Summer 2013

DSC_0079As usual, I’m just getting around to writing this quarterly post at the turn of the season. The summer is most definitely over, and what a fantastic one we’ve had, with bountiful sunshine and lots of long, lazy days outside. We managed to get to Suffolk for a week just before school started, and fell in love with the utterly beautiful coast around Southwold. Now I’m ready for crackling fires, woolly jumpers and picking blackberries and apples to make into crumble. Bring on the fall!

Work-wise it’s been a pretty busy summer, dominated by the best Manchester International Festival yet, which I covered for Creative Tourist, and wrote about on my blog. In the end I think my favourite thing was The Old Woman. I really didn’t know what to expect from this play but the performance was electric, with Baryshnikov and Dafoe playing off against each other brilliantly.

I’ve now edited or written several pieces of content for the Arts Marketing Association’s free CultureHive resource site, all relating to best practice in Press and PR in arts marketing. You can read them over here. Just got a few left to finish, including a simple guide to blogging for cultural organisations and an interview with the folks behind MOMA’s excellent Open Space blog, so look out for those on the site soon.

I’ve been doing Digital Marketing work for Manchester Literature Festival, helping them launch a lovely new website and create a show-stopping brochure. I’ve set up a new blog for the organisation called Chapter & Verse, which is intended to be a little bit more of a year-round destination for literary news and happenings around Manchester, and in the run up to the festival will be featuring new content aimed at introducting the festival team and sharing what it is that we do all day. And during the festival (7-20 October) we’ll be drafing in a team of volunteer bloggers to write about MLF events. Can’t wait for it to get underway – the programme is especially good this year and I’m really looking forward to seeing Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Patrick Ness, Deborah Levy, Sarah Hall and Iain Sincair.

I’ve run successful blogging workshops at Castlefield Gallery and with Cornerhouse’s Digital Reporters group. And earlier this summer I ran a full day’s training on blogging for staff at the Bolton Museum, Library, Archives and Aquarium. This is a single glorious old building housing a bewildering array of services, artefacts and cultural programmes, and it’s entirely run by the council. It was inspiring to spend time with the staff, who are filled with enthusiasm about the work that they do. And I’ll get a chance to think about these things again this Autumn when I work on social media strategy for  a related Greater Manchester Museums Group initiative to spread the word about  the treasures that await in places like this.

I’ve done lots of writing for Creative Tourist on food and art. Some of my favourite pieces have been reviews of the awesome Aumbry in Prestwich, and BrewDog in Manchester. I’ve also written a couple of creative nonfiction essays which will be appearing in anthologies/online soon, but haven’t been published yet.

On the horizon is lots of work on the Blog North Awards. This week will consist almost entirely of reading blogs, as entries close this evening and I have to do the shortlisting, which I moan about a lot but secretly love doing. After that I’ve got to supervise the judging/public voting processes, and then it’s dragooning in readers and organising details for the big night.  The event is happening 16 October at Gorilla and should be great fun; come on down! Openstories (the literary organisation I run, which produces the Blog North Awards for MLF) was successful in getting grant funding for the awards that will also allow us to set up a small associated writer development programme, which is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. So once the awards are over I’ll be doing a lot of work on that.

I’ll also be running blogging workshops in Manchester in early November and possibly in Cardigan later in the month; both being confirmed but will post links here and on Twitter when they’re live.

Finally, cool stuff I’ve discovered lately: The book Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which also turned me on to ace publishers & Other Stories. Also Aeon magazine, and especially this tremendous essay Cities Belong to Us, on how we live in public space.  I’m also listening pretty much non-stop to the new Neko Case album, The worse things get the harder I fight, the harder I fight the more I love you. She’s coming to Manchester in December, too. Hooray!

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