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We welcome Jessica to Future Fires 2020

Future Fires is a programme that supports young artists to develop a socially-engaged art project in their own community.

Every day this week we are introducing  each member of our#FutureFires20 cohort who will be #SupportedByContact for the next 12 months to create a project that will use their artistic skills to make a difference in the community.


Greetings! The name’s Jessica, and I turned 24 y/o very recently. My project is called The ClassRoom: it’s an exam-meets-performance installation, and a six-week poetry course for a group of minimum wage workers living in Rochdale.

If you had to sum up your project in five words, what would they be?

pink green class faces truth in that order.

What motivated you to start your project?

I got fired and reacted to it really badly – I hadn’t realised until then how much frustration and anger I had toward wage. I’ve worked a series of minimum wage jobs, and they’re often the positions that have the least leniency, creative opportunity or variety. It is hard to do an unstimulating task for eight hours at a time. Roles that involve an imposed sense of responsibility for the company (FOH, servers, cleaners – an endless list) are low-paying although they involve a lot of flexibility and interpersonal skills, which can be, in several cases, skills unmirrored by managers. Employees feel disposable, creating desperation, encouraging them to overwork – which I think is unhealthy. That’s why I chose attitudes to minimum wage as my focal point.

I chose Rochdale for the location to run my project because that’s where I grew up and I wanted to take the opportunity there. With my project I want to orchestrate an event that uses colour and illusion and provides a fun start to an integral conversation for 2020.

How are you finding the Future Fires programme so far?

We are very well catered to by Rory and Rose; they’re like Cosmo and Wanda. Everyone you speak to at Contact is encouraging and believes you can do it, which I think I still struggle to believe even after applying and being accepted. Each of us brings something different to the group, and we’re learning all the time from each other and the resources Contact have provided. It’s the best experience for someone with ideas but little know-how.

So now it’s on to the really hard questions…

You are locked in Contact for a week with ONE person, who would you choose and why?

Deborah Frances-White – her life story is deeply interesting, and she sounds like great company. Although I would happily spend the week with any of the FF (Future Fires) gang – Audrey could teach me about Chagossian history and culture; her happiness is infectious!

Favourite place to eat?

Abroad. If I eat food out in Manchester, it’s usually only toast at Foundation Coffee NQ (sourdough, though, you know?).

Favourite quote or motto?

It’s one I got from Abstract on Netflix, the Christoph Niemann episode on illustration (very good watch). He mentions Chuck Close, who said “inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” I only heard it the other day but I find it unburdening.

There’s another one, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” from Salt from My Attic; it makes me feel confident when I’m trying, and encouraging when I’m struggling to take a first step.

Anything else youd like to add?

Yes. If you’re feeling like a shook-up bottle of Diet Coke right now, it is the perfect time to unscrew the lid. Let yourself fizz out, man. Have angry conversations and discover that you are loved and appreciated. Freezer food is fine. Beds are comfy.

Follow Jessica and find out more about her project here on social media.

Visit our Future Fires page to learn more about the project as a whole.