10 Questions with Guy Armitage

This year, Zealous celebrates its 10th Anniversary. In recognition of this momentous occasion, we’ve interviewed founder and CEO, Guy Armitage, to find out more about the company’s past, present and future.

Why did you start Zealous?

That’s a nice easy question, although my memory might be going since it’s been 10 years! At its inception, Zealous was supposed to bring the creative sector together and help creators collaborate across different mediums, like film, music, and performance.

Over time, we discovered that artists wanted access to opportunities and for their work to be showcased, enabling them to make money for their craft. We pivoted to make managing opportunities as simple as possible for organisations – in the hope that they would make more for the creative sector.

I created something that encompasses all the creative industries for a specific reason. There is not one medium that sticks out.

What's been the best day on the job?

That is a really hard question! I tend to wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and can’t wait to go to work. I guess a day that sticks out is when there was a live tv interview for the Emerge Awards. We were able to bring Lanre Malaolu, one of the Performance winners, on-air with us. I also got to wear one of the fashion winner’s jackets. It was made by a gentleman called James Reeves – It’s the best I’ve looked in sequins.

What about the worst day on the job?

That one is a lot easier.

The most challenging day that we faced was whilst I was on stage at a conference. At the very start of our journey, one of our cloud servers went a little haywire and sent 200,000 emails to our network (at the time our network was only a couple of thousand creators). Some people got spammed. Luckily for us, our community was very kind. We embraced transparency, apologised profusely and everything turned out for the best – but it was a long 48 hours! You’ll also be happy to hear we now have robust checks in place to ensure no email is ever sent twice.

Zealous is open to all artistic mediums and disciplines – if you had to specialise in one, what would it be?

I created something that encompasses all the creative industries for a specific reason. There is not one medium that sticks out – they are all equal in my eyes and all depend on one another to thrive.

Is Zealous today what you thought it would be 10 years ago?

Hells no, we’re continuously changing. We learn so much from the network. Our initial priority was to bring people together to collaborate across different sectors. It turned out that what people wanted was access to opportunities, exhibitions, money, and anything that would help them in their craft. This radically changed our focus.

We then built a system that allows organisations to simplify the way that they run open calls and manage opportunities. We do so in the hope that this saves organisations time, and in turn, they can create more opportunities for the sector. This virtuous cycle will make the industry a lot better in the long term. Less time spent on administration, more on creating.

When Zealous started in 2010, the art world was a different place. What advice would you give art professionals in 2021?

In terms of being an arts professional, it’s not changed so much. However, you have access to more technology and things are moving all the time – this has always been the case, but it’s just moving quicker now.

This year there has been an additional issue in that we’ve all been locked in, unable to do what we usually do.

Being agile, like you’ve always been, is going to be key in being able to develop your craft in an ever-evolving world. But the actual act of creating itself remaims the same.

It's often said that time and money are the most vital capital for artists – do you agree?

These are important.

There’s a third one that is missing, and that’s effort. You can do anything you put your mind to if you have two of the three. Time money and effort are universal and that is always going to be the case!

Agility is also important. It defines your ability to cope with all the changes that you face (now more than ever). It is probably one of the best skills that you can have to support your creativity. Also, try not to be too fearful and have some confidence in what you are doing.

What would you do with the opportunity to reunite the Zealous community in a physical context?

It’s been a while since we had Zealous X and Emerge! Each one of them was trying to fix a problem that the other had.

Zealous X was a wonderful exhibition, lots of people came to the space. Artists showcased their work, there were industry talks and it was a lot of fun. The main issue was that it discriminated against people who lived outside of London, so we created Emerge as a response to that. Anyone from anywhere in the UK was able to submit to Emerge and there was no obligation for applicants to bring anything to London.

If I were to create something new, I would love to have the resources to be able to pay for people outside of London to bring their work. Ultimately just bringing people together all in one place.

I think we focus a lot on maths and sciences, which are great – but I feel there should be more of a focus on the arts.

What’s the one thing you’d like to change about the UK?

If we disregard COVID, there are a couple of things! I think our education is lacking a trick in terms of our creativity. I think we focus a lot on maths and sciences, which are great – but I feel there should be more of a focus on the arts, critical thinking and philosophy within our syllabus.

If I were to look at London specifically, just dropping the property prices would enable artists to live here. London is a great city. It should be creative, but people can’t afford to live here. Making sure that we could afford it would be a step in the right direction.

Finally, what would you like to say to the Zealous Community?

It has been a pleasure serving you all. Whether you are submitting to opportunities or you joined us for our Emerge awards, it has been an absolute honour and we cannot wait to serve you for another 10 years.

We have some exciting plans this year, so please check out what’s happening here.

We look forward to seeing you all soon!

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Ellie Isaacs

Community Manager