My main thing with Arts at the Old Fire Station was to do with the admin side, going up into the office and working with the accountants and the admin staff, after going to college and doing accountancy in college. I came in for a few hours a week and worked with staff, the accountants, seeing how that accountants side worked, the bookings side, the basic paperwork of billing and stuff like that.
I was inputting data, counting takings and making sure they were put into the system – that sort of stuff really. But there was so much to it that it was hard to remember it all. Like putting in —it wasn’t just putting data for the shows into the listings, it was making sure the information was right for that as well – it was very much centred around accuracy. But after the first couple of times I knew what I was doing so I could get through it quite quickly and accurately.
I was able to spend some time in the shop and working alongside the box office so that I could see how that was working as well. I was able to help the staff in the shop because their system was a bit untidy and I was trying to sort of like say, can you do it like this because it would make my life so much easier. I don’t think anyone had actually told them, so I just butted in and said can you please do it like this and make my life easier please. They found it quite useful - it was nice the next time all their information came back how I wanted and I could just like pick it up and say, ah yes I know what that is. They'd put it in in the right way, so I didn’t have to go rummaging and taking everything out and it got me more time to do it and do other things as well. Hopefully it stuck!
At college you've got it all on paper, and you got a little bit on the computer but there's nothing really in-depth - it’s flat. Whereas coming in here for twelve weeks, it gave me, well it gave me a purpose. I had to get up and go out and do something and I liked doing it, I was enjoying doing it. It put a bit of texture to what I was doing at college, made it a two-dimensional thing. It made it real.
It was good for me - it gave me the confidence that I could actually do it. I did struggle with the coursework itself [in my accountancy studies], but this gave me the confidence that I could actually do it – it’s a lot easier when you're actually doing it. I think it helped me —because there were some exams that I failed on and its helped me to go back and recover it and redo it and say yeah I understand that now, I see how that worked and fit it in to what I was doing.
And a friend of mine has asked me to look after his books for a while and help him because he's no good with it. He gets to about a few weeks before his end of year and then he's going mental because he doesn’t know if he's put everything in, so I can like help him with that. He's on QuickBooks and I know how to do it quite easily so I can do whatever needs doing.
He's an old school friend that I just hooked up with after a long time – well, when we first hooked up we were just catching up sort of thing, and keeping in touch - and its only recently he said can you give me a hand with this because I'm useless at it.
One thing that is nice— both here and anywhere else – having access to a company’s accounts is a very privileged thing, and they have to have a lot of trust in you. They trust me here [at AOFS] to look at their accounts. The accountant even let me do some of his work as well. Before I did the training at AOFS, I wasn’t very confident at all. I mean I'd struggled with the college work so I think it was just the fear factor of could I actually go and work for a company and do this stuff? I think if anything I probably would have shied away from it and probably done myself down, and not been able to say yeah, I can do it, I can.
Now I think yeah I can, I can go in and I can pick up a company's way of working. Once I start going for interviews, I can say yeah I can do it, I've proved it. I've got a reference to show I can do it, and I'm ready to learn more.
Outside of the work context, it’s given me confidence there, too. I can hold conversations about things now. I mean my sister, and some of my cousins, and friends even, they're in accounting and stuff. And I can actually have a solid conversation about it, and not sit there and wonder what the hell they're talking about. It’s not just a workplace thing, it’s holding my own, anywhere. If someone asks what I do, I can hold a conversation and say this is what I do. If you think about it, one of the first conversations on meeting someone, most people talk about their jobs. And if you can’t talk about your job, it’s really difficult - you just struggle and sit there listening to everything. You haven't got a clue what they're talking about, so you're just sitting there giving it, yeah ok, yeah, yeah, yeah. And that’s a really horrible thing to happen, when you want to be able to join in a conversation without sort of feeling a complete and total berk.
Or when I could explain what I was doing in my college work to my sister or a friend – when someone else has told me and explained it to me, and now I can pass it on to her. Yeah, it’s nice, you feel a bit smart and not a bit of a dumb waiter.
The thing that made the difference was just doing stuff, being able to actually do it hands on, rather than just looking at it. And having someone like explain it to me. When you're doing it hands on you can ask why it’s done that way — so you're learning something, but you're not feeling stupid. It’s a different way of learning, and it’s a good way of learning.
I've enjoyed working with people as well, they've been really good. Sometimes you feel like well, if I get them to explain this do you think they'll start huffing and puffing. But here, the more I asked them, the more they like it, the happier they were. If it needed explaining two or three times, they didn’t mind. And they were not far away if I needed some help – there was always someone close by. And sometimes people who've done it for years and years can get something out of explaining it to me - because they have to slow themselves down as well, and they realise they’ve been doing something that they haven't realised they’ve been doing. So it’s not always just me learning something—everybody's learning something.
And if they need someone extra and there's no one around they can phone me and say we need someone for a day, can you come in and help us? And I can quite happily say, yep, it’s not a problem – it’s that sort of two-way thing. I can say yeah, I can help if you need it.