The mentorship schemes and grants diversifying interior design

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Paul Massey

The early years of life in the creative industries can be hard ones; getting an education in design is usually expensive and the unreliable income associated with living off your own work or taking unpaid internships can be a strong reason why young creatives might find it impossible to commit to their preferred career, or even not consider it as a career at all. It’s one of the major barriers to increasing diversity in the workplace, making it difficult for young people of lower socio-economic and BAME backgrounds to get that crucial first foothold, and it’s an issue that needs tackling at every level, from the school curriculum and careers services to the first stages of a professional’s career.

The good news is that more and more organisations are springing up to help those who need it find their feet in the design world, across the fields of interior design, architecture, art and craft. We’ve rounded up the schemes that have come to our attention providing mentorship, bursaries, grants, and business support for early-career creatives, and please get in touch with us if you know of more.

Mentoring and career support

Built By Us

Specifically aimed at the construction and architecture industries, Brixton-based Built By Us aims to to make connections between companies and diverse talent, using mentoring schemes and diversity training. Mentors commit to the scheme for 12 months in the FLUID programme, and the organisation also offers careers clinics and CV advice.
builtbyus.org.uk

Design Can

Design Can is a platform calling for greater diversity in the design industry overall, and while not currently offering mentorships of its own, it’s an excellent place to look for news and other organisations which might be a helping hand. It regularly reports on new grants and schemes for BAME creatives, and celebrates those who are pushing for a more diverse workplace.
design-can.com

Creative Mentor Network

Set up by Isabel Farchi in 2014, the Creative Mentor Network works to increase the opportunities for young people to enter the creative industries. Through its work in schools, colleges and the community it has developed a Talent Network of young creatives who have been through its mentoring programme; businesses can then access this network when recruiting. It also offers training programmes for existing creative professionals to help them foster diversity, as well as hosting networking events for their community.
creativementornetwork.org

Shadow to Shine

With a wide range of affiliate organisations, including British Vogue and Idris Elba’s Green Door production company, Shadow to Shine mentors inner-city youth with a view to helping them improve their chances in the world of work. Their activities include mentoring, facilitating work shadowing and work experience, and assistance with CVs.
shadowtoshine.com

Creative Access

Largely funded by partner corporations who are committed to increasing diversity in the workplace, including ITV, Hachette, Apple, Tate, Pan Macmillan and the National Theatre, Creative Access works both with companies and applicants. It provides a Talent Pool for organisations to draw on, conducts diversity training, and also supports candidates with applications. When you apply for a job via Creative Access, the organisation helps you with the process and then provides training and networking opportunities for successful candidates.
creativeaccess.org.uk

Create Jobs London

A service aiming to help increase diversity in the creative and digital industries by supporting and developing underrepresented individuals. With employment surgeries, networking events and support with starting businesses, Create Jobs is a valuable one-stop shop.
createjobslondon.org

SocialFixt

A jobs board and organiser of workshops and events for young black creatives, this community also puts on events where job candidates can learn more about the industries they want to break into.
socialfixt.org

Grants and business support

The Craft Sector Hardship Fund

The Craft Council has set up a hardship fund to award makers with a £500 bursary awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. While the fund is currently at capacity, it is raising money to continue with its work, so please consider donating if you can.
craftscouncil.org.uk

Cockpit Arts

Cockpit Arts’ studios in Deptford and Holborn are host to over 140 independent craftspeople and makers, but it’s not only space the studio provides, it’s an incubator for startup businesses. Cockpit Arts offers a business support package and facilitates financial support from outside organisations. Around 20% of the studio holders are supported through Awards and Bursaries. They also run a network for makers who do not have studio space with them, but who benefit from training and support in their careers.
cockpitarts.com

Black Artists Grant

Art platform Creative Debuts has launched the Black Artists Grant, a commitment to supporting black artists in the UK, offering £500 each to three artist each month.
creativedebuts.co.uk/BAG

GUAP fund

Youth-led media platform GUAP has launched two initiative, the GUAP fund and the Black GUAP fund, offering £100 a week to young creatives and young black creatives respectively.
guap.co.uk

A-Cold-Wall

Fashion brand A-Cold-Wall is setting up a foundation to offer grants for black-owned businesses across a range of sectors, including the arts and design. Email [email protected] for more information.
@acoldwall

Business-driven initiatives

Design for Diversity

Founded by interior designer Rukmini Patel and writer Kate Watson Smyth, this is an initiative for brands, businesses, bloggers, designers and stylists to pledge their support to creating a more diverse industry. Businesses can place a sticker on their website which leads to a clickable link leading to the pledge, which makes clear that they are supporting and actively participating in efforts to open up interior design to those from BAME backgrounds, whether that is through mentoring, internships, or by any other means.
madaboutthehouse.com

Worm London

Floral studio Worm London is offering a mentorship to a black-owned business in its efforts to support diversity within the floristry industry. “During current lockdown restrictions we will have a regular video call meeting with the founder/s once a week to discuss where the business is currently at and what steps we would recommend next. These will be followed up by emails with suggestions and when the time is right relevant introductions.” It’s a helpful template for other businesses to follow if you want to give a helping hand to emerging talent.
@wormlondon

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