Everyone is born creative, and though we may not always find the time to nurture it with all of life's commitments and our busy schedules, at City Academy we believe that creativity waits, remaining within, ready to fulfil all its potential.
After all, as adults, we sometimes wander and explore the world around us; we occasionally have a poetic turn of phrase, we put pen to paper and make shapes from our mind, we learn something new every so often, and absolutely all of us are experts - at least - in the subject of our own lives.
Those are the elements we believe it takes to be creative, and if we can hone in on how we want to express that creativity, we’ll find we are one big creative society. In that spirit, here we offer you inspiration and insights from a cross-section of our own community of artistic students, tutors and HQ staff, in their own words:
HIV nurse and member of the Collective Choir
Singing is an amazing physical and emotional experience, whether it's in the shower in the morning or at a choir rehearsal in the evening. It makes me feel joyous. There is nothing quite like having a spontaneous singsong with my friends around the piano or sticking on my favourite album to sing at the top of my voice. Singing, for me, is life enhancing.
I was encouraged by a fantastic music teacher at school to perform and be creative, but my life moved on and there wasn't room for singing in a choir. I am an HIV nurse and am currently doing a research study at Imperial College on the HIV patient journey.
Working in HIV since the beginning of the epidemic, singing has been a constant in celebrating the lives of so many who passed. And I have nursed some of the most talented musical theatre people in the UK, and they were an inspiration to me getting back into singing with a choir.
I am not so pressured now as I was when I was working clinically, so I have become part of the Collective at City Academy. It is an extraordinary experience and helps clear my mind of work. No matter how tired I am, it always restores my energy levels.
You come together with complete strangers and within an hour you have all become one in creating this amazing four or six part harmony. Sometimes I like to be a few minutes late for rehearsals so I can hear these wonderful sounds we make as I walk up the stairs. It is that ability to understand each other and create the light and shade of a beautiful piece of music that is spine tingling.
I do get nervous before a concert but that bit of adrenaline helps me to give it my best. I love that thrill of performing, and I especially like my husband to be in the audience - he is our biggest fan because as a musician he appreciates our ability to engage with the content of the music. All my friends also thoroughly enjoyed our last concert and are looking forward to the next one. I hope our performances encourage people in the audience to come and join us.
Venture capital accountant and Bollywood Dance Company member
Let me start with a confession; my wife originally found this course and dancing would probably not have been the first thing to cross my mind if I’d been asked ‘What would I like to try next?’
I’m involved in historical re-enactment, a running club and I’m learning Japanese in the evenings, but being creative to me is a challenge. Looking back over my life, since I left school, creativity isn’t something that flows naturally from me, although I enjoy other people’s. I prefer tradition, continuity, perfection.
Movements, memory, timing - these are my challenges. My worst moments come with the slightest hint of freeform! I just freeze up. Why do I do it then? Dancing to me is about enjoying the music, the physical exercise and building confidence while learning techniques - I like trying to keep up with my colleagues and instructor.
We came into Bollywood Dance because of our fascination with India. The history, the culture, the people, the music. In London our interest was satisfied by eating in the restaurants of Southall and Wembley, and watching Bollywood and Tamil films. No traditional Indian film is complete without the lead stars bursting into song and dance. So it is the actor Shah Rukh Khan who made the decision for me in the film ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’, and it was this song - ‘Dance Pe Chance’ - that convinced me to have ago. Yes, that's 30 million views.
For the first time last year, albeit in India, I held my own on a dance floor. I feel I’ve achieved something that most of my colleagues won’t or couldn’t do. I still get jeers at work because of the perception of dance here. Strangely, it seems to me in India men dance because it's seen as macho!
I’ve watched my wife diligently practising at home and desperately tried to copy her into the early hours while not waking the neighbours; I’ve achieved seven consecutive barrel rolls in a row without dizzily tumbling off the stage; I lost 1.4 kg in the three days running up to the winter showcase (though the festive period has restored that imbalance now); and this autumn I took part in a Bollywood flash mob at the Excel centre which was great fun. And I now have ambitions to try my hand with some Indian drums, which I would never have considered two years ago. But the ultimate objective, would be to get a small part in a Bollywood film!
Dance instructor and member of the Musical Theatre Company
I'm a professional Ballroom and Latin dancer and instructor, and most of my day are spent giving encouragement, relaying information, or maintaining class energy levels. The Musical Theatre courses I’ve taken through City Academy have allowed me to explore and nourish a long term passion - it is so freeing to reverse roles from teacher to student, and create something I’m proud of with others who are just as passionate for the genre as I am.
Musical Theatre is a compelling story made supreme through song and dance. Sometimes mere words fall short, others misinterpret the sentiment or they simply can't convey the spirit, or capture the highs and lows of the human experience like a heart-wrenching ballad or intense choreography can. It's my way to get in touch with the other facets of my personality and express my inner self to the outer world.
I learned the difference between delivering lines and performing them from my mother. When she tells beautiful stories she commands the audience's attention - I get goosebumps every time. I also grew up in the age of the iconic Disney musicals and my older siblings hooked me with 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'RENT', and from that point forward, each new show became the soundtrack to a particular phase of my life. We would film music videos with dialogue, costumes and choreography in our backyard or garage for A Whole New World, I Just Can't Wait To Be King, Under The Sea...performing Musical Theatre just seems like the most logical progression from our VHS tapes!
Teaching assistant at the Royal Ballet School and aspiring actor from City Academy’s Tuesday Company
Creativity is seeing something simple or seemingly dull and having the eye to make it interesting, transforming it into something that others may not have thought of before. It means being confident enough to take risks with whatever you do, and not holding back even if other people don't agree. You can be creative with anything - even with washing up if you try enough! It's about thinking of something completely bizarre and ‘out there’, challenging preconceived ideas and throwing them out the window in favour of the less mundane.
My first memory of acting really is a classic - it was a school production. I was a main role and remember wearing a long white cloak in the performance. I was so proud of my (probably awful) performance, and so I went up the stage stairs to give my flamboyant bow. I lifted my cloak to the audience and accidentally stepped on it, tripping and smacking my head on the stage floor. I got back up again, red-faced, but pretending absolutely nothing had happened! Not possible - it’s on a DVD that the whole year was given.
Even though something had gone terribly wrong, I still wanted to do it again and again, as I loved the feeling of being on stage. Shortly after that I joined a theatre school and everything evolved from there.
Having finished my A-levels last year, now I am taking a gap year to get more independence and life experience before joining drama school - City Academy’s Actors Company has been extremely helpful as I am currently auditioning to get in, and I want to be an actor in the future. I get to hone my skill and keep my love for it at a high, and also meet a whole range of different, lovely people that I probably would have never met had I not done this course.
I really like being able to communicate a story to an audience and to create entertainment for someone else, even for a short while. Acting helps me understand human psychology and become more aware of other people’s emotions. I’m known to be a bit of a worrier and a perfectionist, so I love being able to immerse myself in a different personality and not be me - acting is a way to disconnect from real life and its stresses, and instead focus on the life of another for a while.
Sitcom Writing tutor and professional actor
I'm a tutor at City Academy alongside Declan Hill, who inspired me to co-produce the Sitcom Mission - a Sitcom Writing competition. There are other competitions around, and he was the one who said ‘Why don’t we do it better?’
Outside of that I work as an actor, and have appeared in sitcoms like Derek (with Ricky Gervais), The Robinsons (with Martin Freeman) and My Hero (with Ardal O’Hanlan).
So I’m not really a writer. I’ve just read thousands of scripts and my talent is for helping others avoid the mistakes of the bad ones! I can feedback what I learn as an actor into what we teach about writing.
I enjoy everything about teaching the Sitcom Writing courses. Bouncing ideas back and forth with Declan, and above all, seeing our students' work improve. It’s a great feeling to see a shy student, who isn’t sure whether they should even be in the class, discover that they can make a bunch of strangers laugh through the power of words.
I get the greatest sense of achievement out of helping others create, and I come away from every class buzzing with excitement.
We’ve had students who have been completely blocked even after attending other people’s courses, and we’ve always been able to free them up. I also like to laugh (who doesn’t?) and I can’t remember a class without laughter. There is therapy in which the participants are encouraged to laugh. It’s good for us. The darker the times, the more we need it.
Senior producer at City Academy and Photography tutor
I work for City Academy as Senior Producer and Photography Tutor. I'm involved in the creation and curation of the photography, video and graphic design for the company. There's obviously a crossover in my job and my passion for photography, but photography is still an escape for me.
The creativity in photography is infinite, so I still find making images outside of work satisfying. To me, being creative is empowering and mind opening. It's a part of life that can be joyful, scary and exhilarating all at the same time, and it’s truly your own to cherish whilst also being a great way of communicating with others.
Whether it's a contrived fine art image or a striking documentary image, both styles give the photographer a platform to tell a story in a fraction of a second.
I was always drawn in by photographers like Anton Corbijn and Annie Leibovitz, by their portraits of musicians mainly. I played drums in bands for a long time and that was my main creative outlet. When that ended, I began photographing live music myself and it all progressed from there - photography became less of a hobby and more of a passion.
Personally I am attracted to portrait photography. I'm drawn in by the subtleties and diversity of the human expression. Candid portrait photography can be really powerful, while with the benefit of controlling your light and setting, some beautiful moments can come from more contrived shoots of people. Generally, I enjoying being at the mercy of light, whether natural or artificial. Light is the boss when it comes to adding a narrative to an image!
Currently, London inspires me - I'm constantly meeting creative people (musicians, actors, other photographers, or filmmakers) that I can muse over art and ideas with, and there's a continuous stream of events and exhibitions happening to inspire and excite you. Simply existing and living in the hustle and bustle can keep you motivated for a lifetime.
We hold creative classes for adults at over 40 London locations, including many of the capital’s leading arts venues. Discover your creativity at City Academy >>>