Winter 2013/14

kate feld with neil gaiman

So I skipped summer again. I’ve just checked back through my archive and I haven’t managed to write a quarterly autumn update since 2009.  It’s no surprise given how busy my autumns usually are; most of the organisations, clients and projects I’m involved with have something big happening at that time. But it’s good to see that I’m being disorganised in a consistent way.

From Summer to Autumn was a big blur. We had the Manchester Literature Festival. I got to meet one of my literary heroes, Neil Gaiman, who was just as kind as he could be (that’s us up there. This is the only time I have ever had my photo taken with a famous person, and my friend Sarah Jane ambushed me into it, and I felt like a dork but I’m secretly glad she did). The Blog North Awards was capped off by a funny and moving new story from one of my favourite Manchester writers, Chris Killen. The literature fest was genuinely the biggest and best ever, and if you want to get a taster of what happened you can scroll through our little Storify page. For a more detailed account of what I actually do as MLF’s Digital Engagement Coordinator, here’s a case study about our digital marketing campaign.

Now, this time of year is my favourite. I can do stuff like attend conferences (like The Story in London next month), take online writing courses (thanks LitReactor) and plan and deliver a writer development programme for bloggers and emerging writers with Openstories. I’m working on that right now. The best bit is hearing all the good things that befell writers after winning Blog North Awards. Books published! Publishing houses started! Work commissioned! Ahhhh.

I’ve really enjoyed doing lots of work for the Arts Marketing Association on CultureHive, especially my latest project which has been to track down innovative thinkers working in libraries and get them to talk about the cool things they do, like putting books on bikes and lending out works of art.

I’ve done some social media strategy work for Greater Manchester Museums Group, who are about to launch an exciting project spreading the word about the treasures in our local museums called Our Connected History.

Openstories’ creative nonfiction project, The Real Story, has emerged from hibernation with Max Dunbar’s excellent essay about being institutionalised, Notes from the Smoking Garden.

My  workshops and speaking gigs have taken me  to Cardigan in Wales, where I led a blogging workshop at the gorgeous Do Lectures farm as part of their new workshops series, and vowed to return for Do Lectures one day. They do lots of interesting things, including publishing books. I had fun hosting and facilitating the Northern Lights Writers Conference in Sale. And I always enjoy hanging out at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, where I led a session on blogging and social media for artists as part of their CG Associates network.

Writing: My work for Creative Tourist lately has focused mainly on restaurant reviews (recent faves include Lucha Libre and Ginger’s Comfort Emporium), but I also enjoyed writing a profile of Cumbrian art world provocateurs Grizedale Arts. I’ve also had a small essay (essaylet?) published over at Contributoria, a newly-launched site that has a fresh approach to community supported journalism. It’s about fish and chips and becoming slightly more British.

On the horizon, I’ve got  blogging workshops with Cornerhouse’s Digital Reporters this week and in Chester for WayWord festival on February 18, a panel about careers in writing at the University of Cumbria later this spring, and the launch of an exciting new identity and website for Openstories crafted by the amazing folk at Mark Studio. Shhh.

Non-work things: I’m reading Angela Carter right now and am in awe of her sharp writing and sly humour. I’ve also read  two good nonfiction books, Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan and Gossip From the Forest by Sarah Maitland.  I also re-read some great music criticism:  In Love With Those Times: Flying Nun and The Dunedin Sound by Dave McGonigle writing in the sadly-long-departed Stylus in 2005. Clearly a labour of love, it uses the evolutionary theory of speciation to explain the way this genre emerged.Watched the first series of Girls which I hated at first but liked by the end. I’m apparently running a 10K in April. And I’m putting spicy red peppers on everything.

Advertisements

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!

Winter 2012/13

17gould.2.190

Once again, I’ve been so busy that a whole season has escaped me. Autumn 2012 whooshed past in a blur. It was a good kind of blur, with lots of interesting stuff happening inside it, but the blur didn’t leave much time for blogging. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to since last summer:

  • I organised the first ever Blog North Awards, which were a big success. We had 543 bloggers from across the land enter and ended up with a pretty amazing bunch of winners, who were revealed at a packed event during the Manchester Literature Festival, which featured readings that ranged from funny to touching, from thought-provoking to hell-raising. Basically, the whole experience reaffirmed my love for blogging and for doing the sometimes strange work I do spreading the gospel of BLOG.
  • I ran two all-day blogging workshops for the Arts Marketing Association in London and Birmingham. I met some lovely people, and everyone seemed to get a lot out of the day’s work. I even made them write in longhand but they were very good sports. Here’s some nice things they said about the workshop:

“Great blogging workshop with Kate Feld and the AMA yesterday. Feeling inspired – watch this space!”

“Buzzing with ideas after today’s ‘Art of Blogging’. Cheers for an insightful day!”

“Huge thanks to Kate Feld and the AMA for such a stimulating & inspiring training day on ‘the art of blogging’ today. Highly recommended.”

  • In February I ran a 2-hour workshop on Creative Nonfiction in Lancaster as part of Litfest’s fascinating Castle Park Stories project, which aims to uncover some of the hidden stories of this historic place and bring them to life. It was a great session with a really diverse and enthusiastic group of writers. And I got to revisit what is probably my favourite form of writing, the much misunderstood format of Creative Nonfiction, which I previously explored in The Real Story project. It’s inspired me to go back and read one of my favourite collections of reportage (Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel. That’s him up there.)
  • I’ve recently moved to the post of contributing editor at Creative Tourist, as the ever-capable Susie Stubbs was ready to return to editing the site. While out of the role, she was busy overseeing a complete redesign of the site and a pretty exciting restructure of Creative Tourist generally. Once part of the Manchester Museums Consortium, it has now become an independent entity and has moved into new geographic areas, covering culture in Liverpool and Cumbria as well as Manchester. Another change is the creation of a cultural tourism consultancy firm, CT Consults, which I am now a part of along with the whole amazingly talented team behind Creative Tourist (go on, hire us!) I’m still writing a lot for the Creative Tourist site, and some of my favourite recent pieces include this review of the Jane and Louise Wilson exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery, and this review of new Manchester restaurant Neighbourhood.

What am I working on now? Well I’m planning some more bloggy/literary events with Creative Industries Trafford and others. I’m helping sort out the next Blog North Network event (probably happening in Leeds, in April.) But now I’m mostly around talking to people about Rainy City Stories, Openstories’ Manchester-based writing project that is fixing to emerge from its long hibernation this spring. Planning and plotting; brainstorming, budgeting and grant writing.  All will be revealed soon.

Spring 2012

Hello! I’ve suddenly got lots of interesting things happening this spring. It’s so good to be getting out and about after the long dark winter, which is still looking very dark and glowery from where I’m sitting, but it surely can’t be here for much longer. Right?

Putting my Openstories hat on: On March 27th I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion about new writing communities at the National Association for Literature Development’s spring conference, The Space Between Us, at The Tabernacle in London. Really looking forward to this one; the two days of the conference are packed with interesting talks, workshops and readings. I’ve done a post on the NALD website on the topic of how working online has changed what writers and editors do.

I’m running another public session on The Art Of Blogging at Cornerhouse in Manchester on 17 April. Will add link as soon as the booking is up. I’ve also just done a mammoth new blogs update on Manchizzle. It’s great to see so many wonderful new Manchester blogs about.

I’m also reading my creative writing at the Prestiwch Festival on May 17 at The Church pub at 7:30pm – more details on that as I get them. Trying to decide between reading an essay or a short story, depends what’s ready first. (And if none of them are I shall be forced to stand and silently  stare at my shoes in public. Oh dear.)

Lots of exciting developments on the Creative Tourist front, but nothing I can share yet. In the meantime, I’ve been commissioning, editing and  even occasionally writing content for Manchester’s finest cultural web magazine. I really enjoyed doing this little piece about Manchester’s independent record shops, and this chat with artist Leo Fitzmaurice just before he won the Northern Art Prize.

I’ve also reviewed Jackie Kay’s memoir Red Dust Road over on the excellent For Books’ Sake blog.

Winter 2010

So what have I been up to? Mainly I’ve been working on the content for a new arts listings website in Manchester. It’ll be launching in March, so I’ll update this post with the details then, but it’s been a really interesting project that has consumed much of my time for the last couple of months.

I continue to contribute regularly to CreativeTourist.com, an exciting collaboration that sees me poking my nose into all sorts of interesting places around cultural Manchester.

The 2009 Manchester Literature Festival was a big success overall and I’m pleased to report that both of my projects came off without a hitch. The Rainy City Stories events sold out quickly and went well, and the fourth annual Manchester Blog Awards was bigger than ever before at the brand new Band on The Wall.  Now I’m working on lining up funding for next year’s events. I’m also setting up a series of Rainy City Stories creative writing workshops throughout Greater Manchester to take place this spring, and planning a very exciting writing contest for the website.

With Chris Horkan of Oh Digital and Cathy Bolton of MLF I’m setting up a non-profit organisation, Openstories, that will work on projects that involve literature and technology. Paperwork galore, but hopefully some great projects to come once the red tape is out of the way.

The blogging work continues. I’m involved with a group of bloggers who are trying to set up a local blog aggregator/publication in Manchester. And my own blog, Manchizzle, was recently named one of Lastminute.com’s Top 50 Blogs About Good Stuff, a real honour as it means the blog is in the top tier of UK travel and culture blogs.

Summer/Autumn 09

Whew! The Manchester International Festival has finally rolled out of town, leaving a city full of blissed out culturehounds lolling helplessly in its wake. This year I gave my press pass a serious workout, reviewing several of the events on The Manchizzle. My review of It Felt Like a Kiss seemed to spark the most discussion, but the high point of the festival for me was Antony and the Johnsons incredible performance with Manchester Camerata.

This month I’m busy working on content for the newly-launched Creative Tourist website for the Manchester Museums Commission; I’m helping editor Susie Stubbs polish up the writing and am in charge of getting local bloggers to contribute guest posts for this fine web magazine. I’m really happy with how the site looks, and it seems to have been very well received.

The Guardian asked me to contribute to an article in which city bloggers suggested alternative lunch break activities for tourists in UK cities. I told people to go mooch around Castlefield and soak up the ambiance in Manchester’s most cinematic district. You can read it here.

I’m nearly ready to launch the new website for the Manchester Blog Awards, and am working on this year’s live event which will take place October 21 at Band on the Wall, and feature author Jenn Ashworth,  a host of Mancunian blogsmiths reading their work, and the return of the Blogapalooza mp3 djs. I’m excited about holding the awards at this iconic and newly reborn venue, and am also pleased about this year’s support from Arts Council England, which has enabled us to up the ante and put together a bigger and better event. Though they wouldn’t pony up for the uniformed monkeys presenting awards. There goes my beautiful vision.

And I’m getting some help from the fine folks at Radio Regen on podcasting. After some training from them I’ll be able to produce the first of our planned series of podcasts featuring writers from the Rainy City Stories project reading their contributions. This will launch in a live event at the Manchester Literature Festival in October. Which promises to be a busy month indeed…