CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR CREATIVE BACKGROUND?
I grew up in Northern Ireland (a keen reader and even more enthusiastic footballer!), came to Scotland to study English Literature at the University of St Andrews and never returned home. While at St Andrews, I dabbled with festivals and live literature, volunteering at StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, working Augusts in the front of house team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and graduating to a press and marketing assistant job there. Between then and now I have worked at the Scottish Poetry Library, for Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and been involved in setting up various grass roots projects including the West Port Book Festival and Electric Bookshop. Luck and a brass neck have had a lot to do with my creative journey.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT IN TO YOUR PRACTICE AND WHAT YOU DO?
My work is to bring readers and writers and the University of Dundee together, and to find exciting and surprising ways to do it. Day to day I am based in a very sunny office at on campus, working on several projects at once: my current view is of spreadsheets and some print that needs proofed and a ticket sales report for a very exciting forthcoming event. The Dundee Literary Festival is our flagship project: a five day event in October which brings the world to Dundee and Dundee to world. The Dundee International Book Prize for debut novelists is another core project – the winner receives £5K and a book deal with Freight Books. I also work on year round projects in partnership with colleagues within the University and beyond, and visit other festivals and libraries and Universities to interview authors, share best practice and insight into the world of books and publishing. I love sharing my enthusiasm for books and find collaboration and meeting people the best way to do that.
ANY EXCITING PROJECTS OR EVENTS YOU HAVE ON THE HORIZON?
Yes, I’m glad you asked! Planning for the festival (our 10th!) aside, we’ve got a brilliant event with Dr Kathryn Harkup - chemist, science communicator and Agatha Christie fan. Kathryn has written a fantastic book called A is for Arsenic, which explores the history and usage of poison via the work of Agatha Christie. This event is part of Dundee’s Women in Science Festival and in partnership with Dundee Rep; their run of Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution coincides with the Women in Science Festival, so we’ll be hosting the event on top of the set – an atmospheric courtroom! An exciting bit of partnership working – the University meets the cultural sector to explore theatre and science, poison and performance.
WHAT MAKES EDINBURGH A GOOD CITY TO BE BASED?
I used to be based in Edinburgh and though I now live in Dundee, work takes me back across the Tay fairly regularly. The things I like best and continue to value about the city are the creative energy; the diversity and volume of events and projects; the size and scale makes it very manageable to get around on hoof – my PB is attending 6 literature events in one evening!; the serendipity of running into someone for a post-work pint and blab; and while we’re on that topic, for essential creative fuel- Lovecrumbs, Mary’s Milk Bar and Blackfriars Bar. (Dundee is also a very exciting place to be right now, so if you haven’t visited may I invite you to come along?)
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE THINKING OF PURSUING A CAREER IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES?
Say yes! Feel the fear and do it anyway. Learn to say no. Colour code and sync your diaries and always under-promise and over-deliver. ‘I place myself in the way of interesting things and I maintain hope.’ I read this recently in a lovely interview about writing rituals with Irish author Sara Baume and I think it’s an excellent guide for life in the creative industries (and life itself!): place yourself in the way of interesting things. Remain open and curious. Be supportive of your peers. Go to things. Speak to people. Listen to people. Be nice. Never lose hope!