“I've gone through a few different types of job titles”
What Steven asked creative practitioner Natasha Boardman-Steer
For the latest in our weekly Sunday interview feature, we return to another creative living and working in Medway. Steven sat down with creative practitioner Natasha Boardman-Steer at her home in Chatham. They discussed finding your own voice, the importance of creativity to health and well-being, being there at the beginning of Medway Pride, and exactly what makes someone a creative practitioner.
Where were you born?
I was born in Gravesend and brought up in Swanscombe.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
My dad was a gardener, then he became a carpet estimator, and then he became a part-owner in that carpet shop. That was in Gravesend. My mum was mostly a stay-at-home mum. Before that, she was working as an assistant for an insurance company and then she did lots of different jobs at home, like floristry and a little bit of cleaning work, and things like that. But mostly she looked after us.
How did you find school and university?
I was home-educated all my life and then I sat my GCSEs privately, so I found school very isolating (laughs). But there is definitely a level of having been home-educated that taught me about independence, and using initiative because it was only me that was going to get me to where I wanted to be. I had to knuckle down and do the reading if I wanted to pass my exams. I was the oldest child so a lot of the time was left to it, so I had to get on with it myself. Then I studied script writing for TV, film and radio at the adult education in Gravesend when I was 15 and that was connected with (Canterbury) Christ Church University. When I applied to go to North West Kent College to study media, I didn't really have enough GCSEs. I didn't realise my grades weren't good enough, but I told the lead about this journalism course I'd done and it turned out that it was equivalent to an A-level or something and so he worked out that that was enough credits to get me into the course. I actually loved college, just the best years. It was so varied, that it had photography, journalism, video editing and filmmaking, music industry, psychology, film psychology, it was just amazing. I really loved it. I should probably add that now I am at uni where I am doing social care. Because I was raised in a controlling religion, we weren’t allowed to go to university, so I'm doing it now as an adult.
What was your first full-time job?
My first full-time job was for Archant newspapers in Sidcup. I was working in advertising sales. I really wanted to be on the events side of things but there was already a lady assigned to do that and she was much older than me and even though I was only 18, she really did not want to help me at all. She made it such hard work, so they gave me my own little part to work on and that was good fun. That was really nice. If I could have driven I would have been able to go and see people and I think I would have enjoyed that a lot more but I was stuck in the office a lot of the time.
What brought you to the Medway towns?
I moved here (nervous laugh). I moved here with my ex and that was kind of it really. I always really loved Rochester though, so I think I would have ended up here regardless.
What political parties have you been a member of?
Only ever Labour. Again, I grew up in a strict religious household. We didn't talk politics at home. You weren’t allowed to be a member of any political party, you weren’t allowed to vote. So it was only once I left that religion that I was able to start establishing my own mind, about how I felt about politics and who would I vote for.
Are you currently a member?
Yes. It was nice to be able to have the freedom to be able to make that choice.
Has your name ever appeared on a ballot?
No. I have been asked to, but a lot of my work is with the council and so I would lose a lot of the source of my income. I just wouldn't be able to do that work anymore and I really rely on being able to deliver work, paid work, within the council.
Is it something you consider in the future?
I would consider it. I think it would just depend on the circumstances of my income (laughs).
What is your official occupation?
Creative practitioner in health and well-being, which I had the joy of being able to design myself.
What is a creative practitioner?
It seems to have been a term that's cropped up only maybe in the last five years. I've gone through a few different types of job titles but creative practitioner is definitely one being used by the Arts Council now. It's kind of recognised and it means that you aren't just creating artwork, but also that you're then getting other people involved in what you do and is a form of practice that you're learning all the time. You are growing with it, but generally being a creative practitioner is around having the community involved, having other people involved, helping other people to be creative. This is more in line with an occupational therapist.
How does somebody earn a living as a creative practitioner?
By building up clients like most businesses over a long time and working out your niche and again, like any business, helping people to be able to trust in what you do. Showing up is a really big one actually. Just showing up and doing the work and speaking to people fairly. I think that's one of the reasons that I've repeatedly won contracts and work because I will treat people on an equal level no matter what age they are and I think that's really important. It isn't as simple as ‘get this qualification’. It is about the way you do it and how you are towards people, and for me, that's been the biggest reason why I've been able to earn a living out of it.
What does the average day entail?
Lots of it is communication with clients that I'm working with. It can also involve invoicing or general admin. I do like to do it all myself to save money because it means I get to keep most of my money by doing my own accounts. Also keeping up to date with what's going on locally so that I can feed in and see how I can help, whether that's voluntary or paid. Often there'll be steering group meetings that I’ll go to and see where I can assist, so that can be like my average day working day.
What additional roles, paid or unpaid do you do?
I am a voluntary member of the committee for the Friends of Medway Archives, which is great to be part of. I’m now chair of Lyrici Arts, and I have started volunteering and hopefully will have a trustee role for the Medway Neurological Network and will hopefully become a charity. I think that's it (laughs). My paid roles, I have a contract with Live Well Kent and Medway to deliver arts and mental health programmes and I'm now working on the PAG for the Health Determinants Research.