From Newcastle Student to Night Zookeeperby Newcastle University
Find out how our graduate Joshua Davidson went from a Fine Art BA to launching a children’s TV show on Sky Kids.
Joshua’s been busy since graduating from Newcastle University.
Now a children’s author, Joshua and two fellow Newcastle graduates (Sam Davidson and Paul Hutson) recently launched a programme with Sky TV to inspire kids to write, draw, and create.
We grabbed a few minutes with Joshua to discover what inspired him to create Night Zookeeper, and to find out his top tips for chasing your dreams and making big things happen.
Hi Joshua! So what exactly is Night Zookeeper?
Night Zookeeper is a series of story books and a Sky Kids TV series animated by BAFTA and Emmy award-winning animation studio – Karrot Animation.
It’s about a magical night zoo and the strange creatures that live there. It is also however, a question to kids that sparks their own imaginations. What magical animals could live in a night zoo?
Now you’ve got us thinking! Tell us about your journey from Newcastle all the way to Sky TV.
I was studying my BA in Fine Art at Newcastle University when I first wrote a short story called ‘The Night Time Zookeeper’.
I was encouraged to study in Melbourne as part of an exchange programme, and whilst there I heard that Melbourne Zoo was open for night time visits. This caught my imagination and I immediately wrote a short story about spying giraffes and time-travelling elephants in a zoo at night, being cared for by a mysterious Night Zookeeper.
After my degree, I enrolled in an MA entitled Digital Practices and continued to explore some of the themes I had touched on during my BA around interactive fiction. It was then that I rediscovered my short story, and Night Zookeeper became one of my major MA projects.
Be creative and look for positives in every situation. Everything is a chance to learn!
Did you always want to be a children’s writer?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. Even during my Fine Art BA, I submitted my written dissertation in the form of a story, and I themed my final show around a story I had written and self-published.
I find narrative worlds and the idea of immersion into those worlds fascinating. New technologies are opening up new ways to interact all the time, but interestingly books are still the most immersive medium we have.
I loved painting - which was the focus of my BA in Fine Art, but I always wanted to give kids a way of collaborating on a bigger narrative world.
What advice would you give soon-to-be-students to help them follow their dreams?
It's been such a long journey, so persistence is crucial.
For me, that persistence has been possible because I love what I do, and enjoy working with the people I’m surrounded by. Ideas like Night Zookeeper require the support of so many people to get off the ground from investors to employees. It’s been such a team effort.
Be a people person. Listen to other people’s passions, and find ways to work with those that inspire you. If you have an idea – try it out! Tell people about it. See what they think.
What are your top tips for soon-to-be-students who aren’t confident that they can make a difference?
When I finished studying, I didn’t focus on one idea, or even one career. In many ways I was too frightened to really put myself out there so I didn’t perhaps apply for enough things or email enough people. When it’s your own idea you’re always more sensitive about it.
I eventually got some work-experience, which led to more work experience, and then my first job. Ultimately I built up the skill set I needed to be an entrepreneur. My top tips would be to focus on your best idea, build a relevant set of experiences to help you bring the idea to life, and then reach for the sky!
And finally, what advice would you give a budding entrepreneur reading this right now?
Once you’ve picked your idea and have the experience and contacts to bring it to life, you will have a decision to make about when and how to pursue it.
The first thing to realise is that this is a long journey. Things can take a lot longer than you expect them to. You need good people around you, a healthy dose of humour, and the grit to resolve every single problem that turns up. Good or bad!
Listen to others and adapt your vision - without losing sight of why you are starting the business. Don’t make money your sole goal because if it doesn’t come right away, you may give up. If you are working towards a larger purpose, you will likely find a way to stick with it.
Finally, be creative and look for positives in every situation. Everything is a chance to learn!
Published By Newcastle University on 28/01/2020 | Last Updated 17/03/2023