From participating in the Sour Lemons pilot, to sitting on the board of trustees and starting a MA in Creative Producing at Central – we are so proud to see Miska shining 🍋
A group of young people sit in a circle. Their eyes are full of anticipation and hope. I remember that moment very clearly. It was the end of the selection workshop for the Sour Lemons pilot programme and I could only name a handful of occasions in my life when I wanted something so badly.
It was the first time I met Sade Brown; a woman who was confident, kind, successful, and yet so normal, just like the rest of us. I wanted to be in her company, her generosity. I wanted to hear more about her journey, I wanted to feel as empowered as she seemed. I almost couldn’t comprehend how the opportunities which were a part of the programme could be real. In the coming days, I crossed all of my fingers and impatiently checked my inbox!
When I received the good news, I knew deep down in my gut that the next 9 months would change my life. I had been in London for 6 months and worked a full-time zero-hour contract to pay my rent. I had just come out of college, and despite my results (I could get into Oxbridge if I wanted to) I was put off University due to its cost and elitism, especially as an immigrant in the UK. I completed college in the West Midlands where I migrated to, alone at 16, with the hope of finding a better future. Sour Lemons was the first time in the UK I felt truly safe, like my difference didn’t matter and my lived experience could be used as a strength, and not something I should try to hide, like the way I tried to hide my Eastern European accent.
Before I completed the programme, I was convinced the only creative job I could ever have was to be an actor. It was therefore quite a shock for me when I met the Lemons cohort for the first time and realised my peers were talented digital producers, photographers, film-makers, musicians – as well as wonderful actors and writers!
The people who delivered masterclasses and who we networked with, worked in places and had jobs that I had never realised existed. I suddenly saw these were people running departments, buildings and venues, and they were change-makers. The next 9 months were a big eye-opener for me, a time of not just professional, but also personal development, a boost in confidence. I realised I could be a leader, I could change the things I didn’t like about the world.
We met regularly on Thursdays and for all of us, these evenings were magical. We learnt from experts and leaders in the creative industries, but we also learnt from one another. We were nurtured and challenged, we were encouraged to think big and as cheesy as this may sound, we really did turn our sour lemons into lemonade.
Coming to London as a foreigner without any security net, family, friends or connections was not the easiest so as well as gaining new knowledge and experience; I developed an understanding of the industry and relationships with people within it. It finally started to feel less like a world behind a tall wall and heavy, unbreakable metal doors.
Towards the end of the programme I was lucky to get a paid internship at a theatre company (the work of which I studied at school and followed in admiration!). It was the international touring theatre company, Complicité.
My four month internship ended up turning into a permanent position (for the next two years) and I became a core member of a small team producing large-scale theatre and cultural projects. At 21, I have now left Complicité after two wonderful years of paving my way in the industry and discovering a passion for producing, which was first sparked thanks to Sour Lemons. My work and experience have resulted in me being awarded a major scholarship at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to do a Master’s degree in Creative Producing. I would have never even considered applying for an MA without having completed an Undergraduate degree, had it not been for Sour Lemons.
I have learnt to embrace my path, embrace my background and shout about it proudly. To use it as an asset and hopefully, one day, use it to inspire and help people. I am therefore, even more proud and excited to be on the board as a Trustee of Sour Lemons and be there to support other young leaders to Make LEMONADE.
Once, at the start of one of our networking dinners during the programme we were sharing quotes and Raymond Tannor, my fellow Alumni and now also a Trustee, shared this quote with us: “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds”.
Sade and her work have done just that – she has helped us to realise that all along we were just seeds, ready to break through the ground above our heads… we were just too shy to take the first step.