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A Catch-up Cuppa with Jess

There are many great things that have come from opening a message from Noemi Antonelli, Swans Events’ MD. I’ve known her for just over 3 years now, and I’ve learnt that there’s always something exciting afoot when she gets in touch.


In July 2020, it was the offer of working for Swans as their Marketing Coordinator.


In January 2021, it’s the request for me to FINALLY get something written for the Swans Blogosphere.


So here it is: some words about my time with Swans - typed with a cuppa close by, and recommended to be experienced in a similar fashion.


What did you enjoy most about working with Swans?


Prompts like these always throw me a little, because I imagine all these little nuggets of loveliness lined up all smiling and waving in front of me, and I have to pick the best one - where do you even start with that?!


I think the aspect of working for Swans that I enjoyed the most (sorry other lovely things!) was the opportunity to work creatively again.


I had finished my Theatre BA in June 2020, slap bang in the middle of our first national lockdown, so the idea of doing anything creative was simply quite exhausting for a while after that. Just before the lockdown happened, I had finished a 3-show tour of a devised theatre show in SEN schools. Our company, WhirlybirdTheatre, had adapted ‘The Tempest’ into a multi-sensory immersive show for children with disabilities and extra learning needs, as part of our final assignments. That was followed by a lot of online theatre-watching and design experiments from home, so by the time June came around, I was admittedly quite happy to live in my pjs and bask in endless cups of tea!

Jess takes a moment to think about if she's ever NOT been happy to do this..

Getting out of that lockdown, one of the first outings I had planned was to go down to help set up the Swans office in London. Being able to whack my painting clothes on and muck in was a brilliant way to get back into it after feeling a bit deskbound by my dissertation in the months before. And it very much snowballed from there, which was just fabulous!

Painting the Swans HQ walls


I started working on social media schedules, mapping out strategies for different projects, editing promo images, creating visual assets - there were many fingers in many pies! And I’ve always prided myself on being a bit of jess-of-all-trades, so that dynamic was perfect for me. The core team is very small at Swans, so there was a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other, and I love that collaborative way of doing things because it means everybody involved gets to throw their 2pence in, and you end up with this wonderful combo of everybody's strengths behind each project that you launch.


So that’s what I would say I enjoyed the most: the creativity in the team.


What is your USP that you bring to a team?


I’ve already sort of touched on this, but I think my personal unique selling point would be my adaptability.


I’ve never really been one to stick to one thing, I very much like to learn that one thing, and then move onto the next. It's actually been a running joke in my family during lockdown, because suddenly I'm a cross-stitching, clay earring-making, embroidering houseplant mama!

Calathea Zebrina, the pride of my windowsill


Rather than being an expert in one particular role, I’ve become this big blob of random skills, changing shape and taking in new information as I go along! And I think that’s made me very adaptable, because there’s always some sort of random knowledge to draw upon from day to day, and what team doesn't need that!?

Jess takes a recess from writing to add “walking blob of random knowledge and skills” to her LinkedIn profile

What are you most excited about for the future of Swans Events?


The lockdowns that we’ve been experiencing in the UK (3 and counting, WOO!) have been unfortunate for the arts - that’s by no means a secret anymore - and that’s obviously had an effect on Swans. The company was founded during the pandemic, so it's not something that was entirely unexpected, but still a shame for a brand that's still emerging.


After launch, we managed to get in 2 events with NAKEDpresents before having to cancel our last, and go back into #stayathome mode. And I would say that’s been both a blessing and curse really.

NAKEDpresents, "N A K E D", Voila! Europe Festival, 2020. Photo: Ziggy Bibb.


Every events company obviously wants a diary that gets fuller and fuller, not one that has cancellations and question marks on what feels like every page, so seeing those final projects paused in November/December was a real shame. BUT it’s given Swans the opportunity to self-reflect and evaluate in a way that I think most companies don’t get the time to, and that will be of huge benefit in the long-term.


So the thing I’m most excited about for the future of Swans is that re-opening of venues; that ending of lockdowns; that moment where the question marks can be tipexxed over and we’re given the permission from good old BoJo to get excited about projects again. Because the people that Swans work with are going to have no shortfall of ideas, and as soon as the all-clear of the dreaded Covid19 has been given, it won’t be long before those ideas will be bursting into venues across London.


And that thought honestly makes me SO excited! Not just for Swans, but for the arts as a whole industry.

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