For young creatives finding it tough to excel in traditional subjects that just don’t resonate with them, it can be hard to know what to do next. We’ve all heard the scaremongering phrases ‘you’ll end up unemployed the rest of your life if you don’t get your X or Y GCSE’.

But Bristol-based boomsatsuma is turning the tables on this idea. The digital agency is welcoming fresh talent by offering South West school leavers with creative flair the opportunity to study for Extended Diplomas in Media – but within a real creative media agency environment.

“We are driven by the need to extend opportunities for young people in Bristol”


Boomsatsuma also runs inspiring programmes for primary and secondary age children right through to fostering local graduate talent. This means that, in 2015, it was the largest single employer of creative apprentices and interns in the South West with 15 young people creating projects and providing services to its partners and clients across the region.

Check out the video below to see what they’ve been up to and hear from the students themselves:

With its first set of students recently graduating with flying colours and its next group set to spread their wings, we caught up with boomsatsuma’s Co-founder and Creative Director Mark Curtis to find out more.

Liberating education

“Boomsatsuma was set up as a counter to the notion that established routes for young people were the only way,” Mark explains, “and as a response to the liberating nature of technological developments removing many of the traditional barriers.”

“We are driven by the need to extend opportunities for young people in Bristol. One size fits all has never been appropriate in education, this is a working environment that gives our learners the respect and responsibility of working in the real world to achieve their goals.”

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without the creative force that is boomsatsuma”


So breaking established routes they did. Following a 2-year research pilot with Arts Council England, boomsatsuma initially took on 12 students and saw them achieve great things. Mark explains: “12 of the most culturally diverse young people in Bristol who were unable to access any level-3 post-16 provision in the city, not only achieved, but 10 are now starting university courses, one is in further education and the remaining student has progressed into the Police service.”

Fueling Creativity: Hear from school leavers about the barriers they face
in further education and how real-world placements could help them to succeed

Former boomsatsuma student Charlie Williams, says: “I didn’t think that someone with an accent like mine coming from Withywood could ever get to work in television, it was boomsatsuma that made me realise that the barriers aren’t always where we imagine them to be.”

Charlie is now in London, working in post production for shows such as Grand Designs, The Voice, Tattoo Fixers and Geordie Shore.

He adds: “I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without the creative force that is boomsatsuma.”

Real world experiences

Boomsastuma’s newest agency programme is based at Bristol’s thriving tech and creative incubator, the Engine Shed and has just seen its first set of students start a level-3 OCR Cambridge Technical in Media Production. This two-year programme will lead them up to a recognised equivalent of three A-levels at A*, offering progression to university or the workplace.

“We love a cliche, but the future does start today”


Mark explains: “The difference between this and a standard college or sixth form is that this course is applied and embedded in the creative agency delivering real products and outcomes to Bristol’s creative and community stakeholders in film, graphic design, music promotion, advertising and events.”

boomsatsuma students working

Hard at work: boomsatsuma’s first Engine Shed agency students
working on client projects as part of their diplomas


Keen to inspire young creatives to get involved and apply, Mark gives this advice: “We love a cliche, but the future does start today. Don’t tell me what you want to do, tell me what you have done about it.”

“We want to be as inclusive as we possibly can and that means difference is king”


He adds: “Follow us on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Come to events, join a course, just get involved. We want to be as inclusive as we possibly can and that means difference is king. If you don’t think it’s for you, it would be even better to get involved and make it relevant.”

Recognising talent

Getting to know and trust young talent is something that has helped this digital agency to thrive, with recent achievements including becoming an Engine Shed Strategic Partner as well as winning an impressive regional film contract to deliver film services to the Careers Service.

In the meantime, boomsatsuma continues to grow and expand, with new programmes in the pipeline from September 2017 including a Professional Acting Diploma in partnership with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

“I admire anyone who breaks down the barriers for young people”


Keen to encourage other businesses and creative industries to also trust in talent beyond grades, Mark tells us: “For ‘enterprise’ read ‘real’. Education needs to be real to have value, so why pretend when it can be real?

“I admire anyone who breaks down the barriers for young people. At its best technology is liberating and democratic for all of us.”

Many thanks to Mark for chatting to us. You can find out about the educational programmes, internships, apprenticeships and more on the boomsatsuma website. You can also follow them on twitter: @boomsatsuma.

Alice Whale