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My traineeship so far: floating with armbands

My name is Eno Mfon. You may recognise my name from the bottom of an email or the one and only E-Digest. And for those of you who have no idea what an “Eno” is… it’s not the opera company, it’s me – this year’s Artsadmin Trainee. I’m halfway through my traineeship – so now’s a good time to pause and reflect on how everything’s going.

I started the traineeship with Artsadmin in September 2016, but I really started working with them years ago. I met Artsadmin in 2013, after participating in their summer programme, Make Space, and it was love at first sight. During this time, I was studying English and Drama at Bristol University, and this introduction to performance art introduced me to a way of creating that worked against deadlines and end products, and embraced the process as a part of the art. This freedom fed into my own practice as a writer and performer; I applied this process when I wrote and performed my first full production Shipped, and Check the Label at the Bristol Old Vic.

When I joined as an Artsadmin trainee, I wanted to continue working with this organisation I adored and to see whether I fit into the role of producing and artist development. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do or be and I wanted to resist the pressure and anxiety that most post-graduates have when they finish university – the pressure to choose one thing, anything, and stick with it, forever and ever and ever…

And ever.

The Artsadmin traineeship has allowed me to ask myself these trillion dollar questions and find answers through real hands on, long term, experience. My traineeship has seen me working on the 2 Degrees Festival programme, assisting with advisory sessions and Sweatshops, supporting BANNER artists and editing the beloved weekly E-digest.

In recent months I’ve discovered that I am particularly drawn to artist development. My highlights have to be all of the artists I’ve met since joining Artsadmin’s Artist Development team. I particularly enjoyed assisting the BANNER artists at the study room gatherings facilitated by LADA. These sessions lead to discussions on class, privilege and identity in a way that felt more safe, open and challenging than I experienced in an academic setting. Without the advisory service I never would have had coffee with such a diverse range of artists, from the ex-boxer who fought with two broken ankles to the (almost) geisha.  

Of course, you rarely see such highs without seeing some challenging lows… Brexit came, Trump came and so did my own anxieties about whether or not I’m doing things right, not knowing all the names at weekly staff lunch meetings, and sometimes feeling all the nervousness of being thrown in the deep end.

But I soon realised the water wasn’t so deep after all, and everyone in the office had armbands at the ready to keep me floating.