Get To Know: Calum Hall, the entrepreneur who’s democratising the art world

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We caught up with the founder of Creative Debuts to talk about where he finds inspiration and his biggest achievements

Calum Hall is an art entrepreneur and the founder of Creative Debuts, a platform dedicated to celebrating the brightest emerging talents in the art world. Born out of the frustration he had when trying to navigate the journey between the creative and commercial worlds, Creative Debuts places the artists they work with front and centre. Their mantra is ‘buy art from living artists, the dead ones don’t need the money.’ Hall’s hope with Creative Debuts is to democratise the art world and disrupt the entire market.

We caught up with the Soho Works 180 Strand member to talk about the grants for marginalised artists he’s involved with and the learnings he’s taken away from the pandemic.

How did you get where you are today?
‘I strongly believe that one of the key characteristics for anyone looking to create their own platform or business is resilience. But also, and most importantly, to be authentic to a mission. At the core of every decision made at Creative Debuts is the fundamental question: “How does our creative community benefit?” This is engrained in the DNA of the business and I attribute a lot of our successes to having this at our heart.

‘Another key aspect that’s helped me navigate both the creative and commercial worlds is being aware of one’s own privilege. As a straight white male from a working-class background, it’s important to use my privilege to help spotlight others. Creative Debuts is the vehicle as well as the megaphone for people to tell their own stories – this way we can remain authentic to the community that we proudly represent.’

What are you currently working on?
‘Project-wise, I’ve recently launched two indefinite no-strings-attached grants, the Black Artists Grant and a working-class Writers Grant with The White Pube. It’s imperative to me that Creative Debuts continues to be the flag bearer for the democratisation of the creative industries. I’m on the lookout for additional sponsors for both grants, so fingers crossed someone reading this may be keen to get involved.’

It’s been a funny year or so – what’s inspiring you at the moment? 
‘2020 was the year of lockdown and also of global awakening. It inspires me that my generation and younger people are taking a stance on issues that matter. Whether it’s BLM, climate change or #EndSARS, we want change, and it’s this energy that adds further fuel to my fire.

‘Documentaries are also a big source of inspiration to me, as I love learning weird and wonderful things. Whether it’s from the natural world or those super-geeky shows about massive engineering projects, it’s about absorbing a wide variety of inspirations from both conventional and unconventional avenues. Everything around us is inspiration if we want it to be.’

Proudest achievement?
‘Until recently, I haven’t really taken the time to fully digest a lot of my achievements – which I don’t recommend, by the way. For anyone reading this, enjoy the journey and regularly take time to step back and pat yourself on the back. 

‘Being able to take my mum on holiday was a proud moment for me. She hadn’t been away for years, so it meant a lot to be able to do that for her. With achievements, it’s easy to be captivated by working with incredible artists, big brands, international projects, and exciting businesses. But when all is said and done, creating memories and experiences with loved ones is what it’s all about.’

Favourite quote/ words to live by?
‘There’s a quote from David Icke that’s definitely resonated with me this year: “Life constantly presents the greatest opportunity brilliantly disguised as the biggest disaster.”’ 

What’s your hidden talent?
‘I can roast a pretty delicious chicken.’ 

What do you do when you’re stuck for inspiration?
‘I believe that inspiration, like many other things, has to ebb and flow. There needs to be creative blocks in order to have a flourish of ideas. So, while I do find the slow times frustrating, as I get older and a bit wiser, I’ve come to terms with this fluctuation and I embrace it.’ 

What challenge did you face in 2020 and how did you overcome it?
‘Lockdown meant I had to face many of my personal shortcomings, including lack of patience and unrealistic expectations. In the past, I’ve often just gone from one project to another, never really taking a step back to properly review, learn and celebrate the successes. So, in a strange way, the challenge already existed. But it was lockdown that was the Trojan horse, allowing me the time to revaluate aspects of my personal and professional life.’ 

Have you got any Sunday night rituals before starting a new week?
‘If I’m feeling productive or have a wave of ideas, for example, I’ll capitalise on it and go into work mode. Being a creative, I think it’s important to be able to understand different work patterns and flows to then harness whatever mode I am in. It’s taken a while for me to embrace a more flexible work routine, without feeling guilty for either working too much or having me-time. But now that I’ve got my head around it, over the course of a week it balances out and works for me.’

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