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Big House Interview with Blue Kazoo

Bringing history lessons to life, harnessing technology, and collaborating with creatives on The Big House programme.

Tom Cable and Jessica Collins
Tom Cable and Jessica Collin - Newark's Heritage and Culture Coordinators

Tom Cable’s Blue Kazoo brings history lessons to life using role-play and other non-traditional teaching techniques to engage children’s learning and creativity, and in turn supporting teachers and education providers.

Tom engaged with The Big House programme during lockdown to focus on strategic areas such as holistic business planning and marketing. In April, he was pivoting his business as the pandemic limited his ability to deliver his services face-to-face in schools. He saw an opportunity to use technology to help museums and schools tell their stories through video and social media.

It’s been great to meet and connect with people in museums, who want to tell their stories in new forms, to new audiences, and in a COVID-secure way. Technology has been a strand of the business that I had used to promote myself, but not necessarily thought about it to promote my client’s stories. It has been an unexpected win. I feel that this year, not only has there been business and physical issues of COVID-19 and not being able to get into a space with people, but there’s also been a double-whammy of that this has been a really significant time at how we look at history. I’ve had to reflect on not only how I do business, but what exactly my business is, and how we approach and engage children with topics such as Egyptians and Vikings now.

From attending NTU’s The Big House Elevator series virtually, Tom has connected with two of his peers, and has since gone on to collaborate on two separate projects.

Jessica Collin – Jewellery designer and maker – Cast and Found

Tom was ready to click send on his application for a part-time project role as the Heritage and Culture Coordinator for Newark, working with the Civil War Museum, The Palace Theatre and Newark Castle. Jessica Collin, a nature-themed jewellery-maker, offering bespoke, personalised pieces was also applying, and saw a serendipitous opportunity for the two to collaborate.

“I met Jess a few times through the workshops and we shared social media details via the chat function. I remember commenting on her Instagram account as her branding and her business ideas amazed me. She reciprocated and wanted to support Blue Kazoo as she was an ex-Secondary Schoolteacher.

“I had the whole application ready to go when Jess messages me on Instagram as she was also applying, but had noted that is a joint-role and wanted to discuss it with me. The more I thought about it, the more working together made sense. I am stronger on the performance-side and she is a lot more practical with her crafts.

We also had alignment in what we wanted to do in Newark and how we wanted to bring culture and heritage to life. We sent our applications together and stated that we would be happy to work with one another. We had our interviews and here we are now. One of our first parts of our shared job is to create a brand around the heritage and culture of Newark, and we are starting from scratch in amalgamating many different organisations into one.

Chris Bailey – Brand Identity and graphic designer

Tom and Chris are working to create an affordable solution to support teachers with giving fun, practical and creative history lessons – all within a deck of cards.

“My aspiration for this product is that without me even being in the classroom, that I’m making a difference to 30 kids, and that they have a fun morning, be that standing up playing a silly game that helps them think about history.

“When I heard Chris pitch his services on the virtual workshops, I could see he was very passionate about his design and brand identity services. I reached out to him to talk about the branding for this product. We had several collaborative conversations about how it could work and what they would look like. Whilst our ideas are still developing I know that working with Chris will lead to the creation of a product that is as high quality as possible.”

What would you say to other businesses about The Big House programme?

“Don’t worry about what else is going on. The beauty of The Big House is that there are people of all sorts of different stages. Even if you have not sorted out what your brand is, or who your audience may be, it is still for you. It’s business talk that’s understandable – this programme comes without the jargon – there’s a really down to earth approach with it.  

“And to the people who are put off because they don’t think they’re at the right stage to seek this support/or that they may have already done a course on marketing or branding etc: these ideas should always be updated and you should always refresh your learnings.

You’ll meet a blend of people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, with different ages, people you wouldn’t normally expect to meet or wouldn’t be in your social circles. It’s great to open your mind up to these different perspectives and insights. You might even meet your own Jess or Chris who inspires you in a different way.

Further information

If you have any questions, or want to find out more about NTU's offer in The Big House programme, get in touch with The Big House team at

Telephone: +44 (0)115 848 4042

More about The Big House programme

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the East Midlands Engine, The Big House programme is made up of a consortium of partners, who are best placed to help lift potential ideas off the ground, support the start-up process, all the way to working with established businesses ambitious for growth. Find out more about the expertise of each of our partners, and how we can support you with the skills, knowledge and connections you need to succeed.

We have secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund which means that most services provided as part of this programme are of no cost to eligible businesses.

The Big House is one of many projects which D2N2 has supported with European funding. Further details of these projects and much more, can be found on the D2N2 Growth Hub site.

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Big House Interview with Blue Kazoo

Published on 23 November 2020
  • Category: Business; Nottingham Business School

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