Many advertising stars take a wonky route into the business, but for young creatives there’s at least a fairly recognised path from art school through placements and into a seat in the creative department.
Annalise Valentino, a senior creative and In-House Film Director at MSQ’s creative studio Brave Spark, tried a different trajectory.
This is the story of how DJ Ahadadream inspired this creative to walk to Stanstead, board the plane, and follow her creative dreams.
Working for the financial firm Deloitte – in Audit of all places – was not where I expected to start my career. Especially with six failed attempts at a maths GCSE and a septum piercing.
Creativity was the path ahead, but it felt so out of reach that I spent most of my time suppressing it.
Sat a few desks down from me at Deloitte was a guy with similar feelings. Ahad, a British Pakistani DJ and Producer, who was just as desperate to get out of Finance as I was. He made music – UK Funky was what he called it. Before long I was heading into the city, milling around the underground floors of the now-closed Alibi in East London, as he injected an energy you couldn’t ignore into small crowds. I was amazed at how weekend after the weekend he relentlessly pursued ‘the only thing he loved doing’.
Ahad, or his DJ name Ahadadream, now runs a label and is a successful DJ and Producer in his own right. He is part of the team at Dialled In that champions South Asian Music, Arts, and Culture and puts on a festival each year. He’s The Guardian’s One To Watch.
But while Ahad has always seemed to run head-first at what he wants, he’s also seemed to pay as much – if not more – attention to championing other people’s talent rather than his own. Bringing on unknown sounds to his radio shows. Handing out advice to anyone that asks. And he’s the one who’s helped me with the biggest (and often the scariest) leaps to the next steps in my creative career.
He helped me see that if I didn’t itch the creative scratch, I’d rapidly become much sadder, and much emptier. Creativity became not a choice, but the only option.
We used to joke at Deloitte that we should sack it off and walk to Stansted Airport. Walking to Stansted was a silly metaphor for packing in the spreadsheets and running towards your real dreams. But a few years on, not only have I walked to Stansted, I’ve boarded the bloody plane. I’m a Senior Creative and In-House Director at Brave Spark. I’m shooting my first documentary this year. I’ve just returned from a stint in the US creating and directing films about truly inspiring people. My housemate listens in to my calls when we work from home and texts me saying ‘I’d love to have your job’.
I owe so much of that to Ahad, for keeping me inspired and pushing me to push myself. And the funniest and possibly most important part is that I don’t even think he realises he did it.
Famous and renowned artists and directors inspire me and influence my work all the time, but the consistency of a great friend that champions other people’s talent, gives honest and authentic advice, and has dreams as massive as yours, is certainly someone to have around. If you can be the one to inspire young creatives, take that responsibility seriously. And if you’re a young creative reading this realising you’ve already found an Ahad, lock them in and start walking to Stansted.
This article first appeared on Creative Salon here.