I am delighted to have been asked to chair this year’s FutureBook Conference, and look forward to working with the team to curate a line-up of impressive speakers who will help us all to learn more about where the industry is heading and give us ideas to share, challenge and build on.
I come to FutureBook with a background in libraries, arts, audience and partnership development, grounded in a lifelong passion for reading: like many, I grew up spending many afternoons in dusty libraries, immersed in books.
That same love of reading and stories continues today, so when Philip Jones invited me to chair FutureBook, I was both thrilled and honoured, not least because I have recently been spending my time helping artists to innovate, encouraging them to create new forms of stories and art that bring audiences and content closer together against a rapidly evolving landscape, and this is something we also do in the world of books.
Until recently, I was director of The Space, a commissioning agency established by the BBC and Arts Council England to support greater digital access to the arts. There was truly no greater privilege than encouraging artists to experiment in taking advantage of the different possibilities offered by digital media and technologies, and to support artists trying out new ideas—even if they were not immediately embraced.
I learnt something new every day; about commissioning, prototyping, iteration, and some of those wild whirlwind digital projects have been the very best experiences for me. The creativity of those artists and the importance of pushing boundaries is a subject I will return to in a future article, not least to highlight the wonderful things that happen when creativity meets technology.
Working at The Space brought home to me something we all know but rarely say: no matter what the sector, we are all on the same journey. We are all exploring some big themes: production, distribution, sales, marketing; the changing role of curator, producer, publisher, [insert your job title here]; the importance of data-driven editorial and marketing, D2C, brand development, mobile internet and the constancy of change itself.
It’s a thrill to spend time with the individuals pushing our world forward. I get inspired by creative, ambitious people who take on massively challenging, sometimes impossible tasks—they are the sort of people who usually have disruptive mindsets. So I am looking forward to hearing the four keynote addresses from Susan Jurevics, Stephen Page, Charlie Redmayne and Annette Thomas, each of them a visionary, each with a slightly different vision that is sure to inspire our own thinking.
My role is to be a transparent facilitator—a commère—so that the people on the stage and those in the audience can make a connection. It’s a good title that requires me to stand aside and let the conversation between speaker and audience flow, without adding my own ideas . . . something that my friends will acknowledge does not come naturally to me!
Between now and 4th December, I will be providing regular updates on the programme and sharing insights about believing in unfamiliar, innovative or strange ideas, about trusting your instincts, holding your nerve and making history. I look forward to seeing you at FutureBook, and to sharing the excitement I will feel at meeting and introducing this year’s speakers.