Art Interview Interview

Top image: Elliott by Rosie Matheson

It only took one boring summer (and a short Twitter conversation) for music journalist Benji Reeves and model scout Reuben Selby to devise an idea that may prove to change the lives of a generation of young creatives. Aware of the wave of emerging talents that get lost in a sea of web content, they thought up Hotbox – an online platform where these future Gen Y trailblazers can get heard above the roar.

Hotbox is a digitally-based creative sphere existing to voice upcoming creatives, from photographers and filmmakers through to writers, artists, graphic designers and more. The entrepreneurial pair co-created the group almost a year ago, and have seen exhibitions, zines, newspapers and films birth from what started as an unheard-of underground group of arty twenty-year-olds. “If I wasn’t in the creative industry I really wouldn’t give a shit,” explains Benji as he races a Saturday night gig. “It’s given me a whole new perspective, because I’m actually in the industry. Hotbox is such a great way for me to expose talent that should really be acknowledged.”

Darting between late-night concerts and interview calls, here Reeves shares what drives him to stand behind a bunch of Brighton-based creatives and have faith in them as they find their voice.

Gallery: Rosie Matheson (photographer)

Lisa Walden: So Hotbox exists to voice a plethora of emerging talent and bring together creatives from across Brighton. What were your motivations for starting it up?
Benji Reeves: There’s always been outlets out there for young people. Like music, fashion, photography. But there’s nothing that’s generating promotion for the emerging creative youth scene. So really, we needed something to bring everyone together. It’s there for building connections between industry professionals and up-and-coming creatives.

LW: Yeah of course. I mean, since you invited me to be a part of the group myself I do feel like it’s a large creative family who look out for each other and support one another in terms of their work – is that what you wanted it to be like?
BR: Yeah definitely. Since Hotbox first inaugurated there have been so many people working together from just meeting on the platform. That was the primary reason why we’ve done this, and it’s crazy to think it started with a small Facebook group of creatives just chatting. There’s fashion designers like Julie Berube who does the Field of Ponies clothing line – she’s quite big. She showed at London Fashion Week. She and Reuben Selby started to scout models from Hotbox. They then took their designs and shot in the middle of the street as a protest act.

LW: Amazing.
BR: Yeah, it’s great seeing everyone build connections and work together.

LW: So you’ve got a website in the works, what other plans do you have lined up for Hotbox?
BR: We’re launching a magazine in the summer, so that’s what we’re currently working on. We have a few editorial shoots in London, and then towards the end of the summer we hope to do another exhibition. We’re really looking at getting together a website but it’s the kind of thing that needs funding which young people don’t often have. We’re hoping it’s going to be big.

Gallery: Dylan Myers (photographer)

LW: Do you think it’s particularly hard for emerging creatives who are young and don’t really have a voice, for them to get ahead in the industry? And is that also another reason why you wanted to create Hotbox, so that there’s a space for everyone to come together?
BR: Yeah I definitely agree with that. It’s definitely hard to get your foot in the door, but once you do it’s pretty straight forward really. It’s all about building industry contacts really. Once you’ve taken that first step up the ladder, just make sure you work hard and you’ll go far.

Gallery: Oli East (graphic designer)

LW: Which five members of the group really stand out for you for their work and individuality?
BR: This is hard. Just to clarify, every single member of the group has potential to do amazing things. The people that you should look out for most at the moment are probably Rosie Matheson – she’s a really good photographer. She does some sick stuff for i-D at the moment. Then there’s Alf Santos, a super talented guy. And Dylan Myers, too. They’re just breaking boundaries. Oli East, he’s a graphic designer and is coding the site for us. Louis Bryant does photography and film – he’s also so very talent. He creates music videos for VEVO.

LW: Amazing
BR: Is that five? Am I over the amount?

LW: [laughs] Yeah that’s five.
BR: I just want to make it as diverse as possible. I could name so many, they’re all so talented. Can I just say one more? Will Nicholson is a really good London-based illustration artist. He’s an introvert. One too definitely check out. I could name so many more!

LW: I understand as they’re all so very talented. I remember last year you told you were interested in launching the group with a promo video – talk about how you went from the initial idea to launching?
BR: Oh yeah, I remember. It was pretty much a year ago really that Reuben Selby and I had the same vision. We’ve both known each other since our early school days but never really spoke. I saw on Twitter that Reuben was trying to get his foot in the creative industry, and at the time I was working as a music journalist. We just started talking over Twitter, and by doing so discovered that we actually have the same vision. At the time he was working on a new concept for an editorial so we just started working together really. We started planning a magazine (which is the one released and available to buy this summer), and then launched a digital-based platform.

LW: That sounds so good.
BR: Yeah, and then we just collected our work and began to put them on a platform. That’s when Hotbox was born.

Gallery: Louis Bryant (photographer)

LW: Do you think because you’re a creative and a music journalist yourself you felt more passionate about creating something for young talent because you could relate to their struggle?
BR: Totally. If I wasn’t in the creative industry I really wouldn’t give a shit. It’s given me a whole new perspective, because I’m actually in the industry. Hotbox is such a great way for me to expose talent that should really be acknowledged. When you put all these people together you can trust that something great will be created. I totally believe in it.

LW: Amazing. I’m just looking at your previous exhibition images – can you say what when on at the event? Why host it in Brighton?
BR: We chose Brighton because we all live around this area. It’s really important to gain support from your hometown first. We hosted the exhibition with nine group members exhibiting. We didn’t have as many members as we do now. Dom Santry, who is currently working on his inaugural film, was one of the guys who showcased his work there. Oli East and Dylan Myers were there too and photographer Audrey Krakow made the newspaper for the event. Photographer Olivia Foley exhibited her works there too.

LW: Sounds like a killer event. What are your plans for the future with the group?
BR: To make it bigger and better. We really want to hold more exhibitions, host music gigs, and give more creatives the platform they need to grow. There are no limits to what we can do. The greater cause is for getting the talents out there; for pushing the boundaries; expecting the unexpected; for freedom of expression.

Gallery: Alf Santos (photographer)

Follow Hotbox on Twitter.

Follow Lisa Walden on Twitter @Lisagracewalden