Small Town Big Dreams: An Introduction

We thought we'd introduce ourselves through a little interview to tell you about what we are passionate about and why we embarked on creating our brand new podcast and project Small Town Big Dreams. We are so excited to hear from some of our region's most inspirational and talented creatives - to hear their stories, passions, challenges and what keeps them pushing forward. So without further ado, hello!

Christine James

Hello! I'm Christine. I am director and co-founder of Blick Shared Studios - a group of creative workspaces and studios in Northern Ireland. Through our work, we have been supporting entrepreneurs in the creative industries since 2007 and our studios have expanded and grown during that time to 4 different locations. I have helped set up collectives and events that nurture the creative community here in Northern Ireland and I love seeing local ventures grow and succeed in their aims and ambitions.

Graeme Watson

I’m Graeme, and for the past ten years I’ve been a promoter, producer, writer and performer of live comedy and spoken word in Northern Ireland, with a background in higher education, research, marketing and communications.

Karishma Kusurkar

Hi! I'm Karishma, a designer and podcast enthusiast. I run my own business called Karishma's World and am passionate about promoting the creative industries and particularly design in Northern Ireland. I have collaborated on various design projects alongside creating new products.

Why did you want to collaborate on this brand new project?

Graeme - I’ve always been fascinated by people who are bold enough to follow their dreams and talents. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of being my own boss, but I’m terrified that I’d keep phoning in sick to myself and letting myself away with it. So I’m kind of in awe of people who ditch the day job, and there’s so much I want to know about how they’ve done it, and how they cope with the tumultuousness of success and failure. I also like a good underdog story – what does it take to come from nothing or nowhere and attempt to take on the world?

Christine - It’s a project I believe in and am excited to be involved with, we came up with the idea as a group when we were chatting about what we would like to see happen in Belfast and I think we make a good team, with compatible skills and knowledge. On a purely practical level I would never be able to make a podcast on my own! I wouldn’t have a clue how and would also be terrified and would never have the confidence. I think that’s the best thing about collaboration and why it’s so important, as well as the obvious combined skill set it also gives you the confidence to try out new ideas. Having a team to share ideas with and support you through challenges makes things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible become possible.

Karishma - I'm a huge fan of podcasts and have learned so many new things through them over the past few years.  Podcasts provide an affordable and accessible platform to bring something new to the world.  The best podcasts work through bringing diverse people together on their teams which I think the three of us are. Together we bring knowledge of creativity, business, design and of-course humour! I have enjoyed working with Christine and Graeme in the past and can't wait to start Small Town Big Dreams.

What are your thoughts on creative entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland?

Christine - I think NI is a very creative place and currently a really exciting and dynamic place to be based, we have so much talent and creativity and a really great, thriving and supportive creative community. But equally we have some very real challenges when it comes to achieving global creative success. We have our own unique political challenges especially with brexit looming and as a region we tend to be quite modest and downplay our successes and talents. Geographically we are also challenged in terms of size and scale and location, as well as infrastructure particularly outside our capital city Belfast. However I do think we punch above our weight as a region and this project is all about showcasing our many talented creatives that have achieved success despite the challenges and hopefully through their stories and journeys inspiring others within NI to follow their creative dreams and reach their creative potential.

Graeme - With my background, I suppose I’m coming at this with the least amount of knowledge about the state of creative entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland, but I hope Small Town Big Dreams will introduce me and our listeners to great stories from all sorts of people in different areas of creative work, from designers to comedians, musicians to photographers, film-makers, stylists – all sorts! I think it will be really interesting to uncover the similarities and differences in people’s journeys.

Karishma - There are lots of creative entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and I think that our region is a great place to set up a new business.  I think that sometimes people don't know about who else is doing what and particularly outside of their specific area of practice and that there is a commonality of experience for creatives setting up businesses and sharing this is vital to support and encourage the creative industries to be entrepreneurial. 

What are you looking forward to most during recording the podcast?

Karishma - I'm looking forward to learning how to podcast and I can't wait to hear from our interviewees. I love the underdog story and am always keen to hear about how people faced adversity and overcame it or dealt with it. I'm also looking forward to learning about sectors I don't know as much about such as comedy and film and how someone starts up and grows a business in those areas.

Christine - Hearing the inspirational stories of some of our many talented NI Creatives.

Graeme - I’m really looking forward to meeting people working in areas that I wouldn’t get to meet ordinarily, and just discovering what it is that makes them get up in the morning and do their thing, and maybe even more interestingly to me, how they do it and keep doing it. 

What are some of your favourite podcasts?

Graeme - I love all sorts of podcasts, but I should give a special mention to Gimlet’s Start-Up podcast, which really hooked me in to how powerful and riveting audio documentaries could be. I also love The Art of Manliness podcast, which makes me sound like a big dumb ‘meninist’ or something, but its not like that! It’s an interview podcast usually with authors covering things like history, psychology, creativity, politics, philosophy and so on. It’s a good Sunday morning listen.

Christine - I love the combination of stories and music on Desert Island Discs, the current topics covered on Woman's Hour and The Guilty Feminist and there are quite a few marketing and business podcasts I listen to as well! 

Karishma - I listen to a diverse range of podcasts so I'll pick three that I have particularly love listening to right now. Debbie Millman's Design Matters is a must-hear for designers and creatives alike, Gimlet Media's Reply All is a fascinating dive into contemporary internet culture and Racist Sandwich  - apart from its brilliant name - also provides a great insight into the food industry, recognition of different cultures and provides a little anti-hipsterism.