VII. What is it like being a young artist in Exeter?

When we initially discussed me doing a few blog posts in the run up the TYPify Youth Arts festival this July, the thought in mind was that I would try and explain what it is like being a young artist in Exeter? You will notice that over the course of the posts that have gone up over the last few weeks that I have gone superbly off topic. However in this one I will try and answer that question.

Photography by Ben Caverhill

I realised almost immediately that me trying to answer this was totally silly. I am, after all, only one person and what do I know! Every young person has a different experience of Exeter’s creative scene depending on where they are and what they are doing.

So to find this out in simplicity I posted around on Facebook and messenger asking these two questions about living in or around Exeter?

  • What’s the most useful thing about living here?

  • What’s the most irritating?

I was going to try and work their responses into some writing, but I got so many and what they have to say is so good, I’m just going to let you read them directly. Enjoy:

Rachel (19) Performer –

My favourite thing about living in Exeter is the diversity in landscape; that you could be in the middle of the city surrounded by buildings, but then in twenty minutes you could be in some fields or at the beach. So lots of inspiration to draw from. My least favourite thing is the lack of creative art shops in the middle of the city and there’s less independent places to draw more quirky inspiration from because Exeter was voted the ‘clone city of the year’ two years ago.

Safi (16) Musician and Performer –

School’s just zapped all the creativity out of me so I can’t think.

Jade (19) Graphic Artist –

The most useful thing about living here is that whatever you want to do, someone will know someone who can help you. I think this accessibility to people and the knowledge they have to share is so important and vastly useful when working your way up within the creative world. Having real connections with real creatives is so much more rewarding than watching a YouTube tutorial. The most frustrating thing for me has been the lack of equipment at a low enough price for myself and other students to have access to. We know it’s there but do we want to pay £200 for a workshop? Not really!

Harry (27) Filmmaker –

The most useful thing is being so close to all the locations, we have Dartmoor, the South Hams, all the beaches and yet we're still connected to Bristol and the world beyond from there.

The most irritating is despite that, the creatives down here seem siloed and scarce, Filmmakers are hobbyists who pat themselves on the back for mediocre work, there just isn't the potency of people constantly creating artwork with real skills within the city down here (there almost has been in the last decade) that provides the primordial foundation for a truly powerful creative industry to develop beyond community projects and mates rates one off productions. I don't know how to fix this for Exeter and by extension the rest of the southwest but I'm looking to Bristol to find that primordial bed of creative creatures to become a part of.

Polly (19) Artist –

When I lived in Exeter I found it so lovely to be around lots of other creatives from all different mediums - all helping each other with both personal and professional projects. Group meet ups, festivals and arts days were regular, especially during the summer months. (Big shout out to Robert Darch and Macula)

Grace (20) Artist –

Most useful thing is probably the atmosphere. I only can compare it to London but I know that, in my own experience, that my mind is much more free and creative in Devon. I’ve put this down to the serenity of Devon, even Exeter (in comparison to Ldn).

Most irritating thing is probably the same thing haha. It can be ‘too quiet’ in respect of the art scene. I suppose I lived in mid Devon and so didn’t spend a crazy amount of time in Exeter because of travel/costs so that limited me.

Mari (18) Musician and Artist –

Most useful thing: its great just to be able to go on long strange wandering rambles when I just need some headspace, it often stimulates my creative thinking, song lyrics or whatever as well as being the subject matter of a lot of my artwork, getting up and painting the sunrise or going out drawing at night.

The most irritating thing is definitely being so isolated. It can be difficult to get to events, play music with people, see people. Although on the other hand it can be good if you really want to get stuck into some work.

Helena (17) Performer -

Favourite thing: unique creative inspiration

Least favourite thing: limited networking, compared to a big city

Kim (20) Performer and Artist –

First thing, Devon is beautiful, there’s no other way to put it. Apart from the rain, it’s scenic, clean and full of fields! And unlike some I like the silence, it somehow allows my mind to wonder....

The down side in my mind is it’s too bland. And I don’t mean that in the way of I want a bustling city life, I mean, when I go to create, draw or write I want fantasy, something out of the norm, and finding inspiration for that in Devon is well, very hard! We live in the normal day to day every day, waking up, going to work and coming back home. It’s repetitive. And quite dull. When I create something I want it to be surprising, fun, something’s no one’s quite considered! I want adventure!

Freya (20) Performer –

Useful: The vibrant music scene, you're constantly meeting new people and everyone seems to know each other which is really helpful networking!

Irritating: Music is the primary focus and most accessible art form in Exeter and I feel others aren't represented and openly implored as easily.

Anonymous (19) Musician and Performer–

What’s the most useful thing about living here? I think that creativity has been slowly developing in Exeter and Devon over the past decade. For a person who’s young and looking to spread their creativity, the most useful part of living here would be having a front-row seat to the blossoming of a new creative-hub in this country. This beginning is something that young, aspiring artists that’ve been raised in the South-West should feel truly humbled and privileged to be a part of. What makes this useful is the insight it can give a young creative mind. We can have an impression on something unestablished: our voices can be heard louder than perhaps they would be in somewhere such as London.

What’s the most irritating? The most irritating part of living in this part of the country is how remote we are in comparison to places like London, Dublin, Manchester etc. that have already developed and are developing further as major creative cities. It’s quite difficult to be active in the creative arts around the country when we are so far away from established businesses with precedence in the arts. I feel that the distance is a difficult factor and, for me, is the most irritating thing about living in Devon.

I let you analyse the reoccurring themes in the many words above, but finally just to add my own opinions into the mix. As a young person myself I personally find Exeter a vibrant city. I do sometimes feel sorry for the residents who have to share their space with endless hordes of College and Uni students. But then again, without them the city would not nearly have the energy it does. Without a doubt, youth brings things alive, as does creativity. The combination can be electric.

There is a lot on in Exeter proportionally to its size. I was at Exeter Respect Festival this past weekend at the same time as two other local festivals were on, Let’s Rock Exeter and Wonder Fields. We have a continuous stream of buskers and of course all the fabulous shows and displays put on by Exeter College and University. There’s always the performances that run at the 4 main Exeter theatres along with gigs at the cathedral and bars or pubs around the place amongst many other things. My main concern is communicating all this to people. Just making people aware of these events and opportunities is the biggest task, particularly in an age when we’re being flooded with information on a daily basis. Sifting through it all takes time and energy. Beyond this, it’s making sure that everything’s affordable, particularly for young people.

Young people are probably the most creative people on earth and that creativity is something that will form who they are right from the moment they are born.

Come along and join us at Devon's only dedicated youth arts festival. TYPify is going on from the 6th – 8th July at the historic Poltimore House just outside of Exeter.

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