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Networking hub set up for Bermudians abroad

Networking idea: Malachi Simmons (Photograph supplied)

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know — or so the saying goes.

Malachi Simmons didn’t know anyone in Manchester, England

He had only just moved there to start his dance career and his classes at Studio 25 were often half-empty.

“The other professors were from the area and knew lots of people,” he said.

“They’d recruit by word of mouth.”

It really hit home the day he ran into two Bermudians in the hallway.

“They were taking classes with another teacher,” said the 24-year-old, who now teaches workshops for a number of dance groups in the British city.

“They didn’t know I was teaching there, and I didn’t know they were in Manchester.”

The experience led to the birth of Island Mentality, a networking hub for Bermudians abroad. Mr Simmons and his friend Jarrett Carlington, a Bermudian dancer in Canada, came up with the idea.

They felt a directory of performing artists would be a huge help to Bermudians abroad.

“Once they leave Bermuda, the community loses touch with them,” Mr Simmons said.

“We often don’t know what they’re doing.”

Island Mentality provides information about Bermudian performing artists here and abroad.

It allows them to network with one another and with potential hirers. It also provides mentorship opportunities.

“I would have been able to reach out to other Bermudians who may have understood what I was going through [if a similar organisation had been around earlier],” Mr Simmons said. “It is helpful sharing ideas with people and getting them to discuss and view your content. Bermudian artists can open doors for each other.”

Mr Simmons hopes it will make it easier for organisations like the Bermuda Festival for the Performing Arts to locate Bermudian talent wherever it may be. When he moved to Lancashire to study in 2011 he thought he was one of the first Bermudian performers to head to England.

“In fact, there are Bermudian artists working to a professional level all over the United Kingdom, and the world,” he said. “I run into Bermudians in Manchester all the time. Singer Mia Chambray is here, for example.

“Sometimes the Bermuda Festival has two or three Bermudian acts but there are so many talented Bermudian performers out there. Unfortunately, we often don’t hear about what performers are doing once they’ve left Bermuda. I definitely felt like the general populous had forgotten me when I first left the island.”

He believes Island Mentality can help overcome one of the biggest challenges Bermudian artists face: lack of exposure.

“International Bermudian performing artists don’t get exposure within Bermuda because the island doesn’t know what they are doing,” said Mr Simmons. “And local artists don’t get the exposure because they don’t always have easy access to the tools and facilities to make their work reach a certain scale.”

The hub received a bursary from the Argo Foundation last month to get it going.

“We are going to take it slow at first,” Mr Simmons said. “We will start with 20 profiles, but we have about 40 written down.”

Their first event took place last month, a series of dance classes at the Berkeley Institute.

For more information e-mail islandmentality.info@gmail.com or look for Island Mentality Bda on Facebook.