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Alumni

Mr Daniel Clifford

Career Path: Cultural Development Assistant, The Customs House
Location: South Shields, UK

I developed a love of storytelling and performance through conversation and play with family members and family friends, but I struggled with reading until I was given extra reading lessons at primary school. Once I caught up with reading skills, I became enamoured with comic books - mainly American superhero comics. I was given a taste for writing by a primary school teacher called Miss Middleton during a radio drama project, and I continued to write radio plays for the class long after the project was complete. In my teens, I wrote and performed in comedy sketches at local charity events, I wrote and drew very poor comic books and I was involved in an educational film-making project. I worked with South Tyneside Council, STRIDE and The Customs House to found South Tyneside Young Filmmakers, which I ran for several years as a volunteer - applying for funding, working with young people and making short films. I started work at The Customs House in late 2012, hoping to help creative young people gain skills and experiences the way staff at The Customs House had helped my when I was younger.

What are you doing now?Daniel Clifford

I now work at The Customs House in South Shields in the Cultural Development Team. I work with artists, schools and other organisations to plan and deliver creative educational projects. I am an Arts Award Adviser at all 5 levels and I support young people to achieve the award during projects, also fundraising is also part of my role. I run a small business, Art Heroes, in partnership with Lee Robinson. We make all-ages comic books, which I write and Lee draws. We deliver workshops in schools, libraries, museums and art galleries using comics as a resource to help young people develop skills in literacy, creativity, storytelling and art.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

The support of the lecturers in particular was great. My Drama and Script-writing module leader Richard Stockwell was in particular very supportive. Richard has the success and experience that gave the members of my class faith in his lecturing. Richard was very supportive of my writing and was great at steering me away from failure, which I'm never more than a few steps away from!

What was the best thing about your course?

Being creative more than once a week. Working on a range of projects in different mediums, alone and in groups.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

I learned more about writing and story in my three years at Northumbria than I had in the previous 20 years of my life. I use this knowledge and experience to write comics and to support young people (including hard to engage young people and pupils in SEN schools) to develop their own stories. The Working Writer module in the last year of my degree equipped me with the business skills which are necessary to be self-employed, including registering for self-employment and completing an annual self-assessment tax return. Theory modules gave me a better understanding of representation, and the related responsibilities creators have to their audiences and those being represented in their work. This is invaluable while creating comics for young people, but also for relating to the diverse groups of people I work with in both my jobs.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now/throughout your career?

It's a toss-up between storytelling skills I use in writing and in teaching young people, and the financial skills I use in both my jobs.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

Learning from an experienced, knowledgeable and practising faculty. Attending a well-run university.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

The most important thing to be sure of for anyone thinking of studying at a university is 'Are you interested in the theory and the context of the subject?'. A lot of university students complain about lectures and assignments on theory because they just want to be creating. But studying a degree means you've decided to do all the work that surrounds the creative side of a degree like this. Furthermore, in my opinion, if you want to be a writer you need to know the context. If you haven't thought about representation and you haven't read widely, you aren't going to create work of any quality.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Empowering, inspiring, groundwork.

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