irst rule of thumb: never underestimate an operation’s diminutive office. The Small Green Shoots space is a hive of activity that provides invaluable support not only to disadvantaged youths in the local community, but all over the country.
Founded in 2009, their mission is two-fold: to help young people engage with music and arts, and provide apprenticeships through their Young Shoots programme. I’m here to chat with one of their success stories, Project Manager Niki Evangelou. “I’ve been here for nearly five years,” she says, “I started as an apprentice.”
After that, she was offered a part-time role at the enterprise while studying for a degree in Media and Sociology. “Without a workplace like this I’d be quite shocked and scared, because I wouldn’t have had the experience of responsibility and pressure,” says Niki.It’s kept her focused and on track. “Some people aren’t lucky enough to have mentors who check up on you,” says Niki. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have my team here to do that. This place will never throw you out and shut the door.”
Others go on to find a position elsewhere, armed with valuable skills. “You leave ready to conquer new things,” says Niki. “It’s somewhere that a lot of young people would benefit from starting out at. It gets rid of that scary part of starting a new job.
You can make your mistakes here and get a little bit told off – because if you don’t, that’s not realistic. But the way we take accountability means we learn so quickly. And we get over our fears and anxieties – they can hold you back so much.”
The number of events the consultancy is involved with throughout the year varies. “We like to celebrate key anniversary dates like International Women’s Week and Black History Month,” says Niki.One of their aims is to assist their clients and partners. That’s where Niki steps in, giving advice with fund applications for the Arts Council. “I work directly with leaders who want to run projects,” she says.
“We point them in the right direction. The general idea is that we guide them through the process so that they’re able to do it themselves the next time. It’s about making sure they know what’s available to them and helping them take that step. We’ll never close the door on some one, we’ll signpost the best opportunities.”
Another facet is their pop-ups, which see staff and resources head to another UK city to offer support to disadvantaged young people there. “We find ‘cold’ spots, hire an office and meet people,” says Niki.
They instigate schemes in these under-engaged areas to break down barriers by offering free entry (or a nominal fee) to galleries and shows.
In recent months, Niki was part of an Arts Council-funded venture for Fly The Flag Week, celebrating seventy years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “We created a piece of spoken word poetry,” she says.“The issues explored ranged from poverty to identity. We also worked with Stroud Green-based Barefaced Studios to produce images. I got them printed onto placards which we used in a public showing – like a mock-up protest.”
Across August and September they’re supporting up-and-coming musicians at Upshoots in St Pancras Square. “It’s about getting the spotlight on them,” says Niki. They did something similar back in 2016, holding workshops with businesses such as Argent and Eurostar on aspects including budget planning and law.
And they’re even planning to expand. “We’re getting a second site in King’s Cross near Tileyard Studios.” But their ethos will remain the same. “This is a really special place,” says Niki.