The new Harry Potter stage show is the hot ticket in London’s West End, but a real magical night was to be found at the glitzy Freelancer of the Year Awards ceremony in the shadow of the capital’s theatreland.
At the end of this enchanted night a standing ovation was reserved for the star of the show, Emmeline Pidgen, a talented artist who waltzed away with the IPSE QA Inspire award at the trendy Hospital Club.
Never mind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this was the wizard story of the Gifted Lady.
Emmeline’s work can be seen illustrating some of the country’s most popular children’s books, including the cover of the latest edition of Peter Pan, Egmont publishing. She has produced fashion sketches for Laura Ashley, Clarks and Cath Kidston and her blog has a phenomenal following.
Emmeline is fast becoming one of the most powerful voices for the new generation of freelancers. Perhaps her relaxing base in Lancashire reflects a lot of her work, her outlook and her choice of natural colours. When I sat down with her just after receiving her award, this talented artist had trouble drawing breath.
Minutes earlier, there had been, in true awards style, Gwyneth Paltrow tears. For Emmeline, these were tears of joy and while there wasn’t a gushing list of thanks, this was a young lady who knew what the awards meant and gave a heartfelt thanks to her parents.
“This really is a life-changing award,” she said. “This gives me the opportunity to work on projects that I had held close but couldn’t have contemplated before tonight.
“When I was on the train down to London I did allow my mind to wander and consider ‘what if I could win?’ As I was standing on the rostrum and looking around me, I started to convince myself that I had no chance of winning with the quality of finalists.”
Keeping track of Emmeline is like watching a sat-nav gone wrong. She had arrived from Cheltenham and was later heading for Orkney. As a child she was born in Oxford and brought up in Somerset. She also lived in Cornwall for several years before moving to rural Lancashire.
Since graduating with an honours degree in illustration, Emmeline has attracted many fans including Tesco and Egmont Publishing, and has had her work published in The Guardian, The Telegraph and a host of magazines.
For many who meet this gentle young lady it is her campaigning to help and encourage others starting out on the freelancer’s trail that really inspires. So where did this campaigning stem from?
“It is something I am passionate about: running workshops about creative freelancing, and being candid about the ups and downs, but underlining how rewarding it can be is what I find really exciting,” she explained.
Emmeline is a great champion of freelancing, but I wondered if she had the chance to sit down with the Prime Minister and Anna Soubry, the Minister for Small Business, what she would ask of them to help make life easier for the UK’s growing army of freelancers? Thinking for just a nanosecond the Freelancer of the Year was straight to the point:
“IPSE are leading the way, but issues like late payments are vital. If more people understand that the Government and organisations like IPSE are onside, they will feel more comfortable taking that jump into the freelance world.”
Confession time. As one of the judges of this year’s awards ceremony there was no doubt this was one of the most challenging yet, with such a wide range of talent on show. From Fraser Lawson, who has seen the best and the worst of times in the oil and gas industry, and Lowri Roberts, who has such a pride in maintaining her native Welsh as a working, vibrant functioning language, to Richard Jeffs, who is determined to ensure that FreelanceDiary is the must-have app to help make life easier for this expanding community.
It was Lowri and Richard who collected the runners-up prizes, but what a competition!
There were no losers, just 10 professionals who are determined to make their own unique business, with their unique skills, the best it possibly can be.
Words by Jim Cassidy