Becoming an Editor… In school I was always torn between Art and English, art being anything creative including fashion and I was dead set on being a fashion designer. But in my final year at High School I had a bit fall out with my art teacher who said I’d never get into art college, so I packed myself off to London instead. I cobbled together my own curriculum of short courses at London College of Fashion, and even got some interviews at Fashion Houses but I’d always get to the same stage where we’d have the initial chat and they would like my portfolio, but as soon as they found out I wasn’t studying a degree LCF or CSM I was shown the door. It ended up being a really lonely time and I stuck it out for as long as I could but it was a no go.
So I came home to study textiles and fashion design management at Heriot Watt University. It was the jack of all courses which allowed us to delve in to all aspects of the fashion design process as well as the business side of things. Which was really good for me because it was a safe environment and without having to lose too much time or money you could try out loads of different elements of the industry. It was a super creative but also business minded course that clarified a lot for me, mostly that I didn’t want to be a designer or a buyer.
In my final year, my course leader pulled me aside and said she felt my strengths were in the dissertation side of things. The rules for our course were in your final year you either did a full collection or 50% collection 50% dissertation. But she wanted to make an exception for me so that I could do 100% dissertation. Which I did, and I did my dissertation on The importance of the UK’s creative industries and how the government should recognise and support that to further boost a sense of national pride.I remember handing in my dissertation and thinking donenever touching anything like that again, because I was going off to enter the crazy world of publishing.
So I packed myself off to London again and went to Condé Nast. Needless to say it was not the publishing experience I thought it would be; I wanted to use the form of publishing to somehow do some good. I very naively thought I could work my way up to editorial position and convince the board to publish 11 issues a year instead of 12 and for the 12thmonth of the year we could physically move the whole team somewhere and do a project that somehow gave back. But very quickly realised that Condé Nast were not going to buy into that kind of concept.
I came home and started working for a Fashion Tech start up from the very beginning where it was just the founder, an intern and me as the second intern. I saw the full journey, warts and all up until I left when there was almost 20 people employed in our own office and things were going well. But it’s just not what I wanted to do and I don’t think it was quite the right fit for me. I just couldn’t shake the publishing bug.
A huge turning point for me was going down to a publishing conference in London, and I still maintain if I hadn’t gone to that conference I might not have started Boom. At that point I was working Monday – Friday at the app and weekends in retail. When I came back from the conference, I started a little side weekend project which grew arms and legs and became the triple stranded Boom that we know today.
Why do you think people see creativity as black and white? It makes something easier to categorise if you put it in a box or put a name to it. It can add value to something perhaps?
Starting a magazine… I actually had no desire to start my own business, I never wanted to be an entrepreneur and had no real wanting to have that CEO attached to my name. But I started Boom because I knew what I wanted to do and no one else was doing it; I had a slow realisation that it was going to have to be me to make it happen.
Boom… Boom is a triple stranded organisation which includesBoom Saloon;our print magazine, which was started with the mission to democratise creativity for good. Then there isBoom Projectswhich work to use creativity to inspire and empower in areas of deprivation with young people. Lastly there isBoom Roomwhich is our studio that works on design, editorial and strategy for good and we work with clients all round the world.
Democratising creativity for good… Means that we work with a broad spectrum of contributors, from students to people who have never been published before. We push to work with people who feel ostracized from the creative industries; people who feel like they don’t have the right education, background or status and we say none of that matters. If you are doing something creative, then that should be recognised and it should be showcased on the same page as those who are considered industry experts and leaders. That whole concept is furthered by the projects and they’re based on the concept called acid based community developmentor ABCD. So that essentially that means you identify a community in which you recognise an ‘acid’ or a spark of potential. One of the easiest ways I explain it is that although we work in areas of deprivation with people who are facing a lot of challenges we would never look down on someone and say ‘poor you you’ve had a really tough time you deserve a hand up’. Instead we look up to them and say ‘you are so insanely talented you just need a bit of support to recognise that and take it to the next stage’.
Each project is totally different, very much shaped by the communities we work with. We never parachute in or drop a framework onto a community, instead we approach them with a loose idea and collaborate so that the project is shaped by them, their wants and needs. It takes a long time, but I believe is the right thing to do.
The studio then furthers that because everyone who comes on board as a client is able to say not only have I got this incredible piece of design editorial, strategy, or some combination of those, ‘I’ve also literally supported someone else to better their life.’
I’m a great believer that the majority of people in the world want to do good and want to support others. But sometimes it’s a really challenging thing; to genuinely make a difference in someone else’s life. So what we are trying to do is say by the simple act of reading a magazine or the simple act of commissioning the studio you can make that change.
Creativity… I have a series of thoughts about creativity. I think it’s incredible and holds so much potential but also so much unrecognised power. I think it’s in danger of being overly owned by a certain collection of people, often subconsciously without any shape or meaning to, but it can feel like there are a lot of barriers to being creative which shouldn’t exist.
I think there are a lot of people who hold such potential but they don’t recognise that or aren’t encouraged to see it themselves which I think is a real shame.
I think creativity is a lot more fluid that it’s made out to be.
I think that the creative industries are so full of colour, and you miss the biggest trick in the book if you only see them in terms of black and white, rich or poor, architect or musician. I think there is so much vibrancy there and if people can just open their eyes and realise what’s around them we could all be a bit better off.
On Edinburgh… Last week, when I was in London, I got to hang out with my best friend and she said something that really stuck with me which was that she’s never found a place that’s had enough of a draw that’s made up for not having her friends and family and her community and her network right there.
It really struck a chord with me, because in particular lately, I appreciate that I’ve got such amazing friends and family that I would be lost without them. It’s a big thing to weigh up, and people are a huge force that’s kept me in Edinburgh. There are a bunch of generic things I could say about how it’s a really beautiful city; there’s a great creative network, it’s a cheap city; it’s up and coming. But those are the kind of things that anyone could say. I think for me it’s a lot to do with people, networks, communities and foundations that exist here that allow me to bounce off into exciting new places.
Advice… Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Something I’m only getting to grips with now is being a bit more ballsy. I think to date I’ve not had a negative reaction from it, so I think you’ve got nothing to lose by going for it.