Quarantine Creatives: Callum Smith

Callum Smith

Always having a foot in the door with hospitality, Callum Smith is no stranger to how a good manager operates. From starting work in his early teens, Callum has an engrained work ethic which has transferred through to his whole working journey and into his own catering business. Early work in pubs in the north sparked Callum’s dream to one day owning and running his own pub or business.

From his cosy abode in Tooting, Callum’s northern charm was not a miss throughout our conversation. Born in York and raised in Leeds, Callum was educated in local schools and went to study Health, Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry at Leeds University. With healthcare and sport tunnelling through his education choices, his modules on nutrition sparked his desire to be involved in food and even had thoughts of becoming a dietician.

Being 1 of 6 growing up, Callum admitted he was quite a shy and not the “greatest waiter” in the world whilst working at his first pub job at The Whitehouse in Leeds. Following more and more exposure to different types of people and a chef who “looked after me”, Callum’s confidence continued to grow.

 “I was scared of the chefs!”

Indeed, Callum flipped his situation around and became an exemplary staff member, to the point where he recognised things weren’t quite right. As a young teen, Callum was only paid £3.48 an hour and was pretty much running the floor. He had his first taste of training other people and realised other staff members were being paid more than he was for doing less.  He decided to take it up with his managers and “made it so everyone was being paid the same”.

Following graduation at Leeds, Callum continued to keep his foot in the door within hospitality and fell in love with the industry. He became a supervisor of a restaurant in Towton and continued to move up the ranks as manger at The Beehive and then The Rockingham Arms. Gathering the skills and learning the ins and outs of hospitality by the age of 23 put Callum in good stead to eventually run his own business.

“I learnt from horrible managers how I don’t want to treat people”

After the umbrella company of the Beehive closed down, Callum was faced with an opportunity to work within that same pub, however, was bought by his partner’s family. Together (with his partner being a chef) they helped get the business off the ground and successful again and restored it with a new plan. From here Callum and his partner went travelling to the other side of the globe in New Zealand and Australia where he worked overseas within hospitality from September 2014- July 2015 when he returned to the UK.

During his time in New Zealand the conception of his brand, Fantail Catering and Management was inspired by the wildlife he’d encountered out there. On his return he went for a site operations job with Fortnum and Masons where he began his establishment as Fantail. Although it was one of the toughest jobs, he successfully ran one of the busiest lodges in Sommerset House in London. After his move to South London, Callum was inundated with jobs and has managed and catered for the Brits, Glastonbury and Wimbledon (just to name a few).

With sourcing his staff, Callum believes in his team getting full wages and being paid fairly for their time, which is why he doesn’t use agencies. Instead Callum looks out for staff when he visits his favourite coffee and food spots around London. Recognition of Callum’s success was what opened up a position or him at Levy UK, one of the biggest culinary champions in the UK.

With the current climate with Covid -19 it is no secret that extreme measures have been taken, including the Excel centre in London being turned into a hospital for over 4000 patients. Callum is on the team who now helps run site operation here and ensuring that NHS staff as well as patients are getting their food. With services like Callum’s being vital to not just weddings and monumental events, but to the running of operations with healthcare, it goes to show that with hard work and skill development you can be a part of something big.

“I’m experiencing things at a level that I never thought I would”

Quarantine Creatives: Amrit Matharu

Amrit Matharu is truly a force to be reckoned with. From engaging the nation with her work at the BBC to indulging in personal projects to empower other people, it quickly became apparent that Amrit actions her ideas whole heartedly and seeks opportunity in the most unlikely places. Based in Northampton, Amrit is a true media chameleon and is growing her skill set as well as her following. With me chilling in my hair band and Amrit rocking box braids, I felt like I’d caught her in a rare moment where she wasn’t going 100 miles an hour.

Born and raised in Northampton, Amrit was educated here and grew to be an extroverted social being even from a young age. Educating others was always primary to Amrit’s values and she admitted that she often felt like she “had something to share”. Her initial career inclination was to go into teaching as a way of sharing her knowledge and inspiring others, but a teaching module at university made her realise that teaching wasn’t going to be the way she wanted to insight knowledge. “I realised it was all just paperwork!” At this point in her life Amrit didn’t know that “broadcasting was a thing or an option”.

Studying English Language and Literature at De Monfort University Leicester , Amrit began blogging and getting more in tune with the media world. The conception of her brand Amaretto’s World was to be, and still is, the platform that she was to share her endeavours and future involvements with her readers. With her love for writing fuelling her career choices, Amrit went on to “do a load of internships” for different magazines and working a newspaper office. It was during this time that a staff member suggested to Amrit a career in broadcast.

“People can do that as a job!”

After graduating from Leicester in 2013, Amrit’s proactivity leaked into her professional life and encouraged her ever widening accomplishments. From turning her passions into her job, she set about to explore the world of journalism. From working in the fashion department for Avon to waltzing through the head offices of different brands, Amrit admitted she felt a “little bit like Ugly Betty” and wanted to work for a magazine or newspaper. After immersing herself in different types of writing and journalism, Amrit’s next career move would bring her through the doors of the BBC.

Training and working as an assistant radio producer at the BBC Asian Network, Amrit continued to build her network as well as learning more about herself as a person. By starting at the Birmingham studio, Amrit then quickly became involved in the modelling world and promoting body confidence on her social media platforms. Representing Yours Clothing Amrit has been involved in many campaigns and is another great example of her go getter attitude.

As Amrit’s career breadth was growing and growing, she revealed that she had to learn to slow down and find balance. “Sometimes I would feel guilt and not know how to relax”. Many creatives feel this way, but Amrit did stress the importance of doing so for her well-being. After her own Father was diagnosed with cancer, Amrit became a carer and was diagnosed with arthritis herself. In a way it was almost her body telling her when things were getting too much.

“I was in so much pain at one time that I couldn’t walk…I’ve always put other people’s needs first…it’s almost like my body is telling me to slow the fuck down”!

With corona virus putting a hold on so many people’s lives, Amrit has taken on the responsibility of being a primary care giver for her family. This caring side to Amrit was resonant throughout my whole conversation with her. Even with helping people in the media world, she disclosed that creatives ought to collaborate and not create a hostile dog eat dog environment. Even as an interviewee, Amrit’s conversation was laced in clarity and a real honesty. It was a pleasure to speak to her and I can truly confess that all the positive mantras and stories across her social media are definitely true to form. An organic heart will always produce organic work and Amrit Matharu brings that to the ever growing media table.

Quarantine Creatives: Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant joined me from the comfort of his home in South London with a beaming smile and a special guest, Odin. Odin the cat saturated my conversation with Jamie with much entertainment and magnified the wholesome energy that was felt through the screen, in what felt like a chat with an old friend. As Odin sashayed past Jamie’s camera, it was interesting to see this young comedian off stage and in the contentment of his bed surrounded by his well-kept house plants.

Born and raised in West London, Jamie always had a creative flair. From his school productions and acting to his first stand up experience, Jamie always put his creativity at the forefront. Before life as a comedian, Jamie initially went on to pursue his career path in acting. Going on to study drama at the University of Exeter, Jamie excelled during his time there and revealed that a memorable moment was his involvement in the play Trainspotting. “Like 1000 people auditioned for that and I got into that and that was probably the biggest bug for me, the acting bug in moving forwards and feeling like yeah I can do this”.

“I’ve always wanted to do drama”

Having graduated from the university with his drama degree in hand, Jamie went on to work in a bike shop to earn money whilst working in his first paid outdoor theatre project for a show called Child’s Play, at the same time.   This was a learning curve, as he quickly learnt that his input wasn’t as valued here as his work on productions during his time in his Exeter “bubble”. Jamie admitted that after a series of rejections and little input here, from not only himself but his team, he left with a feeling of “what’s the point”. After two or three months of working on Child’s Play, Jamie moved on to his next steps after recognizing that he was “enjoying the bike shop more than the acting”.

After revealing that his initial first step after graduating was sending “about 150 letters to agents in London”, and “hoped for the best. One agent “wrote back to me and said “let’s set up a meeting”. This was great for commercial work for Jamie, but still kept his foot in the door at the bike shop.

With theatre work not fulfilling Jamie in the way he thought it would, he decided to brave an open mic night and try stand up. What began as a dabble, then became addictive for this comedian and got him thinking “how can I get better at this and write better jokes and I was really determined to get better”. Jamie divulged that this was the first time he felt this strongly about something.

Jamie built up a series of comedy shows under his belt, learning to perfect his craft and even went onto win a New Act competition for comedy. He was then “roped into the sales team” for a credit card company. This made his regular input on the comedy scene reduce significantly and he saw that the comedians who he started with “were gigging like machines” and progressing fast whilst Jamie’s stagnation was prominent. Recognising that working in the credit company was stunting his creativity and his ability to get better as a comedian, he left after two years of service.

 “I really enjoyed it, but I definitely knew this isn’t something I wanted to do forever”

Sandwich deliveries is what was next on the cards for Jamie Oliphant, this ensured that his evenings freed up for his pursuit in the comedy world. Of course, financially he took a toll, but this accelerated his skill set and gave him more platforms as a comic.

From doing 5-minute open mic nights and working small stages and audiences, Jamie has now graced Edinburgh Fringe and sold out comedy clubs in London, with his storytelling style. Fuelled by his experiences working in the variety of jobs, including that of a Teaching Assistant. I personally went to see him in Waterloo and loved his animation and almost childlike blanketing of his set and performance.

Being in a creative space doesn’t often pair with the notion and idea of stability and this was something that Jamie had to fight the grain with, especially with his parents. “Edinburgh Fringe was a way to show my progression with this, there was a room full of people who weren’t my friends”. It’s apparent that as a comedian, the harder you work the better you get. Jamie was absolute about putting the time in for anything you love and have a passion for. An inspiration for all creatives.

Interviewing Jamie Oliphant was a pleasure and during this uncertain time, he upheld his optimistic outlook which I have to say left me feeling encouraged myself. Also, the fact he still uses the same headshots from 10 years ago may be proof that laughter really is the best cure for ageing.

Quarantine Creatives: Pallika Sood

Pallika Sood

From the comfort of our Quarantine spots, I got into conversation with the gorgeous Pallika Sood. This young and upcoming fashion consultant has privileged London Fashion weeks with her garments as well as her following with the written word. Creating her own catwalk debut, under her own brand Narhari Quorum, Pallika went from a budding intern to being essential to the Qasimi team. It is apparent that her work ethos is encompassed by creating your own opportunities and working your arse off.

As we both sip our tea from our humble abodes, our virtual interaction almost made me forget this young entrepreneur was perched in Liverpool whilst I was braced in our beloved capital.  I dove straight in with the interview and this creative powerhouse was more than delighted to oblige.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Liverpool, Pallika was educated at Tower College, Rainhill before then making the transition into studying at Carmel college, St Helens. With fine art and textiles being primary to Pallika’s education choices, it was clear from a young age she wasn’t messing around when it came to doing what she wanted. Although her Indian Mother indulged in the textile world, her style was considered more “traditional” by Pallika. Pallika revealed that she sought a lot of inspiration from “nature and creating concepts around her works”.

“I like telling a story behind my work and always create a muse with that story”. For my own fashion show, I imagined a gangster who wasn’t about that life and wrote poetry”. Although Liverpudlian in background, Pallika’s time in London has laced her voice with a South London twang, which seems to make her magnetism even more appealing. It was clear to me that her conceptual approach when it came to fashion leaked into her own poetry that she kept private until this year when she decided to share her work online and “people are loving it”!

“I write a poem for every collection I work on”

It was almost animated when Pallika spoke about her poetry and talks of her future brand. It was clear she sought muse from the notion of working for herself. Using this lockdown as a way to cement and establish her own brand, she informed me of its inception.She sprinkled the brand name with her Indian heritage – Narhari meaning ‘man lion’ and Quorum referring to an important meeting. Quroum is a meeting that cannot happen unless all relevant parties are present, the brand is a collective of these strong minded ‘lion like’ characters”. I was rendered speechless by this concept and knew immediately this brand will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. The conception of her brand came whilst she interning in Copenhagen at the age of 20. “This was a turning point for me because it gave me a sense of independence and adventure”.

Following Pallika’s graduation from the University for the Creative Arts in Kent, she zipped straight to London where she worked in retail for the good part of a year and then began work as a Copywriter for Net-A-Porter. During this time, she knew this wasn’t what she wanted to do. “I wanted to be in a design house working with a brand”. Rejection after rejection because of lack of experience is something that so many young creatives face so Pallika decided to create her own experience and hosted her own fashion show in East London in the summer of 2017. “I’m still paying that off now, but it was worth it”.

“I’m gonna do a fashion show”

After showcasing a collection of her own, Pallika began her journey as a pattern cutter (the blueprint creator of clothing as it were) and garment technician at Qasimi. Seeing her work being used on London Fashion Week’s runways was a peak in Sood’s career and got the wheels turning for her to venture on her own and continue to establish Narhari Quorum. This was until tragedy struck the fashion house of Qasimi, when the founder and creative director Khalid Al Qasimi passed away. “I felt like I was staying there for him, I didn’t want to miss working on the last collection he was a part of”. Pallika worked on her final season at Qasimi this year and became an official freelancer about a month ago before the hit of Covid-19.

I tentatively asked where she saw herself in five years, and she told me “Narhari Quorum will be off the ground as a fully functioning e-commerce business, I will be working on my poetry, and writing a book about my Mum”. This affirmative response simply upholds her strength and self- belief.

I, for one, am looking forward the powerful anthology and ventures to come from Miss Sood. I am well aware that this is just the beginning for her.