Gemme Cairney
Gemma Cairney

Writer and broadcaster

Gemma is a multi-award winning broadcaster, writer, artist, and producer and she owns Boom Shakalaka Productions, which brings together creatives to produce multidisciplinary projects that excite and inspire.

Her book OPEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be is a colourful guide to life for young adults. Full of honest advice about mental health, families, first love and everything in between. Gemma is known for her irreverent approach, insatiable appetite for telling stories and sparkling imagination. 
Open: a toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be

Find out what writer and broadcaster Gemma Cairney told the Dots audience about revolution, noise and the need to support young people online.

"Advertising and education is failing young people,” said Gemma Cairney at Dots 2017.

After producing a series of acclaimed documentaries with young people all over the country, Gemma is bringing everything she’s learned together into a new book: ‘Open: A toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be’. And she sat down with Brilliant Noise’s head of marketing – and curator of Dots – Ruth Oliver for a conversation about life, revolution and curating your own space online.

“Get out there and get chatting”
When recalling her experiences as a filmmaker, Gemma realised she’d spent more time speaking at young people than speaking to them – so she resolved to reconnect with her generation.

Setting up a series of workshops, she invited young women to open up in her first documentary about the issues affecting them, and was struck by how confused their lives had become in these ‘noisy times’. Following up with a second film about young men, Gemma explained how she realised that, from the education system to the tech-giants, no one was giving young people the support they needed.

“We need to broach big serious subject matters when it comes to the next generation”

Being young today follows a very different trajectory to past generations, leading to a state of confusion. Gemma laid the blame for much of this “frazzled” feeling at the feet of advertisers, who aren’t providing young people with the tools they need to grapple with how difficult life can be.

“We need to experiment with the power of the switch”

Gemma argued that there needs to be a wider conversation about how technology is affecting us – and young people in particular. When we’re going through difficult times, perhaps tech isn’t what we need.

Likening social media to the impacts of smoking on health, Gemma asked: “Do we know the equivalent effect our online lives can have on our wellbeing?” To tackle this challenge, Gemma said it’s simply a case of equipping young people with new ways to approach life: “It’s just about the conversation – and the toolkit.”

After all, the internet can be a great space for young people to find their own revolution.