Born for those wanting to make changes in the creative industry, The Trash Club is a professional network and community space that hosts weekly discussions on Clubhouse. Founded by artists Matthew Needham and Katy Mason, the club champions Consciousness, Responsibility, Authenticity and People (C-R-A-P) with reflective and thoughtful conversations surrounding sustainability in the creative industry.
Whether you’re an artist, fashion designer, content creator, illustrator, activist or someone that falls somewhere in between; all independent creatives are welcome to join the weekly conversations and make a home at The Trash Club. In this special in-conversation, the founding duo share their journeys, the importance of art spaces and of course – all things CRAP.
Matthew: Hi Katy.
Katy: Hello Matthew.
M: So, should we talk about trash?
K: Yeah, let’s talk about trash.
M: Can you remember when we started The Trash Club?
K: Yes! After the second lockdown, we were discussing how we both felt the need for a community again. A genuine place where all creators could come together. We decided to start it on Clubhouse at the time as it was a way of easily getting people together at a distance, meeting new people, and reconnecting with others.
M: I remember that during that time, when we had the initial idea of The Trash Club, we both felt the need for general support after going through two lockdowns. Other than Universal Credit, there was very little financial support for people like us, and definitely no holistic support that we could find. We both felt quite introverted, remember?
K: Yeah! I remember.
M: Remember the first Trash Talk on a Friday, and we were both shaking?
K: [laughs] Yeah! I was so nervous.
M: The nervous heavy breathing!!
K: I was panting! But we’d gotten so used to working from home and in our bedrooms during COVID; for me, that was just the reality at the time. I thought that it was just how it had to be. It had been so long, and you forget how to open up when you’ve been cramped in your room, thinking about your own work, criticising your own work, so when we did that first convo I was like [mimics heavy breathing].
M: I definitely had a similar experience. And then, I came to realise that this was a mutual feeling amongst most freelancers, which is why the conversation naturally expanded to all creatives and practices. The Trash Club has become such a valuable community to be a part of, with such a wide range of knowledge shared and a wide range of lived experiences.
K: Exactly, which feeds into how no creative fits into one box. We don’t fit into a system, leading us to question how we then find a place where we do feel we fit, where we can be honest about the hurdles of freelance life and our views about the future.
K: It started off as a very, very personal journey of building myself back up, and for me, The Trash Club is an amazing space to speak openly to loads of different creatives. The community has taught me how to be vulnerable in a space where I’m speaking as myself, rather than trying to put on a front. It’s given me the confidence to speak in a certain way.
M: So glad to hear that Katy. I feel that’s a mutual feeling amongst creatives who are just starting out also, which is why we started the student/graduate memberships. Most of us remember first leaving university when you ask yourself, what do I do now? Where do I start? Who can I speak to? When you’re finding the balance of work and personal life as well as financial stability and your creative voice, it can be challenging. We want The Trash Club to help more of those individuals because as we both know, we are all stronger together. It’s more apparent today than ever.
K: So much stronger. How do you feel about The Trash Club after our first year?
M: You know, what’s so interesting is that I didn’t realise how big the scope would be when we started out, and how many people our simple idea would connect with. The wide range of creatives who are connected now through Trash Club is so moving. If we think about our members who have had long-standing careers for example, who still benefit from having conversations with the community about where to go next. I love having conversations with Paul [Ayre], for example. Hearing about his experiences of creating the MTV graphics in the 90s and about finding your biorhythm and journey, it’s grounding. Paul always brings a balance.
K: We love Paul!
The conversations can range from how to navigate tax returns to in-depth philosophical questioning of why we create in the first place. We’ve created our own language through the talks, using words like “ambition” instead of a “plan” because it doesn’t add the pressure of a time frame, or we talk about trusting “the void” and “the spaces in-between”.
M: We do, we do. Another is Orsola [de Castro], (founder of Fashion Revolution) our upcycling queen, who always brings a powerful one-liner that sits with you for the rest of the day.
K: We love a one-liner at The Trash Club. What’s incredible to share is that we’re all human, all creatives, having very similar experiences at different points in life. When we come together, we realise how many of these experiences do overlap; for example, we’ve spoken a lot about imposter syndrome on The Trash Talk.
M: Yeah, impostor syndrome is definitely a recurring theme in Trash Talk.
K: When is Trash Talk Matthew?
M: [Laughs] Every Friday at 12:00GMT on Clubhouse which you can find via our Instagram bio [@trashclubhub]. It’s a regiment now. Every week we take an hour out to reflect and offload. We start with a ‘trash’ and then a ‘treasure’, a metaphor for something great that happened and something that wasn’t so great during the week that you want to share with everyone. It’s a great exercise as there’s usually at least one other person who has had a similar week to you. Then we discuss the topic of the week which usually leads to an incredibly in-depth discussion. The conversations can range from how to navigate tax returns to in-depth philosophical questioning of why we create in the first place. We’ve created our own language through the talks, using words like “ambition” instead of a “plan” because it doesn’t add the pressure of a time frame, or we talk about trusting “the void” and “the spaces in-between”.”Behind the façade”, I was laughing because you were talking about that before we began. Do you want to talk about “behind the façade”?
K: Yeah, so ” behind the façade” was an early talk, wasn’t it? It was post-COVID, and it felt like everyone had been creating with social media at the forefront as a result, as it was our only platform to showcase what we were doing. The persona you build online is very much a façade and not necessarily a reality however it’s easy to misinterpret that others are doing more than they are. That in combination with the pressure of having to stay relevant to the algorithm. I think that’s what The Trash Club continues to remind me; that what we put out there should be focused on your purpose and your message first and foremost, and everything else, all the physical work you post about, all the stuff that people see, this is secondary to what you really, want to say. You have to check in with yourself, a lot of the time, to remember this.
This is why Trash Club is great because we literally check in with each other every single week; Paul [Ayre] will be saying “you do you”, you’ll be saying “five-year ambition”, and Emma [Hamshare] will be saying “breathe”. So to have that weekly reminder to find the balance is life-saving, really. It’s interesting to know in real-time how as a creative there are sometimes low weeks, sometimes high. Sometimes people come online, and they’ll be really open about just feeling really low, because it’s just not working out for them that week. I would be like “which box do I fit into,” and then like 4 weeks later I’ll be like “you know what, it’s going really well”.
M: I really like when we see new faces. I’m thinking about how many collaborations and connections have been made through The Trash Club, just in the last year.
K: It’s been great honestly. For instance, I collaborated with Paul on a video documenting my process; a sick collaboration with someone I might not otherwise ever have met. The quarterly meet-ups are also great.
M: They are – because again, it’s a community, but also – a network. But in a genuine, grounded way. It was at the first meetup when I realised “this is a real thing” because, obviously, we talk online every week, but at that point, we came to all know each other in reality also. We see each other more regularly now, for example, a few of us met at Helen [Kirkum]’s show. There was a really special moment that I remember between us at the first meet up where I turned to you and said, “we did this, we created this”. It was incredibly moving, especially after coming out of lockdown.
K: It was at the meetup, yeah, that was special.
M: It was crazy just from that small conversation that we had in the park, next to Haggerston Station, just wishing for a conversation with someone and now, where the conversation has grown into this really heartfelt community.
K: Yeah, the disparity between that conversation just after lockdown, to “we’re gonna chat and meet in person”, and now there are all these people who are involved in the conversation is just lovely.
M: And so powerful. When did the C-R-A-P pillars come about? End of last year?
M: October last year I think. So, C-R-A-P is an acronym for Consciousness, Responsibility, Authenticity and People. Our values at Trash Club. It stems from the idea of a family value system that we can refer to in the talks and during the week.
K: Yeah, and they are the values that we all share in the community. These are our main pillars. What we stand for. Do you want to explain them?
M: Sure, so the ‘Consciousness’ considers mindfulness, mental health, taking the time needed to be with yourself, trusting the void. ‘Responsibility’ is ethics, your belief system, your values and how they apply to you as a person and within your work. ‘Authenticity’ is about trusting your gut, being authentic to yourself and your expression. Do you fit into a box? Do you feel as though you’re somewhere in between? And lastly, ‘People’ relates to the Trash Talks and the community that we have built together. Recognising its importance, the network and our relationships.
K: And all these pillars relate back to why you wanted to be creative or be an artist in the first place. What you actually wanted to do this for, the people that you actually wanted to surround yourself with, and the community that you wanted to be a part of. Authenticity is something we speak about all the time because this is about staying true to yourself. That’s hard to do in this world, especially in London and as a freelancer.
M: So true.
K: You’ve got to be disciplined to be authentic.
I think whenever you want to really make a difference, it’s just so evident how much stronger you are together. That’s what we remember every single week because everyone in The Trash Club feels like an outsider at times, because everyone is a sort of an outsider to the system we are taught to fit into.
M: Yeah, and to also have the confidence. It helps to share feelings about these topics and know that there are others there who support you in what you do and in your new ventures.
K: Yes, exactly. I feel like I had a perfect moment the other day in Trash Talk when I was talking about how I tried to pitch to some corporate company to do a collaboration, and it didn’t work out. I thought “oh this is a bit annoying. I wanted to get into this certain field, and it just doesn’t seem to be working, people don’t seem to be understanding it” but I came away from the talk with a newfound perspective of “It’s gonna be fine” and “it wasn’t a good fit”. Sometimes you just need that support network to help you to realise that.
M: It’s so true asthe talks have very lighthearted titles and topics, but they all lead to deeper questioning that we all find relatable in one way or another. The answers are almost always found in coming together as a group, as a cohort, within a system that is structured for us not to succeed. We have to nurture spaces where we create our own platforms and conversations, and the more members that come to those discussions, the bigger the voice and its impact.
K: Yes! Yes!
M: It’s incredibly moving to think that Trash Club is growing and the strength in numbers is apparent in the feedback. Before this, I don’t think that either of us had found a space to speak about systemic change, sustainability, hierarchies, society and how we fit into those systems or how we have been affected by the systems on a real and personal level.
K: Absolutely. I think whenever you want to really make a difference, it’s just so evident how much stronger you are together. That’s what we remember every single week because everyone in The Trash Club feels like an outsider at times, because everyone is a sort of an outsider to the system we are taught to fit into.
K: As you said, the system here in the UK isn’t constructed to help us succeed, especially as working class. So you’ve got all these outsiders, and then you come together, and you’re like, “oh, you’re saying the same thing as me, and you’re saying that too” and actually, we can grow and learn from each other.
M: Well said. There was no platform or real holistic support for freelancers before. It felt like there was nothing but commercial exchange between the organisations and creatives. There was no genuine conversation. It was all about the façade and showing face, from our perspective anyway. It was always about looking at what ‘so and so’ is doing because ‘so and so’ is posting on Instagram but actually, maybe ‘so and so’ is going through a really rough patch, and they’re working themselves to burnout.
K: Completely agree.
M: What we both felt was needed was a continuous, grounded conversation about the broad scope of being a freelance creative, about life as the creator, as the freelancer, and as the individual.
K: The balance.
M: Yeah, the balance. Being based primarily online has allowed us to grow internationally as well. It’s so amazing to connect with people like Stina [Randestad], who’s in Sweden. I’d love for us to connect with more creatives globally.
K: and it’s just-
K: Yes, exactly. And it’s archaic to be putting creatives into these small boxes. This is what the system wants viewers to be able to recognise and digest. “You’re a fashion designer” or “You’re a graphic designer” or whatever because it’s easy to understand and I guess easier to sell and stuff like that but-
M: But as Paul says, “if you want to wake up one day and make furniture, you can go and do that.”
K: Exactly, exactly. So, I think that this is a healthy way of looking at creativity. It doesn’t have to fit into a mould.
M: And I’m sure most of us didn’t choose a creative path to be commercially viable.
K: So true.
Having a platform creates opportunities for pople who are in The Trash Club: financial opportunities, work opportunities, conversations, and connections to people that you wouldn’t easily have a connection to otherwise. I don’t think we realise the scope of where this can go.
M: What are some other memorable talks for you?
K: I liked the void one. What was that called?
M: I think it was “Trusting the Void”.
K: “Trusting the void”. That was it. I think that was really nice because everybody has those moments, whether it’s in between projects or just after something big or even not after something big, just anytime where you feel like, “what am I doing? Who am I? What am I making? It looks awful”. You’re just questioning everything. Those moments happen for every single person, huge artists or small freelancers. Those moments always happen, and they’re really, really important to acknowledge as creators. But obviously, we’re not really taught that those moments are important for inspiration and to also check in with yourself.
M: Very true. You have to trust that those moments are there for a reason and they are important.
K: Yeah, and that they are going to give you something back. It is really difficult to admit that to other people and then to be like “no, own this time”. I’m just making for the sake sometimes, just so that I can give myself validation for being on this earth. So, I think that to have everyone saying “trust this void” is really valuable, so that’s yeah was a good one for me. What about you?
M: I remember that one. For me, there are a couple that stand out. One was “Time and space”. I always think about that one. We’ve hosted quite a few mindfulness sessions, but I think it was Emma Hamshare, our strategic director and mindfulness practitioner who really brought them into fruition. Do you remember when Emma did a talk called “Energy”? She talked about how to channel your own energy through breathing which flowed onto the idea of taking the time out, meditating, understanding that your mental health is as important as your physical health and having a good balance is the only way you can create your best work. That was really interesting to me. I also am thinking back to very early ones, and there was one called “The Big Sustainable”. Can you remember that?
K: The Big Sustainable?
M: I think we talked about-
K: Were we talking about the greenwashing and stuff?
M: Yeah, and the sustainability trend. The sustainable conversation at that time was just so huge, and it went into this space of talking about commerce and materiality, when in fact, commerce and sustainability are so contradictory.
K: And it was the conversation around seeing sustainability as just swapping in these small elements of the old consumeristic vibe that were already in. Just swapping elements of this to organic cotton and then calling it sustainable but actually, to really be sustainable-
M: You have to change the system.
K: You have to change the system to really be radical. You have to, you have to actually change the system, and this is what we’re talking about with the Trash Club. You really have to actually get together with each other. Start from the ground up to have these conversations around systematic change and work out a new way of looking at things or doing things rather than big brands just being like, “oh, we now use this fabric,”
M: I know, it’s not enough.
K: It’s not enough
M: But also, I think, the idea of creating a platform for ourselves and the community, to be able to reach an audience in greater numbers, you are taken seriously. Having a platform creates opportunities for people who are in the Trash Club: financial opportunities, work opportunities, conversations, and connections to people that you wouldn’t easily have a connection to otherwise. I don’t think we realise the scope of where this can go. Although, I think maybe we are starting to realise. It’s become a space with a much greater impact than we initially had in mind, which is really special.
K: Yeah, absolutely. I think being multidisciplinary is unique, isn’t it?
M: Because it’s actually about celebrating and recognising the power of being a freelance creative.
M: What are some of your favourite memories of Trash Club so far?
K: I think it was the Fashion Open Studio exhibition where we met Ray [Rahemur Rahman] and Ellen [Rock]. But basically, just generally meeting everyone, Like Ellen, Ray, Emma, Rachel, Martina [Spetlova], Lucy [Jagger], Daniel [Pearce] and everyone else who I’ve missed. That’s definitely the highlight because these are all amazing friends and colleagues now, and we literally met through The Trash Club basically, which is crazy.
M: That is brilliant.
K: It is.
M: Lily [Vetch], who I actually went to the foundation with many years ago and lost contact with, is really good friends with Ray, so then he brought her into a talk, and we have now collaborated and become good friends. And for example, Nav [Navneet Virk], who I went to college with in Leicester, is also part of the community. It’s so interesting how someone from that part of my life is connected with you and everyone else. It’s so crazy how it’s all because of The Trash Club.
K: I even met somebody the other day at the Sarabande at a talk and he was like, “oh, I really love The Trash Club. I really love your work, but I also love the conversation that you’re having on Trash Talk and stuff”. It’s very cool.
M: When you come to a Trash Talk, you never leave.
K: It’s just getting people to come at least once because then you realise, “Oh, that’s what I really needed to hear.” No one doesn’t need to hear this kind of stuff. It’s just so grounding every week.
M: It’s almost 12:00, shall we go and do Trash Talk?
K: On our year anniversary?
M: Yes [laughs] Happy Anniversary, darling!
K: Happy Anniversary, darling!
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