Over the past few years, in the heart of Newcastle City Centre, the Ladders Programme has given many young people the opportunity to meet creatives, visit iconic venues and ultimately give them the inspiration to pursue their hobbies or career choices. For this first instalment, we’ll be looking at the students who wanted to gain knowledge and awareness – this is a true unfolding of the creative industry, and a chance for the individual to question is this suitable for me? Here are some highlights from the Music, Software Development and Film/TV course…


If from childhood your dream was to be centre stage at the Glastonbury festival, or you’ve learnt every technical phrase from notch filter to square wave oscillator, or if your passion for music only developed last night at 2 am whilst you were watching The Beatles Greatest Hits on YouTube. Ladders cater for everyone, no matter your background or musical know-how. After attending Ladders for the first time, aspiring artist, Molly, had something to say: ‘I feel reassured for the future and my goals as an artist now seem more realistic’.

The information provided to the young people were first-hand accounts of those who have journeyed through the music industry. The friendly, laid-back approach from Sam meant everyone felt comfortable talking about their own musical aspirations and ideals for the future. Sam’s main advice for the group was to build up individual experience that involves your own musical skills so that your work is creative and unique to you.

Everyone’s journey through the music industry developed in all sorts of peculiar ways, but the key message from the inspirational speaker, Keith Armstrong is, ‘don’t take go away as an answer!’. Have you not got an email back from the producer you emailed last month? Email them again! Still, need more experience becoming an engineer? Go to gigs ask if you can shadow them, pick up some useful information! Never give up.

– Tyler Wilson

It was then time to step out of the library, and into the heart of the industry in Newcastle City Centre. Blogger, Wayne, followed their lead…

First stop was the well-respected O2 Academy, a music venue which has been thriving since 2005. The group met Phil, General Manager at the academy, who introduced everyone to the academy and explained his role. He also mentioned his other work including managing Elvis tribute band, Elvana. The band has only grown since then which has left Phil with many plans including an American, UK and European tour and even Glastonbury, as he has already managed to book a gig at Shepard’s Bush Empire.

Then we met Jordan, a promoter at the Academy. He shared his story, which began when he was 16 and working as a volunteer and when he was 18, he came back to officially work. He is now the Promotion manager for The O2 Academy – he was an example of someone who has taken every opportunity thrown at him, and through that, he found his passion.

Next up, the team headed to Loft Studios to meet owner and producer, Andrew Archer. After a tour of the facilities, they took a seat in the live room and discussed the concept of sync. Andrew shared his top tips to successfully work in that field, including the appropriate licenses, costs and commitment.

We then headed over to Blast Studios in Ouseburn to meet Jed and Ant. The studio is a £1m facility but can range from the cheapest to the most expensive piece of kit. They were sharing some top tips about the different kinds of mics, and where is best to start. As many can imagine, the number of names and types of equipment can be overwhelming so it was beneficial for the students to understand its value.

Back at Newcastle City Library, students had the opportunity to meet Kitty Porteous from Arts Council England. She discussed the barriers faced when pursuing musical careers and how funding streams can support that. At any level of skill or age range, there are different funds with different criteria which she shared with the group. According to Kitty, the barrier tends to be confidence and the surprise that many people aren’t aware that these opportunities are available.


Software Development

Mentor Phil started with the basics – what roles are there, and what jobs are available now? After discussing the breadth of the industry, it was time to get straight into the nitty gritty of codes and computer screens. Not only that but consciously using the languages and technologies that are commonly listed on job adverts. This is to help demystify what can be a daunting experience within Software and how to work around it. There are so many languages that it’s difficult to cut through and find out what a job is requiring, so this was incredibly useful. We also looked at interview techniques, including what to expect from an interview and how to go about shaping your portfolio for maximum effect.

The following sessions consisted of a range of people coming in to talk about their journey in the sector. The first speaker, Jo York, currently working behind a start-up company ‘Try Ricochet’, define a list of employers to talk to. Jo filled the room with motivation whilst talking about her journey and discussed how technology is unpredictable but not to give up. In her words, ‘admitting you’re human and accepting your mistakes is how you can grow, develop and change’.

After a passionate conversation on technology, the students were introduced to five fresh faces for a “Fireside Chat” to discuss their views and journeys through the sector – Jay, Ben, Marco, Ben and Shy. Topics of the discussion revolved around being self-employed and having that freedom to work at your own pace, finding the best way to communicate and most importantly, living a well-balanced life in the tech sector. Jay’s statement summarised it perfectly, by saying that you must become a “go-to” for a certain reason if you want to generate business. 

Ahsan Ahmad was the final person to speak, who has recently become a very successful programmer. He spoke about his experience and shared some top tips about working your way up the ladder. Ahsan said something particularly interesting which left the students feeling reassured and motivated, ‘You’ll learn a lot more by yourself in a few months then you will by a lecturer over 3 years.’

-Lewis Fletcher


Mentor Chloe kicked off course one by looking at the film, tv and animation industry as a whole, seeing what is going on in the region and further afield. They also thought about how many different job roles there are and the potential pathways of getting into them. It all sounded exciting, like the possibilities were endless, but do these job roles exist in the North East? Well, Chloe wanted to showcase that. The team headed over to Kaleidoscope CFA to meet filmmaker Craig Hawkes and had a really fun workshop coming up with ideas and storyboards for a brief based on the app, Snapchat. Each student pitched their ideas to Craig and Chloe at the end of the day, which meant that they were already getting industry perspective on their own work.

On day two, we popped into a number of different businesses in the region, starting with Superkrush to see their studio space and chat to Chris about the work that they do. Next, we heard from Marc Runkee of Digital Sidekick who showed us his film and animation work and described his pathway into the work he does. We then headed over to Proto to see their state of the art facilities and had lots of fun sampling their VR and thinking about its potential uses in filmmaking/storytelling. Once again, each industry visit had shone a different light on what is happening in the North East.

On day three we heard from Peter Banks, an ex Ladders student and heard all about the work he has been getting into over the last two years on some really exciting projects in the region. There’s nothing better than hearing from a Ladders alumni’s success – you can read more about Peter’s journey in our interview here. Rebecca Innes visited us too and delivered a workshop all about screenwriting which was really helpful for those of us interested in building storylines, instead of visually bringing it to life.

Thank you to all venues and special guests for your enthusiasm and willingness to share your knowledge. It was fantastic to see all students develop over the three sessions, and now they have the foundation needed to pursue their creative career.

If you’d like to read more about Ladders and would like to apply for Cohort 6 starting on Jan 16th, click here.