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Unsigned Youth Talent Meets the Gaming Industry

13 December 2021

Unsigned Youth Talent Meets the Gaming Industry Unsigned Youth Talent Meets the Gaming Industry

In Bedfordshire, a local organisation has helped young people to unlock their creative skills, build confidence and remove barriers to employment through online gaming.

Earlier this year, the Society for the Advancement of Black Arts (SABA) got creative in their approach, delivering their project in Bedfordshire to help young people at risk from local gang culture get into employment. Director John Downie decided to combine personal development training with online gaming – allowing participants to take control of their own future.

SABA was created to support people from disadvantaged communities to tap into their creative talents for potential commercial opportunities as a micro-business or to find employment in the area of their skillset. And that’s exactly what their Community Grants funded project has done.

From one to one mentoring and bespoke digital media training to confidence building and interview practice, the programme eliminated participant’s barriers to employment.

Director of SABA, John Downie, commented: “Gaming to me is like a parallel universe, with an endless number of opportunities available – Which is why it’s a perfect employment opportunity and really engaging for young people. During the pandemic, so many young people have lost their jobs, had their education disrupted or lost confidence. Our project was designed to help those most affected by COVID, to make a real difference that will benefit participants now and in the future.”

One of the participants on the project, who also helped deliver sessions as part of his development is Winston Hislop. With decades of success as a reggae ‘MC’ (stage named ‘General Saint’), he enrolled on this project after taking a keen interest in the gaming industry whilst experimenting with animation for his music.

In the process of shaping his next career move, Winston instilled creativity, wisdom and a willingness to learn into the younger individuals. He was a role-model in the project and had a profound impact on their learning experience stating, “If I can do it, so can they.”

Winston added, “Joining SABA has been a great adventure to share my creative ideas. It’s been really, really magical communicating with the youths, and talking to them about their work… it’s been fantastic.”

SABA’s gaming initiative was funded by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s (SEMLEP) Community Grants programme. The programme offers Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises grants of between £10,000 to £20,000 to help people most isolated to get back into work or training. Round 8 of SEMLEP’s Community Grants programme is opening for applications on 10th January 2022. For more information, visit:

For more information on SABA, click here:

John, can you tell me about applying for a Community Grant?

I’ve been doing stuff around this for probably about ten years now, and as an organisation, we survive on lots of pockets of funding.

We specialise not by doing large, accredited projects, but by doing smaller ones that are unaccredited and can fit with the people we work with. We have a concept called ‘The Hidden Creative Economy’ (HiCrEc) and that’s about finding people who are in the ‘underground’ who have talent; and finding a way of making them move from the ‘underground’ to the mainstream. That’s not always done through accredited qualifications.

So, these types of (SEMLEP) projects suit the way we work. We like being able to be flexible. We started using the YDN broadcast network and found we weren’t getting the response that we needed. We’re now able to move more into gaming to attract more participants. SEMLEP’s Community Grant scheme has allowed that so it’s been a big help to us.

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