects, including a calendar with the one and only Bimini Bon Boulash which raised £8k for the charity Mermaids, a poster featuring Eartheater atop a car – “every bisexuals dream” – and creating one of London’s most affordable photography studios. The latter was a key component in Bricks' recent family-themed issue, which paid homage to the “people working behind the scenes at Bricks”. Tori rounded up her talk by summarising something that had then become clearly apparent: how the magazine is firmly intent on carving a space for those who don't fit into normative, traditional structures. And finally, she ended on a very handy tip: “You’d like to support working class creatives? Get your boss to hire more.”
Expertly crafting a music video for none other than Stormzy, with KLVDR
Kalvador Peterson, more commonly known as KLVDR, started his creative career as a designer. So, when he finally decided to become a filmmaker, he tells us there was one important question at the forefront of his mind: what would his name look like as a logo? As you can now probably tell, he opted for removing all the vowels out of his name. Punchy. But while this may seem like a funny bit to get the audience going, this attention to detail is reflective of KLVDR’s whole practice; making the slickest, most dynamic and complex music videos on the scene today.
Born in Zimbabwe, KLVDR moved to Milton Keynes at age 11. An instant “culture shock”, he explains how difficult it was to “find people with a similar story to mine”. Creativity and music soon became his way out. And after picking up his first camera “out of frustration” – after people were taking “shit photos” of his designs – KLVDR soon found himself shooting videos for grime scenes, through platforms like SBTV and Grime Daily. Then, earlier this year, KLVDR took on one of his biggest projects to date: a music video for Stormzy’s Mel Made Me Do It. Over 10 minutes long, the video took nine months to complete, and – after hearing a sound bite of José Mourniho – he turned into something of a cameo hotspot. By the end, the video featured Jonathon Ross, Zeze Millz, Dina Asher-Smith, Lil Sims, Louis Theroux, Malorie Blackman, Ian Wright, JME and many more. And while this may have resulted in one of the most notable music videos in recent years, KLVDR admits it was “a logistical nightmare”. KLVDR ended his talk by showing the final scene of the video – a monologue voiced by Michaela Cole poetically reflecting on the power of Black culture – and two simple words: “stay curious”.
Ollie Olanipeku on challenging the “gatekeepers” and carving a space in nature for BIPOC individuals
Ollie Olanipeku began his talk where it made sense to – the beginning. At the start of his career, he told the audience that he was “fortunate” to be given a role at Poke advertising agency, and one of his first campaigns was with the children’s charity Barnardo’s. From this point on, Ollie explained that “social impact was locked in, cemented in my heart”. But, what Ollie also learnt while working on the campaign, was that traditional advertising needed to become “sexy”. Moreover, while making his way around “big shiny offices”, he soon realised how un-diverse the teams were. And so he decided to build his own agency, Superimpose: “a space for experimentation and innovation” plus “disruption”.
Since then, much has changed; Superimpose turned into Futureimpose, and Ollie has worked on numerous projects. One of the most impressive being his BIPOC birdwatching collective, Flock Together. The project came after Ollie realised that his long walks in nature were the one thing that helped him to relax and navigate his ADHD. “Nature is the one space that lets you just be,” Ollie advocated. After three years, Flock Together is flourishing, having had a regular show on the BBC and receiving letters from the Prime Minister (“I’m not going to say which one,” Ollie laughed). One of the most important goals of Flock Together, Ollie explained, is to challenge the “gatekeepers” of nature, those who have facilitated the “under representation of POC in the outdoors”. Now, Flock Together has created a welcoming community, through poster campaigns, publishing a book and, of course, organising birdwatching walks. Ollie summarised: “When people of colour are allowed to thrive, everyone benefits.”
Ruby Etc. on how humour and drawing can help you take “ownership” of your mental health
If going last wasn’t hard enough, illustrator Ruby Etc. began by telling the audience that she also has “the vision of the mole”, which made reading her notes something of a task. It’s this ability to poke fun at herself – albeit in a heartwarming way – that defines Ruby’s practice. And throughout her talk she proved that drawing and humour can often be the best way to overcome life’s hardest challenges.
Ruby kicked things off by showing a picture of her first self-published book in 1998, in which four-year-old Ruby wrote about how much she hates tidying up. Of course, this book wasn’t real. But Ruby charmingly highlighted how seemingly little her work has changed since that moment; it still includes short, funny sayings teamed with sketchy line drawings. Funnily enough, Ruby told the audience that she hated art at school, due to her “intensely self-critical” nature, and a broken education system. It was only after she had to drop out of school due to severe ill mental health that Ruby found herself picking up the pencil. "Art became a coping mechanism,” Ruby said. “Life was so exquisitely bad and unfunny, but when I was able to write about something in a funny way it gave me ownership.” Leading us through a number of works, Ruby explained her longest running project in her sketchbook is one where she tries to draw everyday. “I find that when you draw everyday, you create a living, breathing body of work,” she detailed. Proving her ability to find the beauty in the most seemingly mundane moments, Ruby ended with one of her recent comics following a squirrel, a crisp and a phone conversation. Truly heartwarming stuff.
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