Kevin King of Secret 7" and Katy Dawe, founder of Art Against Knives, shared their insights into the role of creativity for charitable causes at YCN.
On the 18th of June, on a sunny summer's evening, we welcomed our first duo to YCN for the beginning of our Two of a Kind event series. Kevin King of Secret 7" and Katy Dawe of Art Against Knives came in to discuss the role of creativity in charitable causes, sharing their own perspectives and experiences of how integral it has been.
With a number of people in the audience from some established and reputable charities, Katy kicked off the evening by expressing how humbled she was to be talking in front of a crowd of people with so much experience. She then proceeded to give us a potted history of how a tragic incident involving her friend, Oliver Hemsley, in 2008 gave her the shock to the system that gave forth to what has now become Art Against Knives. “It was a shock. Oliver had never even been in a fight or anything like that.” In an attempt to help raise money to cover Oliver’s rising medical bills, Katy organised an art exhibition and within a month was receiving emails from Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Wolfgang Tillmans, asking to be involved. After taking some desk space at an ad agency, some creatives overheard what she was trying to do and offered to help.
The result was a witty poster campaign consisting of a retouched version of Van Gogh’s 1889 painting, “Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear” in which the bandage is removed and his ear is reattached. Thanks to a combination of factors, the cause and its resulting exhibition was creating a whirlwind. “The artwork ended up on billboards all over London and I didn’t even know it was happening. That was 2009 and I don’t remember a single thing!” After that, Katy spent a year talking to people about knife crime, and searching for a way to help. “You need to look at the root causes of something like this. You can’t just put a plaster on a wound,” she said. “One thing became very clear. No one stops to ask young people what they’re interested in.” She started putting on creative workshops with young people, involving film projects, music, spoken word, and making t-shirts amongst other things. A gallery space at Boxpark followed, and the creation of a community-run nail bar called Dollis Dolls Nail Bar in an estate in North London with one of the highest concentrations of unemployment in the UK. After talking us through a number of other initiatives, we were then treated to a short film entitled ‘Role Models’ created by the very people that Art Against Knives work with.
Kevin King then talked us through the origins of Secret 7” – a charitable initiative that takes 7 tracks from 7 upcoming or established bands, presses each one 100 times to 7” vinyl , then invites creatives from all over the world to design a one-off artwork for the sleeves. The result is 700 records, with 700 different artworks on each one that are then sold to raise money for a nominated charity – Art Against Knives being the nominated charity in 2012. Having worked at Universal Music for over ten years, using music for a charitable cause was a logical step, however, he was less familiar with the world of illustration and design. “Before I started this, I could count the number of illustrators I knew of on one hand. Despite that, I didn’t seem to think that getting 700 artists involved would be a problem.” Whilst a lack of experience and knowledge is generally seen as a hinderance, both Kevin and Katy were keen to acknowledge what an important role it has played in getting them to where they are. “Naivety and blind ambition has served us well,” Kevin remarked, referencing himself and his partner, Jordan Stokes. “Not knowing very much was actually really useful. If I would have had all the answers, I probably wouldn’t have done the project. Everything is figured out as we go along.”
He continued to talk about some of the problems and difficulties that he’s come across during his time running Secret 7”, and the experience of working with charities of different sizes. He finished with a succinct five point list of simple advice that he would give to anyone looking to start up a similar venture, making clear that the second point was advice that he hadn’t personally adhered to.
1 – Do it for the right reasons
2 – Make it simple
3 – Make it personal
4 – If you don’t ask you don’t get
5 – Get to know the charities that you’re working with first
The floor then opened up to questions, yielding some interesting insights from both Kevin and Katy on how creativity has rallied support, and the importance of a good aesthetic and a strong brand. One of the last questions of the evening provided us with a poignant reminder of what all of this is for. When one of the audience members asked what their plans for the future were, Katy simply replied, "Our dream is to cease to exist. If we're no longer necessary then the job is done."
A huge thank you to both Kevin King and Katy Dawe for taking the time to come into YCN, and to all of our Members who were in attendance. Find out more about Art Against Knives and Secret 7” by heading to their respective websites, and keep your eyes on our events page for future Two of a Kind talks.
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Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:18th June, 2014 at 6:30pm
End:18th June, 2014 at 8:30pm