As a self-taught artist who has juggled lots of low-income jobs, there have been many barriers for me.

I left University of Wolverhampton for financial reasons in 2012 and at the time I was having difficulty with my mental health.

The following year is when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career as an artist, a good friend of mine, Jamie Akinola, told me about a space he was at, building his embroidery business. I was now an artist in residence at South Kilburn Studios, which is now at the Granville SK. It was a real turning point for me, as not only did I get the space, I was able to bring some fellow artists together and start The OKD Collective with fellow artists, Nxsh and Elsie Ayotunde Cullen. For the next four years, I am proud to say that we were able to exhibit and facilitate workshops in various locations in London while building a following. This to me was my graduation in a way, as it filled a void of not finishing university and feelings of failure that were not nowhere valid but were very real at the time.

I made a conscious choice to put mental health and masculinity as subjects that I would focus on in my work and started thinking about how I could make this happen. I joined The Creative Society last year November as part of ‘Step Up,’ which helps to get young people into creative jobs and to develop as creative professionals. Through building this relationship, I went on to be commissioned by The Creative Society and Somerset House to produce an event as part of the Creative Job Studio. Through this event, I was able to communicate my ideas about creativity and mental health through live discussion and performance. I was so pleased when I discovered that the event sold out and there would be a full audience to engage with the content. It was during this time that I started working as an Admin Assistant for The Creative Society, working closely with Kitty supporting her with the Creative Job Studio as well as managing the social media channels. It was with the help of Kitty, Martin, Barbara and Grace that I gained more skills and more confidence. I even found myself speaking on behalf of the charity at the Tate with a room full of directors and representatives from various creative institutions. At the end of my three months in the office, I knew what I could and couldn’t do and felt I had a better understanding of institutions rather than feeling daunted by them.

The final thing I want to say is that I wish I had found out about The Creative Society sooner and my only wish is that there were more places that support young people in the way that they do.

Laho Jebak, Visual Artist