The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

FIRST: A gym, but for Malta’s creative minds

Joanna Demarco Saturday, 21 October 2017, 14:17 Last update: about 3 years ago

Heyday, a Maltese creative education company, is experiencing an ever-growing magnetic force pulling more and more creatives to its events. first magazine spoke to founder Michael Azzopardi about the creative scene in Malta and Heyday’s objective, the two of which are inevitably tied. Photography by Monika Kasica and Joanna Demarco

Wouldn't networking be so much easier if it wasn't called 'networking'? Entrepeneur Michael Azzopardi holds firm the belief that good connections happen effortlessly, in informal and familiar places. That is the true nature of Heyday's meetup events, which is attracting an ever-increasing swarm of creatives to the steps of St John's Street every few weeks.

So what is Heyday all about?

Heyday is a local creative education company with a simple mission: to build a creative community in Malta by bridging the skills gap and helping companies find their next creative employee. "Our position is to champion creativity and position individuals to succeed by learning the right skills and landing dream jobs," said Mike. "This, we believe, is how a creative economy can grow."


Mike insists that what creatives in Malta needs is not talent - he thinks there is plenty of that - but rather a scene to which they belong. "This all starts with connection in a setting that is genuinely engaging," he said.

"Good connections happen effortlessly, in informal and familiar places. When enough interested people gather in one location, networking is inevitable and natural. This is why we stopped calling our events 'networking events' - a label that implies there is some form of action you need to take that is out of your daily social routine. We are interested in creating the right environment for the right people so they can gather knowledge and meet their next partner or employer."

Rightly so, HeyDay's events are filled with friendly faces, casual clothes, tasty cocktails and your circle of friends.


How heyday came about

The heyday seed was planted three years ago while Mike was living in London (where creative events were a staple in his calendar or, as he calls it, 'ical'), when he realised that much of what he had achieved in his career could be credited to merely knowing the right people.

"When I started my software company 'Seb Azzo', I knew exactly where to go to find the right help. This is a huge advantage, and makes business start-ups far less daunting. I looked at Malta and saw a yearning for connection amongst creatives," he said. "Companies did not really know about the sheer amount of great talent that was sprawled across the country. I wanted to bring them together in one space so they could enrich each other's journey."

In March 2015, Hey Day's first event - 'Hey Disco' - was organised on a Friday night, with the concept of fusing a fun night out, drinks, music and interesting industry talk. "It worked: 300 people turned up," said Mike.

Heyday now runs monthly meet-ups and a big annual event, with a name equally as cool as 'Heyday' - 'Seize the Day'. Each meet-up is set around a topic, such as the issue of freelancing in Malta, or being inspired by the country in which you are living. A few people with experience in this particular topic make up a panel on the evening, and take part in a dialogue about a specific topic. The meet-ups are becoming more and more popular, with about 200 people joining every month, huddled on the steps in front of Café Society in Valletta, looking onto a panel of inspirational people, with the three cities as an illuminating backdrop.

Mike described 'Seize the Day' as a "flagship event, a brilliant opportunity for the island to meet some great international designers, coders and marketers." The company also runs weekly classes around those same topics and workshops at the Heyday Space.


Malta's creative scene

"The creative scene in Malta has grown massively in the last three years, largely because people have grown in confidence and started to showcase their work and abilities. They want to be great, which is the most important thing," said Mike, when asked what he thinks about the scene here.

Mike listed self-confidence and the ability to think big as some of the hurdles upon which creatives in Malta stumble. That being said, he added that companies are becoming bigger, more ambitious and they are "begging" for talented people to join their teams. "There is no shortage of talents," he added.

The entrepreneur believes that we have reached a positive stage. "We've reached a wonderful point in our story. All there is left to do is to aim higher and do the work to reach the targets," he said.

A word of advice? "For all those creatives out there: promote yourself, be proud of what you can do, go out there and meet people you admire. Make them aware that you can bring them value. There are hardly any excuses or hurdles anymore, the opportunities have arrived."

This was then followed by a heartfelt statement:

"I always say: "If Heyday was to succeed at only one thing, let that be to make people love their talent - love it to the point of wanting to make it their focus in life. There is nothing greater than doing what you love well and being acknowledged for it," he said.

"Being in your Heyday is a wonderful thing: It's that moment in life when people start noticing you and your work. But it all starts with caring about your talent and wanting to be great. This is why Heyday exists - to help individuals reach that point."


Heyday in the near future

Heyday has some exciting plans included on its calendar (or iCal). This month, the creative company is moving into a large space in order to offer classes, workshops and a working space for creatives. Talks, accompanied by refreshments, will be held weekly, "like going to the gym, but for your creative mind," said Mike. "Heyday is meant to stimulate people and take them out of their day-to-day routine, then serve them with some engaging content to take them up a notch. This is what we intend to achieve in the next couple of years," he said, adding "the meet-ups will continue, of course."

Come along to the next meet-up! Find Heyday on Facebook at 'heyday'.


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