67.5% – that’s the number of young people who say they don’t see their future in Northern Ireland according to a LucidTalk poll. I recently met up with two young men who’re part of a team of six that are trying to inspire Northern Ireland’s young people through a new project called Create 2014.
Jordan Earle (17), is a student at Grosvenor Grammar School and Matthew Carson (18) who also attends Grosvenor met with me so that I could learn a little bit more about what exactly Create 2014 is.
Apart from Matthew and Jordan, there are four other young people taking part in the project; Sarah McBride (18), Gareth Reid (16), Kennedy Keeney Robinson, and Josh Kempton (17).
How did the group come together?
“The Science Park put out a call for applications and we all applied via the forum and then got selected by the Science Park to take the project forward.”
What is Create 2014?
“Create 2014 is a one day event in Derry/Londonderry as part of the CultureTech Festival week of events. It’s primarily aimed at young people but we are open to all ages and we’re going to have a mix of speakers throughout the day in the main hall and then we’ll have breakout rooms which are going to have hands on experiences, so you’ll be able to code or make things for example.”
You’ve been partly fundraising through Kickstarter, has that been successful?
“We’re getting a good bit of our funding for this event from our Kickstarter page and we initially set a target of £2500 and at this moment we have smashed it and are on £3700 and we actually got that within a couple of days. People are really excited to buy into this idea and help us do it. We were initially nervous that we weren’t going to hit our target especially because on Kickstarter if you don’t hit your target you make no money at all.”
At the end of the event what do you hope to have achieved?
“What we want to do is inspire the next generation of young people to get involved in the creative and tech industries in Northern Ireland. We want people to consider this space as a career prospect instead of the traditional routes like medicine or law.”
Where do you get the motivation from to do this project as it’s quite a big undertaking?
“Yeah it is, and it’s amazing the amount of responsibility we’ve been given from the Science Park and Culture Tech to do this, but really the motivation just comes from a lot of us having worked in this space for a year or two and wanting to expand those opportunities to other young people and really show them how exciting and cutting edge this space is to work in.
This isn’t the first of this kind of project that Matthew and Jordan have been involved with. The pair also worked on a project called Thinkspace which was a project aimed at promoting coding to young people in schools. YouthEast is another project that the duo have worked on; after attending an ‘East Belfast Talks Back’ event both Jordan and Matthew decided to create an app for young people that would gather together, in one central resource a whole litany of activites that young people may be interested in, in east Belfast.
How do you find the time to fit in all your projects with your studies?
“It’s pretty difficult, but we manage it, late nights and a lot of iMessages but you just work around it if you have something you’re excited about doing.”
Have you had any political or high profile support?
“In terms of high profile support yeah, we’ve had people like Stephen Fry expressing support… we’ve approached Richard Branson, and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) has been really supportive.”
Do you want political support or would you rather a day where all the focus is on the young people?
“Political support is always good and politicians in previous things that we have worked on have always been good in terms of pointing out who to talk to and we have had a lot of that ourselves so haven’t needed it as much this time. We’ve had a meeting with the Department of Employment and Learning and they’ve been supportive of trying to build contacts and pass us on to people who will be useful.”
What does the creative and tech industry in Northern Ireland look like?
“It is increasingly growing, we have organisations like the Science Park actively promoting the industry here, a lot of young people are having their eyes opened. I think a lot of young people used to feel, and still do disconnected. They feel they have to go to San Francisco or Berlin for example to get involved in this industry but that’s not the case and increasingly young people are realising that we now live in a 21st century world and we can use the internet to communicate with these colleagues instantly wherever they are.”
If you wanted to get into the creative industries, what kind of subjects should a young person study at school?
“I don’t think you should be limited by subjects, people always think you need to study sciences and computing but neither I nor Jordan study those subjects. This is an area where you aren’t limited by academics, you can get ahead without a degree. What you need are ideas, innovation and drive.”
If a young person is inspired by your event and has an idea what should they do?
“If people have ideas, the Science Park are always really keen to hear and mentor people. If you have an amazing idea they’ll put you in contact with one of their entrepreneurs and residents who are basically entrepreneurs who have made it big and want to give back. So they come in to the Science Park and will talk you through the business plan or whatever. So if you have an idea get in contact with the Science Park or even one of us and just go for it.”
A year from now, what do you want Create 2014 to achieve?
“We want it to grow bigger and inspire more and more young people, we want it to be a success. We’re hoping to make enough money through sponsorship that we can do it bigger, bolder and better next time around.”
The Create 2014 event takes place on Wednesday 17th September. For school groups entry is free and for students the entry fee is £10. The event will run from 9AM to 5PM in the Culturlann in Derry although you can come and go throughout the day as you wish.
By Paul Wyatt