From early ideas to fully-fledged projects – reflections on the Plymouth Platform Scheme

As part of Visual Arts Plymouth‘s 2017-2018 talent development programme, VAP has been matching early career artists, creative practitioners and arts professionals with mentors (more established artists and professionals in the region) through the Plymouth Platform scheme.

From Elena Brake’s Cleaning In Progress series. Photo Credit: James Wray

We catch up with two of the artists involved in the 2018 Platform – Elena Brake & Rachel Dobbs – to find out what taking part in the scheme has meant to their arts practice…

Elena Brake

The Plymouth Platform scheme has supported me to develop an ambitious project for this year’s Plymouth Art Weekender, with funding, a mentor and space to share my ideas and progress with an audience of peers over several presentations.  

After proposing my idea and discovering that I had been successful, I was matched with Rachel Dobbs, an artist and educator working in Plymouth who has developed many projects in her own art career and has a huge bank of experience and knowledge with which to guide me forwards.

This support has been invaluable in transforming my project from the early idea stage to fully-fledged project, as well as in developing my own approach to my art practice.

Meeting with Rachel over cups of coffee and whirring laptops has had such an impact on the progression of Cleaning in Progress.  Having a calm and rational voice to respond to my anxieties and excitement has been very grounding, and this coupled with practical advice and support meant that my project could benefit from additional funding from the Arts Council and a successful Crowdfunding campaign.  Rachel has supported me to reach wider audiences and cross some crucial checkpoints in my creative career, the benefits of which is bound to be everlasting.

Through working with Rachel I have noticed the value in having another voice and perspective to guide my project.  

It has been helpful to keep me on track and it has made achievements all the more exciting in having someone to share them with.  

My experience with the Plymouth Platform scheme has shown me that where possible it will be worth writing the cost of a mentor into the budget of my future projects and I am very excited about where this could lead to next.


Rachel Dobbs

Working with Elena as a mentor on Cleaning in Progress has been a great opportunity to help Elena focus on specific areas in her professional practice. When we first met, we talked through the things Elena would like to see happen in her practice over the next year – things like learning about fundraising (through Arts Council England and through crowdfunding), creative ways of expanding her network and the following for her work, and developing a bigger and more ambitious project than she had achieved to date.

It has been a massive pleasure to see Elena take all of these challenges on and succeed!

I realise that my input as a mentor has often been simply to listen, to share experiences and to encourage

With this type of support Elena has been able to push the scale of her ambitions, challenge herself in new ways and try things out in a supportive environment. Sometimes we worked through “everything that could wrong”, as a way to make the challenges seem less daunting. At other points, we took time to revel in otherwise overlooked everyday details – things that other people find mundane, but that we found fascinating.

Through the scheme, I have been reminded of the value of my professional experiences – all those things I have learned by trial and error over the years, sometimes things learned the hard way! It has been great to be able to share this knowledge and learning to benefit Elena in her work, and to be supported by Plymouth Platform to do so – both financially, and in terms of providing a structure for this type of mentoring relationship. I think the value of this scheme far outweighs its cost – it’s a vital investment in two practitioners at different career stages, to support their learning, growth and development – and I dearly hope to see it continue into the future.

Plymouth Platform is designed & coordinated by Visual Arts Plymouth, informed by previous mentoring schemes run by VASWa-n (review bursaries) and Hand in Glove (Bristol) and is supported financially through Horizon – a collaborative two year programme of visual contemporary arts, funded through Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence fund and supported by Plymouth Culture.