Melbourne is a city full of smart and creative people doing and making wonderful things. Monica Clapcott and Ed Howley, the founders of Junior – Celebrating Life at the Bottom, are some such people.
Co-conceived around a share-house table, “Junior” was born out of mild creative frustration and fashioned to provide an informative networking resource for young, or junior, creatives looking to broaden their professional networks.
Launched in 2008, Junior now runs regular guest lecture series events in Australia and New Zealand. With over 200 published Monday morning “Whips”, twitter followers in the thousands and one hundred plus attendees at each of their talks, Junior has a big audience all keen to learn more about life at the top.
I met with Ed and Monica at Monica’s home on the Collingwood border to learn more about the growth of Junior.
Hello! Firstly, thanks for meeting with me again to get this interview finished. I interviewed Monica and Ed last year and after a series of setbacks – including my broken ankle, and hard-drive failure – I needed new images. Thanks guys!
As you know, my TENANT project is focused on profiling Melburnians and how they are adding to – and benefitting from – the culture of the city. With this in mind can you please tell me a bit about how you got Junior started?
Monica: I work as a producer for a photography studio. My professional pathway emerged out of a Creative Advertising degree and sheer luck. Junior came about out of a joke weekend conversation that became more serious over time.
Ed: I am an Advertising creative/Art Director. I was six months into a degree in Industrial Design and I realised I didn’t have the patience for technical drawings and making said drawings out of foam. Advertising had always been my second preference in high school. I think the speed at which ideas are formed and made suits my short attention span.
About five-years ago a friend, Tait, and I were lamenting the lack of great opportunities that junior creatives are afforded. We decided to do something, create something, that would give us access to established and senior creatives – to access their experience, wisdom and their advice – and have fun doing it.
Monica: Yes, and it came at the right time for us. I had just realised how much I liked organising things and making stuff happen. Ed was just as keen and gave me permission to kick his butt and “produce him”. So here we are… creative kids, helping creative kids.
And still going, five years strong…. What has inspired you to keep going and what changes have you had to make along the way?
Monica: The community definitely inspires me. When 100 plus people turn up for a talk that you have organised it is very encouraging. Our very first event attracted many of our friends – and friends-of-friends – and birthed a gang of regulars who still support Junior.
Ed: The community is definitely inspirational, so are the speakers and the contributors. In terms of changes we have had to make along the way; I think the biggest is starting to listen more to opinions of younger creatives to assist us in our choices. As you said it is five years on and we are growing up (never!) and becoming more established in our careers. As we do, we move further away from the foundation point from which Junior was created – a curious tipping point. So we need, from time to time, to be reminded of the Junior point of view to make sure we are still providing the best information and service to that audience.
Yes it is a curious tipping point, but also a great opportunity for you to rubber-band between a mentor and student mind-set which is a great platform choose your best moves.
Who have been some of the creative leaders that you have profiled or events you remember for their impact?
Ed: Wow… so many over the years. Where to start…? We recently had Nick Shelton of Broadsheet which was hugely popular as was Lucy Feagins of The Design Files … honestly, everyone has been great for different reasons…Oh actually we did this cool presentation thing once with Tom and Jules, a Clemenger BBDO creative team, who had spoken before and had been hugely popular. So we got them back and as they had already given up their “10 Top Tips” – which is our regular presentation format – we set up a #hashtag and a live feed. It was a Q&A and it worked out really well. There were people tweeting in from all over Australia!
Monica: I like it when people change or play with the brief. We had Paul Foug from the Coöp, a designer who did one tip himself and then got the remaining nine from other creatives, from all over the world. He recorded them on Skype and played them back at the presentation – everyone was captivated by the information.
What great commitment from Paul! His idea and take – also hugely complimentary to Junior and the creative community and a smart networking activation to boot.
Has anyone ever turned you down when invited to speak?
Monica: Actually there was one person, but only because they were too busy. Oh, and one guy said he was too shy!
Ed: We’ve been fortunate; everyone has been really receptive and I guess seen it as an opportunity to extend their own professional network, or have presentation practice, or free drinks or both! Whatever the reasons, I’m glad of the support!
Who or what is inspiring you at the moment re Junior or your own work?
Ed: The cool thing at the moment – especially in the context of Junior – is that the people that came to the first Junior event four years ago are growing in their own careers and doing really interesting things. Friends are opening their own shops, starting their own businesses, having solo exhibitions….
Monica: Yes, and now we can get our inspiring friends to speak at Junior, because they are not junior creatives anymore. Their success is very inspiring to us all.
Monica, you’re a Kiwi, with American and English heritage. Why Melbourne? Why do you live here? And Ed, you grew up in the leafy eastern suburbs, so why this postcode – or the one next door? Ed, I’m still so sad about the lost pictures I took at your nice pad in the iconic Fitzroy MacPherson building…
Monica: For me, a lot of friends live here… but it’s more than that. There is so much to do… I used to live in Richmond and it was a bit of a dead spot. A nice place to live, but there was not much happening. Here I can walk down the street and find something to do. See a band, a show, find some good food. I also think there are some great parks around if you want to just sit and read or have a picnic. It just has a good vibe.
Ed: Yes… some people want to live by the beach, some people want to live in the sticks, some people like a suburb with a family focus, but I think the people who choose to live around here are interested in art and culture and want to add to it, experience it and live with it.
Do you have a favourite Melbourne postcode if it is not this one?
Monica: 3066 is trumping it so far.
Ed: 3000. I love our city.
You’ve both travelled; where have you been that most reminds you of Melbourne?
Monica: New York. It’s so similar but bigger, more and maybe a little better.
Ed: Ditto. It’s everything you love about Melbourne but just on a bigger scale.
And what would you change about Melbourne if you could?
Monica: Melbourne? Shorter working hours. Everyone is so focused on work sometimes the fun of things get lost; everyone is over-worked and tired.
Ed: Punt Road. Need I say more?
Yes the road’s name rhymes with a rude word for a good reason doesn’t it? Monica I am so glad you said that! You are the first to say so and I think it is a point that deserves quite a bit of attention – and the way working hours and expectations affect family life, health and our broader culture.
And how does Melbourne inspire you?
Monica: I love the variety and the options. I grew up in Auckland and there’s not a lot going on three–four nights of the week, but here there is always something on if you feel heading out. So many openings and exhibitions, and it’s not just always art hanging on the on the walls, there is street art, installation and interactive exhibitions as well as music and great food.
Ed: I guess I’m biased, as I live here, but to me Melbourne is the art capital of Australia, our New York if you will. I work in the creative industries and I’m always looking for inspiration and creative knowledge and I feel I can access so much living here.
Where would you like to see Junior in another five years – or 10, or 20?! You choose.
Ed: A fundamental framework of Junior is it’s a part-time thing. Currently. If we had all the time in the world there is no limit to what we could do…
But can you see yourselves as “Seniors” with grey hair running Junior?
Ed: There has been such an investment over the years I can’t imagine letting it go.
Monica: And it’s doing so well… I guess if there was no audience my commitment would waiver, but it is just getting stronger and stronger.
Ed: That’s true. There was even a period where we were not posting much as we were so busy at work… we were still running events… but oddly web traffic grew. I think we’ve found a really good niche. People are reading the older articles as much as the new ones. It’s really curious to see what people are searching for, and how it leads them to our site. Things like…. “How can I get a job at MTV?” will take traffic to an interview with someone who had spoken on working at MTV!
MTV and young creatives! It’s still MTV! That brand has such a creative legacy. What other creative networks are you hooked into? Ones that you would recommend to the Junior community?
Ed: There is a cool, similar start-up in Adelaide called Hungry Creatives who are doing a really good job.
And, who would you invite to talk at Junior if you could ask anyone, from any part of the world?
Monica: Mmmm…I think, Garance Doré?
Monica: The Selby! Actually Todd Selby would be great too. Doré and Selby.
I would turn up for them – for all of those people – absolutely.
And lastly, who in Melbourne would like to pass onto the TENANT community?
Ed: There is an artist based at the Collingwood Convent called Matt Quick who I think you’d like.
Monica: I’m going to go with Sarah Ewing, a photography agent who has been working in London and has recently returned to Melbourne.
Thank you – I look forward to meeting both Matt and Sarah and learning about their Melbourne world views. Thanks again for your generous time and I hope to see you soon at the Junior June event. Until then all the best with your own creative lives and see you on the streets – of Melbourne!