Art, Culture and Community: GUAP Meets the Brains Behind LAYERS [@layers_online]

Credit: Bilqees Basir

“The UK’s creative industries are worth £92bn a year to the economy, however it does not reflect wider Britain or include people from working class backgrounds.” Aiming to address this, LAYERS is a learning-focussed community platform originally founded in 2017 by design enthusiast Tunde Abdulazeez with the primary aim of exploring and sharing the ideas that sit behind creative processes, whilst exploring their impact on society and culture as a whole. With recent funding from the Culture Seeds initiative by the Mayor of London, LAYERS plans to help change this narrative through gallery exhibitions and creative workshops aimed at helping our young participants in developing a keen interest in the areas of visual arts, photography, and creative writing.

Their first sold-out event was hugely successful, showcasing 15 emerging artists and bringing people from all walks together to celebrate art and culture. The event took place on 3 May 2019 at Htown Studio, Hoxton. This was followed by another event which showcased the works produced by the young people taking part in the creative workshops LAYERS were responsible for organising. GUAP creative Aji Ayorinde caught up with Tunde after attending the first of these events to find out more.

Aji: Who is Tunde Abdulazeez?

Tunde: That’s an interesting question. I would describe myself as someone that’s passionate about design. I’m a big design enthusiast. I got a taste for good and great design when I was a young boy and it has always stuck with me. I’ve always liked the finer things. I am a passionate person who wants to help people and generally want to help and give to and connect with others. That’s been symbolic in my career choices and also in my personal life. I work as an exercise practitioner on a day-to-day basis – I studied sports therapy. That’s pretty much it. Ultimately, I’m really driven by the idea of learning and the idea of growth.

Aji: Talk to us about LAYERS?

Tunde: LAYERS is a community platform which I founded around two years ago and the idea initially was to cover the creative industries using podcasts. I generally listen to a lot of podcasts and was looking to also create content in that world or sphere. I really wanted to understand the creative process in a bit more detail. LAYERS in the last year or so has become more of a community platform that’s now dedicated to learning and sharing ideas behind a variety of creative processes, sharing stories and connecting with people. We’re embarking on a project at the moment – the Creative Community Project – which has brought a lot of young people together and brought a positive vibe to the brand and what we’re doing.

Credit: Mohamed Kamara

Aji: How did the Exhibition come about and what inspired you to do it?

Tunde: The exhibition that you attended was the first event that we’ve had as part of the Creative Community Project and was also the official launch party of LAYERS as a brand. We’re using the project to inspire and empower young people that generally get little to no access to the creative industries. We’re using this project to introduce art, photography and literature to young people so that they can develop their interest in culture and heritage projects. The first exhibition we had – we featured 15 emerging artists within those three disciplines. Their role essentially was to inspire the young people that we will be working with in the second phase of the project and to give them an idea of the level of work that we hope that they would be able to deliver.

The variety amongst the amazing array of talent we had on the night contributed to the energy. Phase Two of the project has involved mentoring, workshops for those young people being facilitated by a number of those creatives in a safe space, followed by an exhibition showcasing the work of the young people themselves that is created in those workshops.

Aji: How did you go about getting the support you needed to bring the exhibition to life?

Tunde: I applied for funding last year August when a friend of mine introduced me to the idea. At the time, I didn’t have the full knowledge of how the project would pan out or what I’d do with the funding, but I did know what kind of project it was that I’d want to lead, so I applied to the Mayor of London’s Culture Seed Programme. There was a lot of back and forth and a bit of posturing in terms of making the application tight. Our application actually got rejected the first two times, but was successful on the third attempt. Alongside the Mayor of London as the main funding body, we have ‘Great Art’ who are also on board and supporting. We also have other local London businesses supporting us such as Impact Brixton. People have also contributed as volunteers to bring the project to life. I’ll give a special mention to Efe who I’ve been working with closely on design and strategy.

Social media has also helped with getting the word out.

L to R: Tunde Abdulazeez; Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London); Ty Faruki; Natalie Scott; Zafeerah Heesambee; Efe Nakpodia

Aji: There seems to be a strong focus on community work in everything you do – what does ‘community’ mean to you?

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Tunde: This is a great question. Quite often we don’t pause to think about what a community actually is. The idea of community seems farfetched if you think about it. People have ‘micro-groups’ that they identify with in terms of pop culture, but for me, community is essentially a group of people that share the same belief, passion for a cause. The common cause I would say that myself and everyone who has contributed to this project is that we share the same outlook on life and share a passion for creativity. When you merge that with our passion for people and for learning, I think that creates the pillar that this project has been built on. Community in its truistic form is a selfless model. What I believe makes the creative community project special is the fact that, with everything that we have done so far, the sole aim is to touch people directly – whether the young people or the contributors. It’s allow people who have given something to it to also take something from it. It’s all being done with love, even when there have been obstacles.

Aji: What can we expect next from you and from LAYERS?

Tunde: From me? I’d say definitely more projects that connect people, similarly to the launch night. I’m also going to take a little break and think about the creative direction that I want to take LAYERS on a brand on. From LAYERS, more community based projects in the future. This framework that we’ve built is a model that we can build on and scale with time and with more resources. It’s also important not to forget why we started. The key is desire and determination and compassion for people. We want to make a change. I am passionate about opportunities, helping young people and helping people in general with their creative journey and to point them in the right direction.

You can find out more about LAYERS here.

~ @ajibolajosiah

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