On 6th February we celebrated our 7th birthday at a massive Poetry Jam, hosted at Town Hall. Seven years ago, walking into a cafe in the business district of Birmingham wondering if anyone else would show up with poems on a Thursday evening, I knew there was a space in this city for someone or something to connect young people and decision-makers. I didn’t know what that would look like – I definitely didn’t know it would turn into two companies, dozens of projects, and a community in its thousands.
We have quadrupled in size in two years, both in terms of staff and income. We’ve welcomed new team members and said farewell to some faces who have been here from the start; we’ve started new projects, shut down others, and transformed even more. And as our Beatfreeks family has grown, so has mine; my son Arlo celebrated his first birthday just four days after Beatfreeks.
We’re in a very different place than we were when we set up our current structure: one collective, two companies, three trading names. That step was necessary and so useful as we expanded our offer and refined our vision. But we know that having so many names and brands flying around has sometimes got in the way.
Over this past year, while on maternity leave, I’ve given a lot of thought to what our next steps might be as a company. Having a bit of distance has been invaluable as I worked through both Beatfreeks’ role in the world, and my role in Beatfreeks.
Alongside these thoughts, our new Head of Communications started conversations with our community, partners, and other stakeholders getting to the heart of what Beatfreeks is to different people. A clear narrative emerged, and matched with my thinking.
Did you notice around the New Year how many people were steering away from ‘resolutions’ and talking more about focus words for the year? It may already be the second month of the year (after the longest January in the history of mankind), but our word for 2020 has been taking shape through our conversations.
That word is ‘streamlining’, and it underpins what we’re doing at Beatfreeks this year.
So, what are the results of our consultation and planning? All the best things come in threes, and so do these changes.
ONE. We’re streamlining our brands and how we talk about Beatfreeks.
A clear point that came out in every conversation was that our trading names Free Radical, Young Giant and Doink confused people. Whichever wing of Beatfreeks people work with, they thought of us as Beatfreeks. When learning about us for the first time, the different names could throw people off and make it hard to work out what we offer and how the companies relate to each other.
That’s why we’re streamlining our brands. From now on, we are using the names Beatfreeks Arts and Beatfreeks Consulting and to be honest if you just call us Beatfreeks well that’s fine too.
So what does this mean?
Beatfreeks Arts, the company formerly known as Free Radical, is still an arts organisation giving young people space to tell stories about themselves, their communities, and what they care about in the world.
We realised there was a huge overlap between our youth engagement agency, Young Giant, and our insight-focused do and think tank Doink – so the two are joining in a happy union as Beatfreeks Consulting.
The two companies remain separate entities independently run but connected.
TWO. I’m streamlining my role.
I’ve grown along with our organisation. When Beatfreeks started I was 23, newly-graduated, working out how to connect young people and the business community. I’m now the CEO of two rapidly growing and diverse companies; mom to the most amazing baby I could have dreamt of; involved in more projects and committees across Birmingham than I can count. Having taken a step back for a year, I’ve been able to look critically at my role in the companies, and where my skills can best be used.
That led to the next change: I am stepping down as CEO of Beatfreeks Arts, and becoming Chair of the Board. This means I’ll still have influence over Beatfreeks Arts, but it will have space to grow beyond me; and it means I’ll have the time and space to focus on Beatfreeks Consulting, where I remain CEO.
This decision took a long time to come to, but I’m confident it’s the right one. And that leads onto our third change.
THREE. We’re getting new leadership for Beatfreeks Arts.
Recruitment is still ongoing, but we’re excited for the new role of Executive Director of Beatfreeks Arts, and bringing someone in with fresh eyes and a strong background as we reach the end of our first round of NPO funding from the Arts Council. If you or someone you know is interested in applying, all info can be found on our recruitment page.
This is connected to another change: our incredible Beatfreeks Arts General Manager Bohdan Piasecki is changing his role to Head of Artistic Programmes, a job-share with our equally fabulous Lead Producer Eleni Kyriacou.
I’m excited about these changes, and making sure we keep iterating and developing to meet our vision.
And I want to know what you think – my ears and inbox are open.
With love and light,
(All pictures taken at Poetry Jam’s 7th Birthday by Paul Stringer!)