Describe your role
I’m programme manager at the Times and the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, part of the small and busy programming team that produce the 450 events that you see at the festival every October. I also co-ordinate our Lit Crawl: a night of pop-up events that takes over the town and brings literary-themed content to some surprising nooks and crannies—think flash fiction in a barbershop or an Edgar Allen Poe performance in a graveyard!
What do you like best about your role?
The variety. We have an incredibly broad programme and an average morning can see me composing an invite to an international writer, curating a panel celebrating a classic author or going out to check whether a local business can work as a Lit Crawl venue. Getting to meet writers and performers you admire is always a real thrill too.
Which new projects or titles are you working on at the moment?
The festival! We’re just back from our annual round of publisher meetings where we heard about all the key titles publishing this year. Now, we read and research intensively to shape the programme and begin issuing invites.
What skills do you need for your role?
Creativity, organisation and the ability to manage multiple projects at once are musts. The job is busy and to deliver a programme of our size means you need to keep a lot of plates spinning. A natural curiosity helps too—the diversity of the festival means you may need to turn your hand to programming poetry, travel writing or military history events so being happy to read, research and see lots of different content makes you a much stronger programmer.
What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
Read a lot, see a lot and get involved with anything event-related that you can. My job is obviously literature-focused but I find myself drawing on skills I picked up working in theatre, music and even student societies while at university. Good literary knowledge is important, but knowing the practical side of large-scale events is vital for ensuring a successful festival so try and volunteer or work wherever you can—it will come in useful.