My Job in Five: Alice Kent

My Job in Five: Alice Kent

Describe your role

Director of Communications, National Centre for Writing. We’re based in Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature. It is my role to promote all the fantastic work we do and help writers, translators and readers connect with our events and resources.

What do you like best about your role?

The huge variety of projects. I love seeing really worthwhile projects come together. This last weekend a group of young people aged 14 – 17 from Norfolk co-programmed a literature festival in a day with us and it was so fantastic to see the results. Last February just before lockdown, we ran a series of workshops with people in recovery from addiction and several read poems at an event at our venue Dragon Hall. In order to see the challenges they had overcome and how the project had helped them find the courage to read their work was really inspiring. Mostly I feel lucky that lots of fantastic new writing regularly finds its way into my inbox, and we get to create opportunities to share it with the wider world – whether that is by festivals, podcasts or commissions.

Which new projects or titles are you working on at the moment?

We have some fantastic stuff coming up. We’re currently putting together a pamphlet to showcase the work of our 2020-21 Emerging Literary Translator cohort. We’re finalising the programme for our City of Literature festival in May (part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival) – we’re planning for a series of in-person literature experiences that we can adapt depending on Covid guidelines at the time. We’re launching regular packs of free online writing advice. So, lots in the pipeline for writers, readers and literary translators.

What skills do you need for your role?

Being organised is pretty essential. We’re a super busy organisation working with local, national and international audiences and so being able to prioritise work and break projects down into the component steps is important. I work within a brilliant comms team and being able to listen to their feedback and what they need from me to do their job well is crucial – so team management is very important. Most importantly though you need to love what you are doing. It’s a huge privilege for me to work with writers and translators day in and day out and to discover new writing all the time. I want to do a good job for the writers we work with so a passion for books and ideas is the most important thing.

What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?

It’s a really tough job market out there and not everyone can afford to take on volunteering work or starts out with the connections to get ahead. A really practical, if slightly boring piece of advice is to make sure your job application and CV are outstanding. We often get over 100 applications for entry level jobs so it’s really important not to give the person looking at your application a reason to put it on the no pile. Do your research on the company – show that you really want to work there and are not just looking for any job. It’s very obvious in an application if someone really has the passion for a particular job or has just churned out a generic covering letter. When I was first looking for a job, I identified several places I wanted to work and wrote to the right person in each organisation – I was very lucky to get a paid job this way. So do create opportunities for yourself where you can.

How has the pandemic affected your working life?

It’s had a big impact. Early on in the first lockdown we looked out our programme and moved as much as we could to an online format. We wanted to make sure we were getting commission, workshop and event opportunities out to writers and continuing to create brilliant content for our audiences. So, learning about the challenges and opportunities of increased digital working has had a big impact. On a personal level I’ve had my young children at home for much of the time and this has certainly been a balancing act - realising I found Year 2 maths a struggle was a humbling moment.

How did you get to your current position?

I did a Masters in journalism several years ago and this led to working in comms and marketing. An early job was working for a company that supported business start-ups – it wasn’t my dream job, but I learnt a lot about business planning and having key targets – it stayed with me. I moved into the cultural sector taking a more junior role to show on my CV that I was serious about wanting to find a way to work in the arts. A couple of job moves and a baby later I saw my current job advertised – it was essentially my dream job and I went for it. This sounds very linear as though each step was planned but essentially, I just kept looking for opportunities that would get me experience in the area I wanted to work in.