In London this week, a group of rising Youtube stars from the Arab world took over the Youtube's creative space as part of the 2017 YouTube NextUp creator camp.
Unfazed as temperatures in London dipped to minus degree Celsius, the 9 visiting winners from this year's Next Up competition - represent some of the emerging talent of content from the warmer MENA region.
The five-day workshop-intensive program, from content inception to production was intentionally delivered by Arabic speaking mentors, in order to help these YouTubers reach the next level of growth for their respective YouTube channels.
These content creators are forming the region’s next wave of digital story tellers; amassing subscribers ranging between 10,000 to 100,000. So, creating an authentic voice and remaining true to personal values remains high on the week-long agenda.
Accustomed to taking their audiences with them on their adventures, vlogging was as common as note taking throughout the journey of the bootcamp. "This is the best thing about YouTube. You make connections for life" explains Alaa Ghabour, as she talks to a vlog camera in the YouTube canteen, a popular site for vlogging the daily changing food menu.
Alaa, who makes videos on her Youtube channel about her days, hopes, and aspirations as a dental student from Egypt spoke to Al Arabiya English, explaining her motivation to start her channel:
"People kept telling me I won't be able to do creative things once I put my hijab on so I wanted to prove to them that I can. My channel is about giving hope to all the girls who are constantly told they can't do anything."
This year's cohort of winners of the Next Up Mena 2017 competition range diversely from the world of beauty blogging, comedy, technology, travel vlogging to motivational speaking. Hailing from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, the content creators were also given a chance to sample the state of the art edit and sound suites.
Located beneath Google’s new London offices in London, the YouTube space contains cutting edge art studios. Whilst the communal area and cafe would become the daily hub for networking alongside talks given by the region’s top creators like Jana Vlogs and Laila Mourad - sharing their stories from their journey on YouTube to where they are now.
"YouTube is home to countless creators waiting to be discovered and especially in the Arab world. Which is why NextUp is designed to find these emerging talents and to help them grow their channels on YouTube. We're proud of the creators we met this year and we can't wait to see them grow as they continue to tell their own stories," said Jad Esber, YouTube Partner Manager for the MENA region.
The Arab world has seen a vibrant growth of creative quality content creators especially emerge over the past five years. Today, more than 50 channels in the region have been awarded the Gold YouTube Play Button - marking their one-million subscriber milestone.
The region’s watchtime, second only to the United States, grew by 60% last year. Saudi Arabia is playing a big part in the YouTube growth market as it contributes a third of the Middle East’s total watchtime.
One of the key features about content producers from the Kingdom is that more women have taken to the platform, enhancing the surge in diversity in recent years. In fact the watchtime of female-led channels in the kingdom grew by 75% in 2016.
Wejdan Z, is one of the Next Up YouTube winners this year from the Kingdom, who is helping to contribute to this surge by building a loyal community of followers through challenging per-conceived notions around issues of beauty and class.
In one of her more popular videos on the YouTube platform she speaks to a group of Saudi women who acknowledge their sense of beauty is a response to the mainstream perception of what beautiful is. Speaking to Al Arabiya English, she explains she "started her YouTube channel to represent Saudi women by sharing multiple narratives."
The YouTube space is a setting intended to nurture creativity, bolster connections and promote a collaborative mindset. Testimony to the growth emerging from the MENA region, YouTube will be opening its 10th creative space in Dubai next year.
NextUp is an annual contest run in different cities around the world to discover and groom the next wave of YouTube stars. This is the second wave of MENA Yotubers taking part. Last year the five day camp was held in Amman, Jordan.