Trailblazer Tales – Curious Minds

Trailblazer Tales

Paint roller on a table - the paint is blue and there are colours across the table.
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Rizwan Iqbal, Community Producer at Manchester International Festival (MIF) shares his thoughts and reflections on Trailblaze placement, Jessica Mallard.

Jessica Mallard joined the Creative Engagement team at MIF as a Production Assistant in September 2018. This was part on an innovative Trailblaze placement opportunity, created by Curious Minds and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Trailblaze offers young people with a BAME background the chance to acquire knowledge and experience through a paid work placement in an established arts organisation. MIF is one of the world’s leading festivals of original new work, which will next take place in July 2019. It is currently piloting a series of new recruitment strategies, aimed at diversifying its workforce and recruiting employees that reflect the demographics of Manchester.

The Trail…

At the outset, we felt it was important to allow time for Jessica to experience a full range of producing activity at the Festival and extended her placement duration from three months to six, to cover a wider range of events in our programme. The key focus of the placement was to provide production and administrative support around engaging communities for the ‘Festival in My House’ (FiMH) programme. We hoped Jessica would develop new skills, gain a greater understanding of production at MIF and contribute ideas and thinking into the wider creative engagement strategy.

The Tale…

Jessica began her placement with the enthusiasm we expected when recruiting. The following weeks and months demonstrated how valuable this kind of experience can be for both the employer and young person. Once appointed, we reviewed the schedule of events with Jessica and met various FiMH hosts, to explore the feasibility of ideas and the gaps we needed to address in delivery. Jessica also attended weekly team meetings and ideas breakfasts. Her approach was fearless and her contributions were articulate and well researched. Jessica also helped us to engage with new contacts and communities in Greater Manchester.

This was an excellent learning experience for MIF, showing what can be achieved with a placement in a limited timescale. Jessica brought fresh perspective to how we communicate internally, as well as engage with partners externally. She also offered great ideas through her ability to honestly critique our work.

Final reflections…

Jessica really impressed us with how engaged, informed and proactive she was. She spoke confidently at team meetings, offered fresh perspectives and thoughts which were very much appreciated and, at times, surprising. By being clear on our expectations and objectives, we were able to plan and monitor the placement’s successes each week. We hope Jessica gained valuable insight into working at the standard expected of an international festival, as well as being part of a creative and busy engagement department.

A massive well done to Jessica! We look forward to seeing her career grow in the city and beyond.

For anyone interested in our freelance or volunteer programme or finding out more about Manchester International Festival please contact or visit our website
Manchester International Festival (MIF) is the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events. The Festival is staged every two years in Manchester, UK – the next edition will take place 4 – 21 July 2019 at venues all over the city. We bring together artists from different art forms and backgrounds to create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work, which we stage in a rich tapestry of venues across Greater Manchester – from theatres, galleries and concert halls to railway depots, churches and car parks. We work closely with venues, festivals and other cultural organisations around the world, whose financial and creative input helps to make many of our projects possible and guarantees that they have a life after each Festival has ended.

Festival in My House invites Manchester and Greater Manchester residents to host their own micro-international festival at home. We’ve helped people present everything from slam poetry to classical music in homes across Manchester.

Curious about Trailblaze? Contact our Careers & Employability Manager, Holly Ball.

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