Amy Butterworth is an actor, comedy writer and musician. Amy is one of the 300 strong Future First alumni community members. Like Amy, each former student inspires, informs and educates young people at their old state schools about jobs and careers with the help of Future First.
Between writing a sitcom and playing the violin for Mark Thomas, Amy took some time to write a blog for Future First about why she thinks it’s important to speak to students at her old comprehensive, Hampstead School, about jobs and careers….
As soon as my friend told me about Future First I was excited, and impatient, to get involved. They invited me to join them in helping educate kids at my old school about jobs and careers. I had been a hard worker at school, but despite achieving all the good grades I needed for university, I would still be returning to school as an example of someone who has made a career out of something which isn’t prescribed by the school curriculum.
It’s hugely inspiring for me to know that students at my old school can get access to the thousands of opportunities that are out there for them and learn from former students like me – I’m really happy to be part of that. Going into the comedy writing world for example, which felt like it was run by exclusive boys networks, I soon realised the power of networks and of learning confidence, independence, and complete and utter uniqueness: I’m thrilled that I can share this knowledge with young people at my old school.
When I was at school I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to 'do' because I was interested in lots of things. It’s taken me years to really try things out: from studying drama at university, to running theatre companies, touring as a writer/performer in a comedy sketch group, playing in orchestras internationally, to playing the violin on the comedy circuit. Now I realise that I can incorporate all of my interests, just be me AND get paid for it. It takes a lot of hard work and marketing to convince people they really need a comedy violinist, so I create these job opportunities for myself. It’s all about carving out a niche for yourself – I think that’s really important advice for young people interested in being a performer or artist – it doesn't have to be about choosing one skill or the other, it's about using the contrasting skills to strengthen the others, and celebrating your uniqueness.
I remember Mark Thomas, one of my comedy heroes, coming into my school to do some campaigning about fair trade with us over ten years ago. Ten years later, I'm touring music festivals and regional theatres with him, warming up the crowd with live klezmer music and keeping them entertained in the interval. This was more of a fantasy gig I daren't dream about, let alone a viable career option. It is, however, a great example of how, once you know what you and only you can contribute to the world, things fall into place. I remember kids at school taunting me for being a geek: leading the school orchestra did very little for my social status, and very few of the cool kids were impressed that I could do a mean Eddie Izzard impression, so they would try to make me feel embarrassed about it. But I stuck by those skills and aspects of my personality that make me a unique performer. I mean who can now say they have played Glastonbury's first ever two-hour set to 2,000 people with one of their comedy heroes? I am now working with a lot of political UK hip hop and grime artists, as well as performing comedy storytelling about (and with) my violin. Now, after every job I've done, I make sure I look back and can say with confidence: 'only I could have done that'.
If I was in school now and I went to a Future First event I’d think "FINALLY. Some people with sensible advice. Where the hell have you lot been hiding?" It’s a bewildering time being at school and if I’d have known that people like me not only got through it alive but also managed to make something of themselves that is completely unique, and not necessarily easy, it would have been really inspiring. I’m so glad I can be part of it now.
It’s also amazing to be part of a community of former Hampstead School students who are all doing amazing things: my friend Katy is a nurse and is combining her skills in medicine and passion for travelling by being a resident nurse in an arctic research station. Another Hampstead School friend, Isaac Warshal, has recently set up his own business called Focus Mobile, which helps automobile companies to develop strategies to use mobile technology – a very clever idea that is the result of his own talent for spotting the gap in the market and developing it into a business. I think it’s so inspiring to see others like me using what makes them unique to create their own jobs. And because we all do entrepreneurial and creative things we can spark off each other, even years after we left school.
So, if you're reading this and thinking about going into your old school: do it. Think about that teenager you once were, and how much you would like to tell them: this is your chance.