'Young, hungry people': How Soho House's mentoring scheme opens creative industry doors for new talent

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Getting into the creative industries can feel a bit like scaling a cliff. A few people have those really expensive crampons but everyone else is scrambling hand over foot.

Musician, songwriter and producer Marlon Roudette, 36, has been feeling frustrated for a long time.

“There’s an imbalance in terms of those from ethnic minorities and poorer households getting a foot in the door. Interviewing studio assistants and engineers, the number of people from lower-income backgrounds is much less because doing intern jobs in London when you haven’t got anything to fall back on is impossible.

"Morally, there’s obviously an issue there but also, in my experience, making interesting records requires people from all different backgrounds. I’ve been feeling that frustration for a while.”

It was this that made him decide to become a mentor. Roudette is in the midst of a successful career: he’s the former frontman of Mattafix, who had a number one with Big City Life in 2006, and has released solo records and co-written music with Dua Lipa, SBTRKT and Mabel (who is also his sister).

“I’m lucky because I’ve come from a creative family on both sides and I was encouraged. I’d seen that having a life in the creative industries could work,” he says. “That’s a massive hurdle. If you’re not around anyone who’s actually made it work then it’s just a pipe-dream.”

Roudette is a member of Soho House, which recently launched a mentorship programme to give young people at the start of their creative careers a boost. Together with the Creative Mentor Network, the Open House mentoring scheme pairs members of Soho House with up-and-coming creatives under the age of 27. Having started in the new White City House, the scheme has spread to other houses in London, New York and Amsterdam and is rolling out in LA and Chicago.

“There’s no set route into the creative industries,” says Soho House’s chief creative and strategy officer Peter Chipchase, who co-created Open House, “but it’s normally about your network. If you’re from a lower socioeconomic background — and I am — you don’t have that network to start with. We wanted to help young, hungry people who are banging on the door but are getting nowhere; let’s connect them with people within our building who have already done it.”

Roudette’s mentee is Julius Casela, a 19-year-old alternative R&B artist who says his goal is “to get a good record/publishing deal with a label so I can pursue music and get paid for doing what I love.”

R&B artist Julius Casela has taken part in the scheme (Ben Bentley)
R&B artist Julius Casela has taken part in the scheme (Ben Bentley)

“He’s hell-bent on being an artist,” says Roudette, who through Open House has introduced him to contacts in the industry, given him advice on his music and been a vital support system.

Beyond the world of music there are experts in the fields of film and TV, art, design and journalism. Motion designer and Vogue creative video editor Azra Sudetic focuses her mentoring techniques on skills development. While studying, she had the guidance of a Tommy Hilfiger art director, who became a very important mentor.

“I know that if I hadn’t asked for help from people with more experience I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now," she says. "This is the product of a lot of people pushing me further.”

Soho House isn’t the only institution implementing schemes to diversify creative industry talent. Escape Studios’ ScreenSkills course hopes to counteract the high drop-out rates in animation and visual effects (VFX) production. The intensive six-week course is designed to take students from under-represented groups and get them straight into their first job in the industry.

Sara El Jamghili took the course and got a position at Industrial Light and Magic, a VFX branch of Lucasfilm that produced the effects on Star Wars.

“These industries often operate like little communities where it seems hard to break into unless you know someone on the inside,” she says. “Starting again in a new industry, despite being a fairly confident person, there was an element of feeling like I needed to play catch-up. This is something that I had been chasing for a while. Doubt did creep in whether I would be good enough.”

She says that, as well as practical skills and confidence, the course created a network between the students that remains after it has ended: “We are all now industry friends. We recommend each other for roles and share opportunities.”

Roudette agrees that this is just as important as having more experienced mentors, and it is something the Open House scheme also provides. “That’s where the most original ideas come from. I would say to a younger me, ‘Find those people who you connect with. Their advice is worth listening to.’”

More information on how to sign up to the Soho House mentorship scheme can be found at sohoimpact.sohohouse.com. More information on the Escape Studios ScreenSkills course can be found at pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk

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