Photos by Marion Botella Photography Northern Creative Women is a new series where I explore the creative entrepreneurial vibe in the North East and uncover and tell the stories of some fantastic women I have come across who you need to check out. I hope to use this as a platform to showcase women helping women and hype them up! Because they truly are inspiring and badass women. Rachel from The Culture Vulture is someone who I found first when I seeking for the creative community in the North East. Her vibrant branding and dedicated to the culture grind Facebook page is what I first discovered. She knew what was going on in the city, where, where and what time! She is always working with fantastic companies, charities and agencies.
Although we have YET to meet, I really wanted to feature Rachel as the kick-off to this new series as she tells me about the creative culture industry in a time where staying at home is the new normal and events/festivals are getting cancelled left right and centre! But most importantly she shares her raw story of how she grafted her way to the top.
If you're seeking a pick me up, suffering a creative block, doubting yourself and your abilities right now, this is the interview for you.
Let me introduce to you, The wonderfully inspiring The Culture Vulture
I’m The Culture Vulture, a creative champion, cultural adventurer and ridiculous human – proud Northern lass who has built a business out of loving the Northern cultural scene which is a corker; I shout, loud and proud about people, places, projects and happenings. I’m most well-known for my marcomms work, social media management and events in the creative and cultural sector.
What will people expect when come across you on social media?
Lots of championing of creative and cultural events, indie venues, creative businesses and festivals, artist call outs, interviewing creatives, sharing creative things I like, general creative chat and of course, me being the culture vulture out and about in the wild – attending and talking about happenings and people in real-time.
What does your brand represent and celebrate?
The Culture Vulture represents different things to different people! To my clients, well my brand is an extension of me (I’m a self-employed entity) – it’s big, it’s bold, it has a chameleon soul, it’s fun, it’s clashy and unapologetic. I’m an introvert (a quietly confident one at that) – I’m never the loudest in the room but I have presence! When you’re self-employed, your visual brand becomes a mark of what it’s like to work with you and that’s what my brand represents; I’m a grafter, I connect with real people at grassroots and I can reach them creatively and authentically.
To the wider world – it’s a lot of the same, but the brand celebrates the Northern cultural and creative scene – especially the independent scene. It’s the mark of interesting and engaging creative content, a brand that adds value to the scene and folks interested in it empowers creatives and has something to important say!
What was the moment like when you created The Culture Vulture?
I wanted to create an open virtual space for folks who liked art and creativity but also for none arty folks. That’s always been a passion of mine (hence I’m an audience development consultant), getting people to take risks, see and do things they wouldn’t normally do and step outside their comfort zone. I get a buzz from understanding people’s behaviours and discovering why there are barriers to venues and particular activities (and seeking to overcome them). I’m also not a traditional “artsy” person – my background isn’t art and I don’t use arts language – I just want more people to feel that culture (not Culture) is for them and to experience it.
I also started Vulture for those who were tired of the North stopping in Manchester when discussed Nationally and those who wanted to discover things beyond the beaten track! Of course, I LOVE the big venues and arts institutions but I’m equally in love with indie galleries and creatives doing their own thing, who don’t have a marketing budget or a platform to shout about themselves.
The Culture Vulture started as a passion project and I had no idea that it would snowball into this. Mind you, I’ve GRAFTED at it and it has taken years to build – but my audience is LUSH and really loyal!
From the beginning, I was super keen to be “me” – I started out at a time when influencers/digital gatekeepers were all about presenting perfection so my way of speaking and how I presented myself, was not necessarily the norm. I remembered feeling very disempowered on social at first because of the constant demand for perfection and feeling like a bit shit – I soon got over it though! I do put a lot of honesty and REALNESS into Vulture and I think folks value that and that consistency. Especially during periods like right now, where things get really challenging and dark sometimes.
So I guess, what I’m saying is, that I started Vulture in 2017 to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the creative sector and put my skills to good use, to get more people excited and celebrating the creative and cultural lushness of the North, to be the thing that I thought was missing and to “help” artists and creatives have a platform and voice.
For those not familiar with the creative scene in Newcastle, why should people get involved and is there anything upcoming that they should check out?
In short – It’s bliddy lush!
But that is a very challenging question to answer right now due to the current climate – festivals and events are cancelled, creative projects are paused or postponed, venues are closed (some are planning to close for good), a lot of folks are securing emergency funding to survive and trying to figure out their next move. Culture in the North East (and Nationally) has effectively been cancelled for the foreseeable and there are no real firm answers around when that will change especially with social distancing measures making it impossible for venues to viably open.
So in terms of what is there to look forward to on the creative scene….not a lot. Some venues (the ones with bigger financial cushions or access to funding) have been able to stream some content or host virtual events etc. I think the sector is largely trying to figure out a way to survive during this uncertainty.
But rest assured the North East scene is exciting, vibrant, resilient, evolutionary and revolutionary! So, watch this space in terms of what they do and their response. AND, buckle up for one hell of a 2021 and 2022 – so many creative projects and events are postponed until then – we are in for a BLIDDY HUGE cultural wild ride (hopefully) on the other side of this.
So my advice right now is checking out your local independents – the cafes, the galleries, the cinemas, the theatres, the bars, the shops and head to their social media and websites and see what they have on and how you could support them by purchasing from them, paying it forward by buying a voucher to be redeemed later, donating or simply following them on social and sharing content. If you’re watching streamed creative content online from an indie place or venue – please try to donate – every little bit helps.
I’d also suggest following me on social @theculturevulturene – as I champion and celebrate artists/creative happenings across my social (especially Facebook) so it’s a firm start to keep in the know and the now about the scene. And if you’re creative, I also share lots of paid opportunities and commissions when I spy them!
You express that you enjoy taking risks in business, why should businesses step out of their comfort zone?
If this Pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how comfortable we all were – I realise you can’t plan for pandemic but it’s taken one, to evidence real overlooked problems and issues within businesses. I’m a real advocate for positive disruption in business, trying new things, failing regularly and spectacularly and learning through it. I always use the phrase “nobody likes a beige buffet” and yet, in business we love plodding along as an average sausage roll as it’s safe and easy.
I don’t like rules and I don’t like hierarchical structures – I like to collaborate and curiously consider new ways of doing things. I really like being small and what that enables me to do – take risks.
It’s strange in the creative sector (well business sector as a whole) – we are conditioned to seek out being bigger, build infrastructures, teams, buildings and that the end goal is to be a massive business. Which inevitably usually means (especially in the UK) that businesses become introspective and risk-averse. They also push down the new start-ups and the independent sector by making power plays and barriers to opportunities as they are perceived to be a treat.
I like being small and in this climate – as I keep telling my clients who are scared as hell right now, being small and nimble is your superpower! You will reinvent, evolve and emerge. Many of the bigger businesses won't and we can already see that happening.
One of the best things about enjoying taking risks – is that you’re constantly open to opportunities. I get really excited by them and I’m the sort, that if I see one, have an idea or see something missing in the sector, that I think I could address – well I can jump into it and do it.
What life or business advice would you give yourself when you first started our creating The Culture Vulture?
As a freelancer – you will always hold that crippling feeling of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, try to build up a network and support system from day one to help you. I feel like I have to justify my worth, my fee, my performance daily and it’s fucking exhausting sometimes. I now have quite a set pricing structure which has helped a lot. But I think we are going into a new chapter, in which in house marketing teams won’t start with their budgets and spend on traditional marketing stuff before getting to the bottom to see what scraps they have for social, digital, influencers, audience development etc. And instead, it will be right at the top and fingers cross invested into properly. (I know it is in many sectors – but it isn’t in the cultural and creative one!).
And something I’ve learnt recently (always learning) – is to not confuse “going it alone and self-employed” with being allowing yourself to be alone. Maybe it’s been my ego or maybe being an introvert makes you more inclined to do it – but I’ve felt very alone of late and a huge amount of pressure to be this all singing and all dancing force of nature (I’m an overachiever type). It’s been a big part of the decision, why I’ve decided to take studio space to inject myself into a creative work community. Having no team or no folks around to creatively chat to, bounce ideas off and share work experiences, has been incredibly lonely and self-limiting. I WISH I’d done it sooner – but there was part of me that was like “you MUST do this alone!”.
Which is an incredibly depressing point but it’s super real and honest. And of course, I’m MEGA excited to move into my new office digs!
I’d just like to end by saying - my Culture Vulture audience has helped me, much more than they will EVER know – especially during this period. I’ve always been an advocate of investing into audiences and networks (it’s what I did from day one) but I was not aware the joy and support they’d bring me – the reciprocal nature of it! I am so grateful to every single person who follows me, likes me, emails me, reaches out and of course, folks who engage me to do work for them. It means the world to me and I am extremely appreciative. They are all megababes!