I applied for the job at shades empathising but not completely understanding the core reasons behind why it was an essential platform to have at UAL. I realised, through the process of preparation for the interview, how little I knew about the issues people of colour face not only within our institution but also in our society. It was fair to say that I was still living in my White Privileged bubble, slightly oblivious to what was going on around me.
This realisation was a huge part of my drive to apply and subsequently to be hired, thankfully! I acknowledged that I needed (and wanted) to learn, I knew that I wanted to facilitate change in any way I could, but above all, I found it problematic that I wasn’t aware of the problems students of colour faced. These issues are happening in the same space where I work and create with such ease.
I tentatively took on the role, hoping that my inexperience wouldn’t show. I set about working, as far in the background as possible, focussing on keeping the momentum and cogs that push shades moving forward. It was behind these cogs, that I was in a place where I could listen and learn as much as I could from those around me; the knowledgeable content developers, editors, contributors, and director, all of whom have such important voices that speak for the many and that need to be shared.
Through them, I have also had the opportunity to grow my understanding of my own identity. My BA years at Chelsea gave me space to explore my own progression of thought about which gender, sexuality, and sex I related to most, and how this will continue to evolve; a painful minefield of its own. I rarely talk about my own challenges, but it is so so important to recognise that it continues to be Shades who gives me the tools to build within that space in a meaningful and calming way. The events that we run have been an enlightening opportunity; the speakers, who are invited by the CDs have given me food for thought each and every time. The most impactful event to-date being the beyond gender event last year at LCF, where a beautiful group of people came to share their own journeys’ and how they relate to their experiences so far. This was the first time where I had experienced what a safe space felt like.
Being involved with shades continues to be a humbling experience for me, each week with new content and discussion I learn a little more, and certainly over the past 18 months I would like to think I have grown in awareness, although there is of course certainly a lot more to learn. I’m looking forward to having that opportunity.
Words by Andrew Illman.