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Sabrina Mahfouz

Poet, writer and spoken word artist, Sky Academy Arts Scholar 2013

My relationship with IdeasTap is the sort of thing serious dating sites dream about – stable, supportive, mutually respectful and fun!

I joined in 2009 after seeing an advert for it on the back of a programme at Theatre 503. Since then I've personally won three opportunities, including the Sky Academy Arts Scholarships, but have been involved in around 10 opportunities won by other members.

The Sky Arts Academy Scholarship I won in 2013 enabled me to undertake my biggest ever artistic project. Over the year, I wrote, developed and produced a poetry-based theatre show, Chef, which went to Edinburgh Fringe and won a Fringe First and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence, as well as being nominated for three international awards. It is now transferring to Soho Theatre and Latitude Festival. Under POP [the company I set up with the scholarship] I produced a number of poetry events across the UK and co-produced another Fringe poetry-based theatre hit, Shame by John Berkavitch. This was a result of POP seed commissioning six poets to write new theatre work over the year. Many of these shows have since been further developed by other companies, like Matter by Deanna Rodger.

There are some early pieces in my portfolio that I’m really proud of. I used to call it "pop up poetry"; I'd go to nightclubs, toilets, fashion shows, various places and find some surfaces on which to put my poetry with lipstick and stickers and things. My photographer friends would then document it. It  was fun and different at the time.

I think accessing funds to take projects from ideas to reality is now going to be a bigger challenge than ever, specifically for those who are just starting out and unable to turn to family or friends for financial support. Some people aren't sympathetic to this challenge at all, but what it can result in is a country in which all our art is reflective of a particular perspective. In my opinion that’s antithetical to progress in all areas of society.

The challenge facing people trying to gain funding is one of the major reasons I fought to save the organisation. But IdeasTap also provided free contacts, networking, training opportunities and access to professionals that is currently unequalled by any other UK arts organisation. Again, these things might be taken for granted by many who have family and friends with connections, but for those who don't, an important lifeline to the professionalisation of their talent will be lost. I felt that, as someone who had benefitted so greatly from these things, I had a responsibility to help ensure those opportunities existed for others.

Although the charity is closing, despite the efforts of the members to save it, I hope that the outpouring of support has inspired other companies to take on some of the functions IdeasTap offered. I also hope it highlighted the importance of equal access to careers in the arts to a mainstream audience. IdeasTap will leave a huge void in the UK arts world and we must work together to fill it!

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