The phrase “children are the future” is often uttered in political, scientific, technological, and most importantly, creative contexts. But to what extent does humanity truly put faith in this demographic, and how are we preparing young people for a future that becomes more uncertain by the day? Angus Cameron, or Goose as he’s often called, is the co-founder of ootiboo, a Berlin-based company that aims to inspire and nurture creativity in children.
With 30 years of experience as a stereographer, a VFX and VR supervisor for such clients as Warner Brothers, Disney, Pixar, and Paramount, Angus has in the past worked on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, No Time to Die, King Kong and Gravity. It was through this work that a more holistic approach to his creative projects took root. His career in the film industry was a stepping stone that helped pave the way for ootiboo.
“Ootiboo is a culmination of almost my entire creative career,” Angus told Sonophilia. “The journey that I’ve taken and the opportunity now to share that with the young generation coming through, to be able to inspire them, for them to aspire to and to explore the potential of what creativity is. That’s why ootiboo was formed; the idea of creating fun projects as a way to engage children and using creativity as a vehicle to explore different themes from anything from local history to mental health challenges to the joy of reading. Creativity is this all-encompassing theme that stretches across everything that we do, finding different ways for children to understand how important it is, especially for their future and their ability to succeed in what is becoming a more challenging world for them.”
The concept for this organization arose from a specific project called the Pebble Poppies, in which around 2,500 volunteers collected and hand-painted pebbles from the local beach in the English town of Folkestone, where Angus is based. These pebbles were then grouped to create seven giant poppy flowers, which relates to a symbolic tradition in the UK to commemorate the soldiers who perished in World War I. He explained that the project was meant to engage with the local population on a familiar level, to encourage an understanding of the local history in an unusual, creative way. Participants’ involvement seemed to strike a particular connection to the project, a sense of ownership of each person’s design.
“Our expectation was that over a series of months that they would start to be broken up and fade away naturally, with people walking over them or the weather. What we found was the opposite, that we would walk down to the beach and see children running around collecting loose stones and putting them back [in place]. Children were identifying which were their designs… the community was taking care of it. The concept of ownership was very powerful. That was one of the early foundation blocks to the creation of ootiboo.”
As with anything, though, no endeavor comes free of challenges. Angus admitted that working with schools is often the most difficult part of bringing ootiboo and its mission forward. Because schools and their resources are so overstretched as it is, not just in the UK, but on a much wider scale worldwide, communicating with schools and building a relationship strong enough to deliver projects and follow through on them can be rather disillusioning. Angus advocates for perseverance, first and foremost, in bringing an idea to fruition, followed closely by being able to identify what works and what doesn’t.
“With each project,” he said, “we learn more and more, not just about the schools and the projects we’re developing, but also about what we need to be developing and what is needed within the school system and beyond… Coming up with solutions, collaborating, learning, asking questions, and getting people to challenge you [are all] extremely important. It’s very easy to become very single-minded and very focused, and at the end of the day, very blinkered to how to approach things. Listening is a really important part of the process.”
Angus, along with his three Berlin-based co-founders Kathleen Schroeter, Hendrik Wantia, and Ina Filla, works remotely, as ootiboo is a virtual company. Communication is key. Angus draws inspiration from those varying perspectives, particularly the wealth of knowledge and experience that each member of the team brings to the table from their professions.
“For me, the strength in what we have is in our diversity, and we’re very lucky to have that. Over time, we hope that continues to grow and allow us to be able to expand and do so much more.”
Being a part of the Sonophilia Foundation seems to have acted as a catalyst for Angus’s work, especially as the mission of ootiboo is so closely aligned with that of this network. He values the change in perception towards creativity from so many angles, be it from the education system, the business sector, mental health aspects, personal development, career opportunities, society, or various communities. Organizations must work together.
“My experience with Sonophilia so far has opened up conversations and collaborations beyond our ootiboo world. That experience and that knowledge are so valuable to us to understand how we can evolve as our organization, as well as partner and collaborate with organizations like Sonophilia. It’s very important in where we are today and where the world is going.”