Describe your role
I am a writer and director of York Literature Festival. We’re a growing, friendly festival. I book the acts, work with partner organisations and work on funding and publicity. We also have a voluntary committee that helps to deliver all aspects of the festival.
What do you like best about your role?
The variety. You have to be a bit of jack of all trades: fundraiser, cheerleader, diplomat, publicist and visionary. I love working with writers and artists and it’s great to spend time with fascinating people. Each year at the festival I interview one contributor—this year it was Val McDermid, who I really enjoyed working with. Also, it’s great seeing the festival grow. We’ve got lots of ideas for future development, which is exciting and keeps me motivated.
What new events or projects are you working on?
We’ve just delivered this year’s festival, in March. It went really well—over 4,000 people attended. Headliners included Carol Ann Duffy, Margaret Drabble, Michael Portillo, Vince Cable, Arthur Smith, Wendy Cope and John O’Farrell. We also had a children’s programme. Right now I’m evaluating this year, and thinking how we can improve for 2017. I’m also working on a novel for young adults which has been knocking around for about three years.
What skills do you need to work in an events role?
Imagination is key and is the skill that overlaps with being a writer. You need to be able to see, hear and smell the event before it’s happened— so you know what you want it to be. Having a vision is critical. You also need to be a good people person, a good negotiator and you need to pay attention to the fine details.
What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
Firstly, go to book-related events at your local bookshop and watch what’s going on. Ask yourself: what makes for a good event? Look on festival websites for information about volunteering. Festivals are very sociable events and can be a lot of fun. Have a go at holding your own event—maybe in a bookshop or a local café or pub. Be proactive and willing to learn.
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