What's Your Bag: Natasher Beecher
Tash Beecher is a very busy woman indeed. Eminently creative, she is a woman of many talents and passions, one of which, fortunately for us is AC bags. An early member of bird watching collective, Flock Together and a board member of Pocc she is inspired by the BLM anti-racism movement and is optimistic for change. With this much energy, there is no doubt she will make an impact. Follow Natasher at @brazencheek
How did you get involved with Flock Together, and what were your expectations of it?
I got involved with Flock together through my friend Ollie. We are both core members of another group (POCC; www.wearepocc.com) and both work as Creative Directors. Like me, Ollie is interested in the calm and majesty of nature. When he told me he and his friend Nadeem were starting a birdwatching group for black and brown people I jumped at the chance.
I never thought I would get into birding in my late 30s, I thought it would be another 10 years at least, but it is brilliant! I like to do things that have a purpose. I find going for a straightforward walk a little boring. Give me birds to watch and let me log them and I feel like I have a real sense of purpose!
The camaraderie is part of the fun. We send each other photos on WhatsApp whenever we’re out and about and see a bird – even if it’s a really common one like a robin or something. It brightens my day. I have found myself enjoying everyday journeys more because I’m on the lookout for birds, even when I don’t have my binoculars. It has become second nature now.
My perceptions haven’t really changed, I still think that, as a hobby it’s overwhelmingly white, but it certainly feels like this group is going to change other people’s perceptions of who our outside spaces are for. It will hopefully encourage other black and brown people to get outside and see a bit of nature – particularly kids and young people who have always held the impression that the outdoors is just for posh white people with money. They need to know they are not excluded from this space, that they are as welcome as anyone.
When were you first drawn to nature/birdwatching and what do you get out of it?
As a kid from Somerset, I’ve always been interested in nature, particularly insects and small animals. As a kid, I used to spend hours in my garden watching spiders and woodlice and anything that moved. I didn’t really move onto birds until age 9 or 10. We had a birdwatching hut in the back corner of the playground at primary school. There was a pond and a vast amount of biodiversity, and I saw what is now one of my favourite classic British birds, the beautiful Great Tit, for the first time.
Nature is incredible. I wear my takeaways from its majesty on my body as tattoos – I have a few birds, flowers… in fact all bar one (bicycle cogs with wings) of my tattoos is of nature. I have the Greek/ mathematical symbol ‘phi’ on my wrist. It’s the golden ratio that’s found in nature pretty much everywhere. I have it because it reminds me of the power of nature, and the fact that, no matter what madness humankind inflicts on the earth, or what we use our brains to predict and try to understand, nature already had it covered, and will ALWAYS outlive us.
What are your useful tips for an urban Birdwatcher?
Look up and around. Open your ears. Not just in your park or local green spaces, but anywhere there’s a tree or a roof on your street. You really don’t have to go far to see birds. Just go on a half hour walk to clear your head and see what birds are about. You hear them before you see them. Somehow when you’re listening out for birdsong it drowns out the din of the city.
Keep a pocket guide to birds with you whenever you leave home to help identify anything you spot or download a birding app. I note down, either in my phone or in my small notebook, when I spot a bird, of any kind. I note the date, time, place and what I think the bird might be, or a description.
Where is next on your wish list for a UK or further afield (when traveling back to norm) birdwatching trip?
Even though I live in West London, I’ve never been to the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. I’m fortunate to have travelled all over the world for work and for leisure, and I enjoy travelling and experiencing different cultures. I was supposed to be going to Japan this year. The plan was to start in Tokyo and then travel south towards the islands. When I eventually make the trip, I plan to do some birding. It won’t be a birding-specific trip, but I’ll definitely be bringing my binoculars and notebook.
You worked on the campaign for World Afro Day 2018. Have you always flaunted your ‘fro?
Haha, yes! I was the creative director on that amazing project, which sought to raise awareness of the hair bias that exists against people with afro hair, whilst also championing the choice for people with naturally afro textured hair to wear their hair however they please. I wouldn’t say I flaunt my ‘fro, and in fact, that as an impression is one of the issues faced by those of us with afro hair. It inadvertently can become politicised, policed, and fetishized and is always seen as a statement.
There is something massively wrong with society when you get schoolkids being sent home or expelled because they are just wearing their hair as it grows. I embrace my hair and experiment with it both as creative expression and for practicality.
As a person of colour, how do you see the momentum of BLM flowing through different industries?
We cannot lose momentum with this. The cumulative effect of how the black community has been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic, and the BLM movement, has meant irreversible change in the world. There is no going back. There are enough black and brown people in positions of power to keep the momentum flowing. Many, myself included, have been working towards this stage our entire careers. We are holding the people currently in charge of the systems to account and making ourselves heard. With active support and allyship from people who are not black, the burden of change does not stop with black and brown folk.
It is hard work, and it will continue to be hard work, but there are a lot of white people realising how much progress needs to be made and having to overcome their feelings of white fragility. Allies need to be in it for the long haul. Collectively, the movement is making a difference. It’s not just about it being ‘the right thing to do.’ The pandemic has stripped away so much of the fluff and faff, and people are seeing the issues for what they are the importance and benefit of changing them. It is not a trend (although social media feeds might suggest otherwise). There are changes happening every minute, deep within global systems and structures.
Can you tell us about Pocc?
Pocc (people of culture collective) was borne out of a handful of black and brown people from within the creative and media industries getting together on WhatsApp to share advice on navigating and changing each of their industries as marginalised groups. We have grown from a few members to hundreds in the UK, Europe and the US. We are more than a support group – there is a lot of serious talent and power within the network we’ve created. We have produced national campaigns, events, films and everything in between. I’m also on the board at Pocc, and we’re currently working on the next phase of our ‘Making Britain Great Since…” campaign which we launched in 2019.
Tell us something you’re working on right now. How is your new job shaping up?
I work in health advertising. The new job is great. The most fun thing I’ve worked on in the last few weeks is a hepatitis C campaign. Myself and my creative partner came up with a few concepts for a film that was really well-received. Other than that, I’ve been working on digital pieces, websites, an app and a launch campaign.
My creative partner is also black. A black creative pairing – and leaders at that ¬– is rare in advertising and even rarer in health advertising. Some of the ideas we’ve come up with draw on our experience of what’s going on in the world right now. As a result, we’ve been able to bounce off each other in a way I’ve not been able to with other creative partners.
It has been difficult starting a new job in lockdown. I’ve only met a few people in person. Zoom’s a poor substitute but I’m getting through it by going into the office once a week. Being surrounded by people is essential to me being creatively sustainable.
For 2021, what are you most looking forward to?
Going to Japan! And just generally seeing the back of this pandemic, trying to stay healthy, and being able to hug people again. I am going to do so much hugging.
You’ve had your first Ally Capellino, Igor, for a while now. Can you tell us a story of its travels?
I’ve had it a few years. I got it on sale after a colleague (shout out to Mary!) alerted me to it. She and I both brought our dogs into the office every day. One day her dog, Flyte, had a gorgeous coat on. It was an AC coat. So when there was a sale on, Mary ran over to my desk to tell me. I only went to have a look, and of course came out with the Igor bag.
As a massive fan of all things black, and leather, Igor spoke to me as soon as I saw it hanging on the wall. I used it every day for 2 years. I love the subtlety of it, the understated richness of the waxed cotton and the leather detail, the practicality of it. It is huge and fits all my tech and daily life in it. It has travelled the length of the country, to France, to Malta, to Hong Kong and Belize, on planes, boats and hikes up Mayan ruins. It’s been witness to a few hen parties too! I love how the sun has aged it.
What does your bag say about you?
I like to think that because it is black and understatedly stylish, that it is pretty good reflection of me! The exterior has many subtle details and embellishments, whilst the interior is a Tardis of delights. It’s bigger and more resilient than you might think, with a strong bottom and has proven itself super dependable.
I have a Francesca as my weekend bag. It fits my Ipad Pro. Igor is now my hand luggage holiday bag. I also have a Fin that’s very similar in look to the Igor, but it’s narrower and not quite as big. I gave my wife a Frances as an early birthday present, and also bought a Hoy for my friend, James So I’m a huge AC fan now. You might call me an AC hobbyist.
A bag filled for every eventuality or light packer?
Why can’t you have both? You can pack light for every eventuality, there’s only a few key things needed. Water, something to write with and on, an umbrella/raincoat, hand cream and a phone with a power-bank. A silk scarf is a handy must too… fortunately, I’m very into my large bags!
Any guilty secrets at the bottom of your bag?
A ‘She-wee’ inside a doggy poo bag for cleanliness. It is a funnel thing that allows people without a penis to wee standing up! With loos being closed a lot at the moment, it is very useful and a little more dignified.
Can you share some words of wisdom for next generation creative director / advertising professionals trying to break through?
One piece of advice I was given early on in my career by an awesome creative founder, who also happens to be a queer woman, was ‘know yourself’. It lives with me daily and I try and pass this on to others. If you don’t know who you are now, work towards being able to articulate it. It might take you years. It took me a few, but if you use knowing yourself as your compass, you’ll never get lost.
A pivotal moment in my professional journey was realising just how many of the middle aged, middle class white men in leadership positions are mediocre. How much they protect that mediocrity. How much of the ‘pale male stale’ boys club is about protecting this, even if some of them don’t realise it. Once I figured that out, and that even on my bad days I’m better than their mediocre, it gave me the impetus to keep going in my leadership goals. Remember this, keep pushing to be your best. Don’t settle for mediocrity, EVER.
I hear you are an avid hobbyist. What else do you get up to?
My wife plays roller derby and because of her, I also started playing a couple of years ago. I played on one of the London Roller Derby teams until I got injured and stopped playing. I’m also massively into bikes and have a few, including fixed gear and Bromptons. I used to carry my dog in a dog-specific rucksack when commuting to work.
I am also a skateboarder. There’s a solid, close-knit group of women in the UK over 30 who skate. Nowadays, my knees can’t handle as much falling. I’ve played football for a few good teams, in Oxford, East London and Nottingham. I taught myself to play the guitar and can play keyboard enough to write music. I’ve performed at open mic nights, so I guess I do like to immerse myself in the communities and get in deep on all aspects of my hobbies! I think it’s made me a much better creative, as I’ve genuinely experienced so many different lifestyles and have an authentic affinity to people that translates well my professional output. I can’t help it. I just like doing things!
Read more about Flock Together.