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Factory International joins Apple and London, Birmingham venues to address barriers to Black creatives


Manchester’s new cultural space Factory International is teaming up with Apple and fellow arts venues in London and Birmingham to “address the systemic barriers Black creatives face in the arts and creative industries.”

In partnership with Apple, The Southbank Centre, Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) and Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse, Factory International today announced new talent development programme, REFRAME, to support emerging Black and Black Mixed heritage creatives in the three cities.

This ambitious programme launches with a pilot project between March and August 2023, which will reach 80 emerging Black creatives from low-income backgrounds as well as hundreds of secondary school children in 21 schools in Greater Manchester, London and Birmingham. The programme aims to supercharge digital creative skills and help young people reach new heights in their creative careers. 

In addition, Factory International’s award winning Factory Academy programme continues to help people from all backgrounds to start new careers in the creative industries, working in partnership with cultural organisations and employers across the city.

Randel Bryan, executive director of Factory International, said: “We’re delighted to be part of this new cross-sector partnership to support the next generation of Black creative talent in the UK. 2023 will be a time of enormous change in Manchester’s creative and cultural industries with the opening of Factory International set to bring direct, accessible and tangible routes into the industry. Through partnerships such as these, Factory International is committed to bringing new and diverse voices into the creative sector, supporting the talent of tomorrow to show exactly what they’re made of.”

REFRAME has two strands. Firstly, a residency programme is open to 80 talented Black and Black Mixed heritage creatives aged 18-30, who have less than two years’ experience in their chosen field of film, photography or music. There are 25 place available at Factory International, 30 at the Southbank Centre, and 25 at STEAMhouse. This free course runs for 14 days and consists of hands-on creative sessions as well as sessions led by Apple creative experts. Designed in consultation with leading employers, it will focus on equipping young creatives to use digital tools needed for the future and preparing them for the practicalities of a career in the arts. 

Their work in film, audio and photography will be presented at the Southbank Centre in August as part of its summer season of multi-artform programming focussing on the climate emergency.

Secondly, the programme will target 21 secondary schools in communities that are historically underserved by cultural organisations in the cities which will work with artists, graphic designers, illustrators and climate experts to design their own response to the climate emergency and its effect on them and their communities. 

Participating schools will be asked to create a zine, linking its content to one of the UN’s Sustainability Goals. Each zine will feature poetry, illustration and creative writing and will be a classroom-based project, developing skills in literacy, design, IT and citizenship.

Projects will take place in the Spring 2023 term and the zines will be showcased in an online exhibition at the Southbank Centre, Factory International and Midlands Arts Centre. 

The programme is part of Apple’s global Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) — and represents Apple’s first REJI expansion into Europe.

Through the initiative, this collaboration aims to inspire future generations to take part in building a cultural legacy for the UK. The project aligns with the Arts Council England’s Let’s Create Strategy and the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda, which strives to build sustainable cultural communities across the country.

Alisha Johnson Wilder, director of Racial Justice Equity Initiative at Apple, said: “We’re thrilled that the REFRAME program continues to take shape with the selection of new partners in London, Manchester and Birmingham. We believe the opportunities for young Black talent are boundless. This new program aims to unlock their extraordinary creative potential and will help them develop new skills that will benefit them well into the future.”

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