Recently I chaired the first University Women in the Arts event as part of London Writers' Week.
University Women in the Arts is a one off scheme designed to provide mentoring for female students studying arts subjects at Universities across the UK from 15 of the women who are leading the way in the arts in the UK.
It is made up of private mentoring for 15 students selected from a nationwide search and a series of public events which are open to all over the next year.
The first session was with Kate Rowland, founder of BBC Writersroom and the former Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC.
One of the key areas Kate discussed was the importance of self confidence - if you don't feel confident, you can make other people feel not confident in you, but the important thing is to overcome that and keep going.
Kate also spoke about setting up projects, which she has spent her career doing, including setting up BBC Writersroom and the BBC TV Writers Festival.
Kate advised that if you get a no, keep going, try someone else or try again a few years later and eventually you will be able to set up that project you believe in.
Kate also offered advice on her personal life and how its ok to get counseling if something awful happens and when you need it and the importance of talking to people at those times - whether it's an expert, mentor or buddy.
Two key quotes that stay with me from Kate's session are her advice on thinking about what you believe in and want to do in your career, quoting Maya Angelou:
"a bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song"
and how thinking about what the song you have to sing is the important thing, which is when you might decide you want to set up your own projects if that opportunity doesn't currently exist.
And her opening quote by Frida Kahlo:
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you."
The session ended with cheers from the audience, made up mostly of female students studying arts subjects from Universities across the UK, including the 15 talented students who have been selected for private mentoring in addition to the public sessions as part of the scheme.
"It's a long time since I've been cheered," Kate said.
The next University Women in the Arts event will be on August 18th with Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre.
To be kept informed of the events and how to book, please go to www.universitywomeninthearts.com
A companion publication to collect and expand on the events will be published by Oberon Books at the end of the year
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