Ben Tallon AOI Interview: Arrest All Mimics Podcast

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Arrest All Mimics, The Original Thinking and Creative Innovation Podcast is a weekly show hosted and produced by illustrator, art-director and author of Champagne and Wax Crayons, Ben Tallon. Now one year old, the show has become a staple weekly dose of advice from the creative industry, loaded with essential insights and honest tales by heavyweight guests. The AOI have recently teamed up with Tallon and AAM and we sat down to find out more about the show.

How did it all begin?

Dangerous question! Very organically like everything else in my career. My first 2-3 years were spent illustrating more or less exclusively for editorial clients. Then thanks to a slightly weird personal project, I was commissioned to work on television trailers for Channel 4’s Skins. Things were going better than expected. All of a sudden, I hit a bleak spell with no work and grew frustrated. The rants I started to post online about how tough freelancing in the arts could be were nothing more than personal therapy, but to my surprise, gathered followers and feedback, connections with people in similar situations. It seemed it was extremely rare, almost unheard of, to be so open and honest about the ups and downs of the profession. I’d met people way more experienced and established than myself and learned that we all show off this idyllic depiction of what it’s like to be a creative professional, yet they were all experiencing the same challenges I was.

Those rants evolved into my debut book, Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries. This opened doors into doing talks at universities and colleges, industry events and writing for creative journals. I talked to Harry-Lyon Smith, director of Illustration Ltd and he suggested a podcast could be a good idea. One year on here I am: with an audio platform through which to share the stories of fascinating and creative people.

What resistances have you experienced along the way?

The biggest challenge is rising above the sheer amount of digital noise you have to compete with these days. People’s attention spans are low, but once they realise that the stories my guests are sharing, for free on a weekly basis have taken years of hard work and talent to attain, they tend to come back hungry for the new episode each week. The listener numbers are on the rise all the time. It’s over 25k plays now. It’s hard to attract the household names, but thanks to my stubborn, over-ambitious nature, I’ve tracked down big names such as Miss Led, Adrian Shaughnessy, Sandra Dieckmann, Don Letts and Rob O’Connor.

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Why is it important for people to listen?

Arrest All Mimics is essential listening for anyone in the creative industry. No matter how lateral any show might seem, I always have one eye on making sure that it is must-listen content for visual communicators. Universities and colleges pay good money to bring in industry professional speakers because there is no better learning tool than hearing the experiences of others. Many of my listeners work alone, at home or in a studio, so the show is a free, on-demand way to gather new ideas, tips, perspectives that might otherwise take ten years to arrive at. As I write this, I’m gearing up for episode 42; that’s over 45 hours of insights, all free and on the listener’s terms. You cannot buy that kind of pay dirt.

What insights has it given you?

What I find beautiful and essential is the sheer range of guests. This is not about chasing big names. That’s crucial too, but I’ve had people still at university, I’ve had a ten-year old freelance illustrator on the show, I talked to a lady who runs 3D printing workshops with young people who have perhaps not been fortunate enough to receive the support that I had from my parents. Not many people knew that Miss Led took 8 years to do anything creative after graduating from a fine art degree. How inspiring is that to anyone who might have struggled to get going? In my education and early years as a freelancer, I was too narrow minded in my search for inspiration, but if you pop your head into other disciplines, the most original and refreshing ideas follow. One of the biggest joys I have each week is getting to spend an hour in another studio, or hearing how design heavyweights also struggled and continue to struggle like the rest of us. There’s something encouraging when you nervously walk through the front door of someone you idolise to see that they’re behind on the washing up. That’s what this show is about: humanising a fierce industry.

Why did you want to work with the AOI and what does your membership mean to you?

The AOI have been important to me since I became aware of them in the first year of my illustration degree. We’ve all worked for free, been underpaid, been victim of an intellectual property dispute or not had a clue what to quote for a commission at some point. Many of my shows deal with topics and issues that fall under the role of the AOI so I wanted to create a mutually beneficial relationship with Arrest All Mimics in the middle. The hope is that not only will the show become a vehicle to help us both support creative people, but also that it can raise awareness about an organisation that can provide expert legal and professional support for the price of a few nights out!

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What have been your highlights?

I spent an hour sat with Adrian Shaughnessy at the Royal College of Art. I had lunch with Rob O’Connor, the man behind the artwork for the soundtrack to my youth. I’ve formed friendships through this show. The things I’ve learned have accelerated my own career. Above all else, I’ve found a calling of sorts. I am so passionate about the importance of a strong creative industry. I believe that it has a crucial and increasingly important role to play in working towards a better world, supporting good causes and if these interviews can arm innovators and pioneers with ideas and inspiration, then I feel I’m playing an important part in strengthening the industry. There is no greater buzz than when a listener takes the time to tell me that one of the episodes has helped or inspired them in some way.

Tell us about your podcast in numbers

One year. 26k plays. 42 episodes. One show per week. 3 sponsors (Illustration Ltd, Heart Internet and Printed.com) plus one exciting new partner, the AOI!

What distracts you?

This show! It’s a real labour of love. I spend time that I probably should use to market my illustration work on searching for idealistic guests. Arrest All Mimics gives me a very selfish reason to indulge in chasing down my heroes!

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Arrest All Mimics is free to download, play and subscribe to at Soundcloud and on iTunes, Tuesdays at 11am. The show is on Twitter at @Arrestallmimics and you can contact Ben at @bentallon.

Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries is available on Amazon and at Tate Modern. You can see Ben Tallon’s portfolio at Illustration Ltd and at his brand new official website.


21st October 2016
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