Describe your role.
I am co-founder and festival director of Wimbledon BookFest, now the largest community-led book festival in London. I oversee both the public and education programme for the festival, so that involves running our annual festival on Wimbledon Common every autumn and delivering educational projects through our Word Up scheme to engage young people in reading and creative opportunities.
What do you enjoy about your role?
The unpredictability of the live experience—getting people from all different backgrounds and interests together and then not knowing what’s going to happen. All the best planning can be put in place but you can never quite know what magic will be created until you are actually in the space with the writer and the audience. Unique and memorable experiences are created that change people’s lives and the way they think. That’s what’s missing at the moment.
What are you working on at the moment? We are putting together a live weekend festival at short notice. The Last Days of Summer will run on Wimbledon Common from 11th–13th September with a roof-only marquee and a socially distanced audience. We feel the summer represents a good time to have an open-air event when being safe is achievable. Events will also be filmed. Life has been hard and we want to give our audiences a bit of joy with a shared experience.
What skills do you need for your role?
Running a festival needs a range of skills, as most literary festivals are delivered by very small teams, so you need to be hands on and strategic. I rely on a fantastic team of freelancers and an army of volunteers. My job has included everything from meeting the former president of Ireland to cleaning loos on site. There’s a year-long business behind delivery, which customers are generally not aware of.
What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
If you love it, it will happen. You rarely get the dream job on day one but everything you learn and the people you meet on the way are all part of building your offering and your future. So soak it all up and say yes to the things that come your way. The publishing industry really is the most exciting and rewarding world to work in and you meet the most interesting people.