MAMA Youth Project – Women Talking talks to MAMA Youth Project Communications and Mentoring Manager Amanda Brannan about the positive impact the MAMA youth project has had on society.
MAMA Youth has spent the last fifteen years training young people from under-represented backgrounds to succeed in the media industry. To date, they have helped more than 700 young people change their lives and become role models for those who are facing life challenges such as disability, homelessness, mental health issues, misrepresentation, ex-offenders, and abuse.
What is MAMA Youth Project?
“MAMA Youth Project (MYP) is a registered charity specialising in broadcast and digital media inclusion, set up to provide training, pastoral care, and employment opportunities to young people from traditionally underrepresented groups including the white working class and those who face significant barriers preventing them from entering the industry. MYP helps young people with limited education or employment opportunities, who have a passion for the media but no industry contacts, as well as those who simply want to change their lives for the better. The charity is committed to working within the media to help achieve the industry’s frequently stated aim of becoming more diverse and therefore more representative of the audiences it serves.
MYP works in partnership with many broadcasters and independent production companies, such as Sky, Netflix, Channel 4, Banijay, Lime Pictures, Warner Bros, Buzz 16, ES Broadcast, ITV, Gravity Media, Whisper and many more, to provide placements and on-going support to its alumni, securing long-term meaningful employment.”
Why was MYP created?
“It was founded and initially self-funded by Bob Clarke, a former video editor and an unprecedented force for good, who comes from an underrepresented and challenging background himself and was determined to address the lack of diversity in the industry. Television is traditionally a ‘gated’ industry and is still hard to get into unless you know someone.
His mission was to give employers no excuse to take young people who historically just hadn’t been afforded the opportunities.
So, a unique training model was created, an intensive ‘boot camp’ style programme that would provide trainees with a real-time production experience where they were given all the responsibility and support to make a broadcast standard television programme and obtain their first credit. This proved hugely successful with 98 per cent still working in the industry 1 year later and it is the nature of the training that sets MAMA Youth alumni apart. The abundance of fresh new talent with the key skills and a reputation for on-point work ethic and the right mindset, produced and released into the industry consistently by MYP brings great value to its partner companies – so it’s not only the right thing to do but great for business too! Bob Clarke recognised that young people who have faced challenges invariably have resilience which is a huge asset in such a fast-paced and demanding sector.
The charity now has a commercial arm which enables MAMA Youth alumni to gain further experience working on multi-cultural and innovative shows – BAFTA Award-winning Licklemor Productions beat Ant and Dec, Strictly Come Dancing, and the Masked Singer with its production of the UK’s first spoken word programme, Life and Rhymes.”
MAMA Youth has three levels of impact:
YOUNG PEOPLE – They transform the lives of young people who have limited education and work opportunities by getting them trained and employed in the TV and media industry.
INDUSTRY – They help companies by providing ready-to-work skilled talent from under-represented backgrounds.
SOCIETY – They impact society by giving young people the opportunity to have meaningful career that allows them to become self-sustainable, often taking them out of the benefits system and turning them into positive role models for their peers. By involving young people in creating a national TV show they also help break down negative stereotypes of young people today.”
What is your role?
“MAMA Youth Project is highly regarded in the media industry, but we are still a relatively small charity making big impacts with limited resources and staff. Because of this, we all tend to wear many hats and so there’s a lot of variety in my role.
I lead the Communications department; help engage new funders and celebrity patrons as well as managing the mentoring scheme and attend outreach and industry events. I also get involved in the recruitment process, conducting interviews, and working with a panel to determine final selections (which is a bit like being on an episode of The Apprentice, but for a great cause!), the candidates gain great experience from this activity alone. I also deliver training sessions to each cohort in addition to directing shoots on location once the trainees are in the production stage of the programme.”
How long have you worked at Sky?
“I started out as Production Secretary 32 years ago, just a few months after Sky started. Thankfully the industry is growing up and becoming more inclusive now but back then it wasn’t easy being a young woman in a male-dominated environment. I was given the title of production ‘secretary’ as I was the only woman at entry level in the department, while my male counterparts were referred to as Production Juniors or Assistants and were paid more too! It helped to have a transferable skill such as secretarial to get a foot in the door in the first place though and from then on progression came with perseverance, taking 10 years to move through the ranks from runner to producer. I was with Sky Sports since its inception and eventually became Head of Special Features for the channel. It was during that time that I noticed the greatest joy I gleaned from my role no longer came from the content but from the mentoring and coaching of junior staff and supporting them through their progression, often into high profile roles across the business.”
How does it make you feel to see the progression of the trainees?
“Inspired. When they first arrive, they are in awe of us and the fact that we are industry professionals with established career journeys and much experience to share, but by the time they leave us … we are in awe of them! Their resilience, determination, passion, amazing talent, work ethic and sheer character. That feeling of witnessing them develop and grow in confidence while they are with us just never grows old. The charity has been going since 2005 and we continue to celebrate the achievements of our alumni no matter how many years ago they did the training or how recently, they are all like family to us.
Every time one of ours gets a promotion, a contract extended on a popular show or a full-time position, it’s honestly like someone’s given birth in our office!
With many alumni having over a decade of industry experience now, we have former MAMA Youth trainees out there at every level from runner to executive producer and even heads of development, it really is rewarding.
The success of our outstanding alumni speaks for itself and I know every one of them would give the same advice as me to young people who are looking to break into the media today – don’t be discouraged by the industry’s traditions or the current climate. If you are passionate enough about this career path and willing to work hard, you will find a way to break in and if you need help, visit us at www.mamayouth.org.uk and apply for MAMA Youth’s award-winning training.”
What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?
“I’d like to say getting the opportunity to interview some of my all-time favourite sporting heroes, covering iconic sporting events at outside broadcasts across the globe, filming with celebrities in glamorous locations, the adrenaline of producing live television or creating world-class content and knowing it’s being consumed by millions of viewers … but it’s none of those things.
The highlight of my career has been making the most rewarding move from the commercial to the charity sector with the welcome opportunity to give back to an industry that has been a constant in a career spanning three decades. Simply that – I’m so grateful for the opportunity to make a difference through my work with MAMA Youth Project.
I get asked about memorable moments often, along with what’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made – and the two things are intrinsically linked. My deepest regret is that I was part of a system that allowed those from certain backgrounds to be excluded and I didn’t always notice, it was just the way things were.
Thankfully, there are now more demands on the media industry for accountability in terms of its questionable culture, the detrimental effects of which I witnessed first-hand many times whilst working in television and often, I’m ashamed to say, looked the other way – for fear of persecution myself.
I now get the chance to tell so many young people who are just embarking on their own careers, don’t make the same mistake as me, we all have a responsibility to affect tangible change and the only way we’re going to do that is together … if it’s not right, call it out!
We must get it right in this industry because the media has such an influence on all of society. I know MAMA Youth trainees are going out there and playing their part in fixing the broken system that I was part of for so long and they are literally being that voice for me, for all of us, the voice I wasn’t always brave enough to find, and every time I hear it … well, moments don’t come much more memorable than that.”