Ruby McGonigle: working on Fashion Cities Africa
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My name’s Ruby, I’m 18 years old and for the past few years I have worked front of house at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. My position covers a range of areas; from selling admission tickets to handing out audio guides, welcoming large groups and working in the souvenir shop. I have always loved opening up the doors in the morning and not knowing who’s going to walk through them!
In spring 2015 I was offered the opportunity to work alongside Royal Pavilion & Museums’ (RPM) Programming Team, helping to run the social media accounts for our upcoming exhibition Fashion Cities Africa, as part of RPM’s Workforce Development programme. This scheme offers members of RPM frontline staff a chance to develop both personally and professionally by moving between departments and experimenting with alternative positions, potentially even landing themselves new long-term roles.
As a self-diagnosed fashion addict and an aspiring journalist, the prospect of helping to promote an exhibition like Fashion Cities Africa seemed almost too good to be true, and I jumped at the chance! Almost a year later I’m having a wonderful time and still feel extremely lucky to be in the position I’m in.
Being the voice behind the social media accounts for Britain’s first major exhibition about contemporary African Fashion involves more than just taking a few snaps, tapping out a couple of lines and throwing in some hashtags. Over the past 10 months, I have interviewed fashion designer and PR guru Mimi Mmabatho Selemela about her experiences of life and fashion in South Africa, taken a trip to the Brighton Museums warehouse to dig through our African textile collections, and travelled up to London to experience Africa Utopia, a festival hosted at the Southbank Centre. I have taken part in social media workshops by Instagram phenomenon Philippa Stanton (@5ftinf), shotbehind-the-scenes snaps of a fashion shoot starring a member of Brighton’s African diaspora as part of Fashion Cities Africa’s wider community engagement project, made friends with the exhibition’s team of young digital ambassadors and had a real insight into the world of PR, thanks to super-helpful contributions from Ronke Lawal’s PR agency, Ariatu.
I don’t think that any of these are experiences I ever would have had if it wasn’t for RPM’s Workforce Development programme allowing me to join the Fashion Cities Africa team.
While my usual job of working in retail and on the frontline, undeniably, can be challenging, tiring and manic – particularly in the height of summer – the past 10 months have also taught me A LOT about the phenomenal amount of work that goes on behind the scenes here. From research trips halfway across the world, to brainstorming about how to appeal to young people, to in-depth discussions about which shade of turquoise to use on the marketing material – the Fashion Cities Africa team have given it their all. Watching my colleagues work tirelessly to ensure that this exhibition is the best it can possibly be has been truly inspiring, and has really taught me that behind every successful venture here is a whole lot of graft. Exhibitions DO NOT appear overnight!
Having the opportunity to meet new colleagues and work alongside people I may otherwise never have met has been, by far, one of the most enjoyable parts of this experience. I have now worked with members of our Programming, World Art, Fashion & Textiles and Marketing teams and, after working for RPM for three years, I am finally gaining a real insight into what all of these people do on a daily basis. As well as all of these permanent staff I have also met the likes of journalist and author Hannah Pool, artist and designer Lulu Kitololo and journalist, editor, author and the brain behind global media brand Nataal, Helen Jennings – all of whom I am admittedly still a little starstruck by!
Almost a year into my Fashion Cities Africa experience, I still can’t believe my luck in having been offered an insight into this crazy world of creativity, conscientiousness, passion and unbelievable talent. I have never before felt so inspired.
Next, I look forward to beginning my degree in English Language in the hope of eventually becoming a journalist. Running Fashion Cities Africa’s social media accounts has provided me with invaluable writing experience and has taught me more about PR, marketing and the global fashion industry than I ever could have dreamt. I feel that these experiences and insights will now stand me in amazing stead in pursuit of my dream career.
This blog post first appeared on the Museums & Heritage Advisor website.