Raw Talent: We Caught up with Previous Winners of the Young Creative Awards

Words: Andrew Tucker
Illustrations: Kate Wand
Wednesday 06 March 2024
reading time: min, words

As Nottingham’s Young Creative Awards return for a live ceremony after five years, we catch up with previous winners including musician Serena Jasmine, photographer Luke Brennan and illustrator Kate Wand, who are now beginning to blaze their own trail…

Young Creatives Leftlion

Having moved back to Nottingham from London five years ago, I found myself doing a good trade in wiping up spilled milk. There was no point crying about this, of course, because that’s life when you’ve donned the logoed apron of a worldwide coffee chain.

Now, ferrying pumpkin lattes is a bit better than cracking your knuckles down a salt-mine, but a life of grinding wasn’t for me the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream, and at the back of my mind I had the hope that there was a life somewhere beyond the mocha. What changed the course of my life in the end was the Young Creative Awards.

That night in 2019, The Nottingham Playhouse was filled with nervous teens, whooping friends, and perilously hyperactive grandmas. There was an exhibition of our work, a performance from a live orchestra and, well, some intangible feeling of shared kindness and inspiration. It’ll always be, I think, one of my best memories.

The YCAs have now been going for sixteen years, but that was the last time the awards were held in person. After winning one, I joined the team at the charity and covid soon forced our hands when the ceremony became a broadcast. While we were happy to keep celebrating the work of the city’s young talent, there’s nothing like a knees-up and we’ve missed being in a real place. So now, several fingers crossed, we’re going to bring the awards event back.

But what do our young people want to get from the awards? I decided to chat to some of our past winners to get to understand the motivations behind their entries. First up was Serena Jasmine, a soulful up-and-coming singer and a YCA music winner from 2023 who, alongside her band, has just played Rock City’s main stage as part of her prize for that year.

“Young Creatives was my first step towards sharing my music. It was something I’d always kept to myself, but this organisation felt so welcoming,” Serena told me. “Even just submitting my song was an achievement, to try to get rid of that imposter syndrome. I’ll forever be grateful for the confidence and opportunities that the YCAs have provided. It reassured me that my creativity is worth something.”

There’s reams of talent in this town, and we love to see those connections form

At the Beat the Streets festival, remarkable young photographer Luke Brennan was snapping some shots, including of Serena’s performance. Luke himself is a winner from 2022. There’s reams of talent in this town, and we love to see those connections form.

“The awards gave me that extra push I needed to take myself seriously as a creative,” said Luke, “Having my work recognised in that way gave me the confidence to pursue a career that I really love.”

The colourful image above this article is Kate Wand’s handiwork. She won the Graphic Design category in 2020 and last year she joined the YCA’s board of trustees too.

“Initially I didn't think much would come of it,” said Kate. “I decided to create a Nottingham-based children's book for the YCAs, as a project to help me get creative post-university… I ended up winning my category and a few months later the charity commissioned me to illustrate a car wrap…”

Kate’s multi-coloured wrap was fitted onto a real car, which I can attest is sharper than your average Volvo.

“I also attended a YCA workshop with Hana Glover who runs The Bead Shop. She offered valuable advice on how to start a successful creative business which was useful because I had no prior training on how to run one! Since then I’ve made connections in Nottingham and have had paid work as a direct result of being involved with Young Creatives. It’s put my foot in the door of the art scene in Nottingham.”

I ask Kate if all young people believe in their own creativity, if not, then why not?

“Creative subjects weren’t taken seriously by some of the schools that I went to,” Kate told me. “So they weren’t funded very well and even if I had a very passionate teacher, we weren't pushed to try new things due to budgeting.”

Indeed there’s always a danger of seeing creativity as a bit of a frivolous bonus. If a Neandarthal called in to work to say that they were going to spend the day cave-painting, you can imagine the tribe rolling their eyes.

But we’ve come a long way, and where would Nottingham be without its spiky murals and red-turreted buildings, its thundering amplifiers and flying plimsolls? Without our creativity, there’d be a lot of brushing our teeth and filing our taxes. There'd be a lot of people asking me to take back a cappuccino and make it again but hotter and with less froth, there’d be some vital glow missing.

Serena, Luke and Kate are just a few of the thousands of young people that have entered our awards. They’re the people who offer that brightness. Not all of them will win every year of course, but they are all the next generation in training. So, this is an open offer to you youngsters: Let’s get stuck in.

You can find out more and submit your creative pieces at youngcreativeawards.org. The deadline for entries is the 15 of March 2024.

[Instagram] @ycreativesnottm

We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.