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Before they were Upstarts

ICAD Workshops, 1997-2002

by Briain Wright

Fostering new talent has been an ICAD mandate from the beginning. But for the ‘96/’97 committee the question was, ‘how can we ensure there is new talent to foster?’ And so, the idea for the ICAD Education Workshops was born.

Based loosely on the D&AD workshops at the time, ICAD committee member Katy Egan was tasked with canvassing colleges and agencies to put forward their best wannabe art directors and copywriters.

Along with a number of agency creatives, many of the committee put themselves forward to set briefs and host sessions in their own agencies, critiquing the student work each week.

This gave aspiring new talent some experience of what it was like to create advertising to a real deadline, an opportunity to pick the brains of some of the industry’s finest minds and a chance to fill their portfolios with better work.

The Education Workshops were a good idea at the right time and once up and running they received an amazing amount of goodwill from adland.

Yes, there were nights when a host team simply ‘forgot’ they were hosting, leaving students standing out in the cold trying to get the cleaning lady to let them inside. But for the most part, teams would really step up and give their own spin on the night. Sometimes beer and pizza arrived; at the very least, the good biscuits were stolen from the boardroom cupboard.

Hosts saw it, as they still do today, as a great way to give something back to the industry and maybe even restore some karma for all of the usual industry griping.

And even though they had wildly different personalities, our hosts shared one great trait. The ability to enthuse students, helping them unearth nuggets of fresh thinking and evolve them into big ideas.

In 2000, The Irish Times came on board as a welcome and eager sponsor, which enabled us to expand the programme.

The Workshops were now quickly oversubscribed, with ambitious young creatives not just applying from colleges and agencies but also from the general public.

Students were given a platform to showcase their best ideas in the ICAD Annual (a precursor to the Upstarts Exhibition). The sessions broadened to include a portfolio review and best of all; we hosted an out-of-town weekend away, which included a 24-hour ‘brief-to-pitch.’ This was a valuable opportunity for students to work in teams under pressure and a welcome ‘finale’ to Workshop season.

The ICAD Education Workshops from 1997 to 2002 stood as the best possible launch pad an ambitious young creative could have. Many people were responsible for its success, especially the workshop co-ordinators Katy Egan, Briain Wright, Adrian Fitz-Simon, Darragh McCann, Stephen Quinn and Judy O’Broin.

But the real proof of its success was how it helped to kickstart the careers of people who are now at the forefront of the industry, both in Ireland and abroad. People like, Emmet Wright, Dylan Cotter, Mick Loftus, Mark Tuthill, Jack Healy, Kevin O’Connor, Jessica Kiang, Keith Doyle, Carol Soutar, Ste Rogers and Anne Fleming to name but a few.

The Upstarts, now celebrating its tenth year, continues this tradition and serves as a valuable stepping-stone for new creatives. As their talents are absorbed into this digital age, it’s reassuring to know they have passed through a school of learning that focuses on, and continues to put ‘The Big Idea’ first.

Long live the Upstarts.


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