It’s a funny one. Back in November 2019, the TICE team gathered for a trend forecasting meeting which helps shape the annual themes and inspirations behind our workshops. Spoiler alert: one of the trends was all about transparency – the ability for brands and influencers to be completely honest and humanised. It turns out that this trend has never been so poignant during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in the writing industry. And we are talking all aspects of the writing industry, from bloggers writing about their struggles during lockdown to copywriters being bombarded by companies for a rebranding (whilst they have the time to do so). We even have journalists who are having to adapt as well as thoroughly document the new world we live in.
This year’s TICE Explore took a strange turn, as most things did. The original intention is for students to experience two full days outside of school, meeting industry professionals and developing skills. Day 1 went as planned. And it was fabulous. Day 2, however, was cancelled due to COVID-19. At TICE, ‘cancel’ is not in our vocabulary, so we decided to develop an online platform for students to complete TICE Explore from the comfort of their homes.
Writing in the North
TICE Explore began with a visit to Northumbria University, followed by an introduction to the brilliant Dr Tony Williams. Tony is an Associate Professor at the University and author of many books of poetry and prose, including Nutcase – which, due to its graphic content, he warned the students against reading – just yet.
Tony welcomed us to a teaching room at Northumbria University and shared with us how a working week on a degree course works in terms of the hours of teaching given – and the hours of reading and writing required.
It was an interesting insight into higher education and to help even further, we heard from Joelle Berwick and Kieran Donkin, third-year students on the BA (Hons) Fashion Communication degree course at Northumbria University. This degree even though not it is not centred around writing includes all forms of communication including creative writing, journalism, blogging, copywriting, marketing and more. This was a perfect introduction to using the English language in a different industry context such as fashion. Katherine (TICE writing mentor) interviewed Joelle and Kieran about life at university – and we heard about the differences between studying at school and university.
Joelle said, “You have to get on with things on your own a lot more – which means you learn to ask for help when you need it.” Kieran added that throwing ideas around with his fellow students had made all the difference to his work – including a last-minute change to his final major project at the 11th hour to something new that he felt driven to create.
Tony then gave us a tour of the English department at Northumbria and showed us to the library, where we found a space to break for lunch and to reflect on what we’d learned.
After lunch, it was time to head south and meet the fantastic tour guides at the Literary and Philosophical Society near Central Station. The weather was kind to us as we made our way through town and we arrived to a warm welcome and a guided tour of both the beautiful historic library and the book-binding studios, with its piles of vellum and ornate stamps. It was a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing end to the day.
Writing with Soul
As we are all aware, COVID-19 had put the world on pause and as a result, we were unable to move forward with Day 2 of TICE Explore. But in true TICE style, we decided to adapt and get creative with our online delivery, ‘TICEolated’. First of all, Katherine logged into Zoom (what seems to have become the lockdown trend) to chat those working in the industry this included:
Alex Wright – Woeman, Mark Dawson – Everything, Megan Savage – Luna Blu/TICE – Musician, Laura Rothwell – Crystallised, Sian Lewis – Copywriter, Oak Creatives, John Watson – Presenter, BBC Sports News, Sharon Thomas – Freelance Writer.
This career appeals to me because I like the idea of linking fashion and English while also doing something a bit unique. I also feel like working for a small business would be good for me because I feel like it could give you a bit more a link/relationship with the customers as it isn’t a big chain of stores.
I think the most interesting thing I heard was from Alex Wright about how he didn’t do too well in his GCSE’s or A levels and didn’t really have a plan but still ended up doing something he loves. I also thought the advice that linked to this about trusting the process would be really useful and interesting.Hollie Dunn, Churchill Community College.
After hearing from some pretty remarkable people, it was time to put their words into practice with a few tasks, including:
- Invent your own brand. Everything follows a process to work with clients to define the heart and soul of their brands. Managing Director of Everything, Mark Dawson, challenged students to do the same by coming up with a business idea of their choice. Whatever it was, they had to establish the brand purpose, vision and value with convincing, persuasive language.
- Changing the world, one story at a time. Alex Wright, founder of Woeman, challenged students to write a self-reflective piece of writing, starting with something they enjoy and using that to dig even deeper. Exploring why.
*If you would like to hear more from our industry professionals and see some of the tasks and challenges for students please contact us about the TICE Programme.
Thanks to You
We would not be surprised if this list of ‘thank you’s takes up most of this blog post, but the reason why we were able to continue with TICE Explore is all thanks to the venues and creative individuals who have shown their support during this time.
Northumbria University, Dr Tony Williams, Joelle Berwick, Kieran Donkin and the Literary and Philosophical Society – thank you for making Day 1 so wonderful.
To Dawn McGuigan, Sarah Davy and the team at Drummond Central – we are GUTTED that we were not able to meet for you for our Day 2 workshop but we look forward to welcoming you back very soon.
Finally, to our wonderful array of guest speakers during our lockdown edition of TICE Explore. Thank you for inspiring our young people:
- Alex Wright – Woeman
- Mark Dawson – Everything,
- Megan Savage – Luna Blu/TICE – Musician
- Laura Rothwell – Crystallised
- Sian Lewis – Copywriter – Oak Creatives
- John Watson – Presenter, BBC Sports News
- Sharon Thomas – Freelance Writer
So, was it a strange year for TICE Writing? Absolutely. But it was certainly a one to remember. Not only because it was a challenge for everyone involved, but for many people, the lockdown had an impact on creative practice. Some people couldn’t shake the creative block, and some were able to be the most creative they had ever been because they had space and time to do so. We are so pleased to find that our platform has allowed young people to at least try – and not only did they try, but they delivered to the highest calibre.
Personally, I think that it has helped because, first of all, it has given me some fun activities that have helped keep my brain thinking and working during lockdown. And while it has kept up my writing and English skills, it has also given me something fun to do when I’m bored therefore filling in a lot of spare time that I had. I also found that it helped to take my mind off everything that is going on in the world and it let me work on things that including multiple things that I love, for example when we created a brand, I did a sports app brand meaning that it included both writing and English as well as one of my other favourite hobbies – sports!Sophie Westwood, George Stephenson High School.
This chapter was pretty action-packed, so who knows what the next one will bring.