View looking up at the dome on the South Wing of Somerset House

Introducing Somerset House Future Producers Pt.2

05 Feb 2021

Somerset House Future Producers share their experiences of their first months working at Somerset House, the research and collaboration processes they've undergone together, and share visual research and creative references curated on Pinterest.

The Somerset House Future Producers programme was launched in September 2020, a new paid programme designed to inject fresh voices and perspectives into our cultural programming, while offering training and development to nurture the next generation of emerging cultural producers.

Six young Londoners joined Somerset House as the first Future Producers collective, working with Somerset House Studios resident COMUZI and project partner Pinterest on a project exploring Black history, heritage and culture in relation to Somerset House. The Future Producers will realise a digital resource that tells this story and engages people with Black history at Somerset House, to be launched in early 2021.

In part two of a series of three work in progress reports, Future Producers Zak Agnew and Nkechi Nwobani-Akanwo talk us through what they've been working on.

Zak Agnew

Upon becoming familiar with the other Future Producers, we were introduced to the COMUZI design process we were going to be following. Our problem was that we needed to design a digital resource that tackled the question, 'how do we effectively curate an experience that could communicate the experience of Black Brits and was relevant to Somerset House's history?'. After several intense 'ideation' workshops with COMUZI, that were aimed at fleshing out our individual ideas, we eventually landed on two ideas that were both a sort of merger between the six of us. The next stage of the process was aimed at sifting our two ideas into a more succinct one, and after the relevant meetings, research, and creative design we (as groups) presented our ideas to each other with the aim of choosing one over the other.

This backfired (positively) as it was far too hard to pick one without disregarding another solid idea for our digital resource. As a result we entered more meetings to create a final idea that encompassed elements of both ideas. Conveniently, this worked perfectly and did so without losing any value of the overall resource for the sake of including elements of both ideas. For my first freelance experience it's undoubtedly been intense but I can't imagine it being any other way to be fair. The process has also been incredibly valuable in helping me to understand the expectations of a freelance project like this and how they're managed. It's opened my eyes to working with culturally like-minded people towards the same goal, which has been refreshing and insightful to its effectiveness.

Nkechi Nwobani-Akanwo

In the heyday of 2020, that brief time in between lockdowns when the days were long and the nights filled with the energy of people trying to find their former lifestyles, I applied to Somerset House’s Future Producers programme. It seemed the perfect opportunity to try and finesse my way into being a curator (sans Degree and Masters - cheeky, I know). Digitally challenged, I underplayed the bit where it mentioned creating a digital resource and thought ‘ Throw me in the deep end’ - ‘unprecedented times’ call for unprecedented moves! 

Surprisingly, I was chosen to be part of this new collective and then the panic set in that I’d have to don my sociable cloak and put on my diplomacy boots. My other creatives are all very talented, intelligent and resourceful young graduates with the verve to completely ignore the lines and colour how their imagination sees fit. And still, my ideas, interests and perspective had merit too. I quickly found my feet researching and presenting my areas of interest like architecture and contemporary culture, to the brief of focusing on the history of Somerset House, broadening the initial realm of things I’d considered. 

Somerset House has long been one of my favourite arts centres in London, I’m a frequent visitor but I knew very little about it’s wildly varied past, from a royal palace to Navy HQ, Inland Revenue offices and the home of the British Fashion Council. And, though its facade is classical it’s now fuelled by heterogeneous residents, in their hundreds, creating niche, innovative and enthralling work.

The COMUZI facilitators introduced me to new ways of creating and collaborating on ideas that I’d never considered. Building on each other’s initial proposals gave everyone a sense of ownership and investment in everything that came from the room! I’ve learnt so many invaluable life lessons through the process and we’ve only just got started. For example, and I’m already cringing, but everyone has something worthy to bring to the table. A lack of formal training or age or different cultural references or being the very sensible, practical one adds further depth of flavour to the pot!

Somerset House Future Producers x COMUZI has been made possible with support from Art Fund, with additional funding from Pinterest for the first project.

Subscribe to our Creative Careers newsletter to be the first to hear about future opportunities to join our Future Producers programme.