Spring 2011

Hello world! I have finally emerged from my maternity leave hibernation, blinking in the light. Baby Bella is six months old now, and doing really well. I’m now back at work two days a week and delighted to be using my brain again.

The most exciting news is that I have taken over as editor of Creative Tourist, Manchester Museums Consortium’s website and city culture campaign hub. I’ve been working with CT since it began and am delighted to be taking the reins from the excellent Susie Stubbs, who is now on maternity leave herself. CT has an unbelievably busy spring planned – our winter/spring 2011 city guide is just about to launch and exciting new projects around BBC’s move to MediaCity:UK and the Manchester International Festival lurk just around the corner.

I’ve also been asked to teach a Life Writing course in conjunction with Lancaster’s fabulous Litfest. The two-day workshop is taking place April 4 and 11 at the Storey Institute. In preparation, I’m reading some of  Life Writing’s greats (Diana Athill is my favourite at the moment) and working through some personal essays and memoir-writing exercises.

I’m also working on some exciting new literature development projects with Manchester Literature Festival and Openstories, and finding the time to do a few interesting copywriting projects.  2011 looks set to be a busy one.

Summer 2010

Big changes ahead. I’ll be winding up all my current work projects through June and July as I prepare to devote myself to a single very important project: My second child is due in mid-August, and I expect to be on maternity leave from August 4 until early 2011.  I have arranged maternity cover on all of my ongoing projects, but I’ll be picking up emails intermittently, so go ahead and drop me a line if you feel like it.

Here’s what I’ve been up to in the meantime:

It’s been a fabulous month for Creative Tourist, the web magazine I do editorial work on. We bagged two coveted Big Chip Awards: the award for best online brand development, and a special commendation for best public sector project. It’s lovely to see all of our hard work recognised.

The literature and technology organisation I run, Openstories, has been awarded a £10,000 grant for the arts from Arts Council England to fund our activities through summer 2011. This means we can develop our current slate of projects, including the Manchester Blog Awards and Rainy City Stories further while investigating some intriguing new ideas we’ve cooked up for future projects.

I’ve organised another successful Rainy City Stories creative writing workshop series. This one was our most ambitious yet, with sessions covering every district in Greater Manchester.  I am delighted to have worked with our wonderful and talented workshop leaders (Nick Royle, Jenn Ashworth, Suzanne Batty and Shamshad Khan) and big thanks to AGMA for funding it all.

It’s been a busy time for Rainy City Stories. We’ve also teamed up with Creative Tourist for a summertime urban short story contest, Rain Never Stops Play. I’ll be helping organise and judge this and am really looking forward to reading the entries. We’re also planning a great event for the Manchester Literature Festival in October.

In other writing news, the Speculative Fiction Writing Group I started up at MadLab has been growing quickly, with 15 people now involved. It’s encouraging to learn that there are so many hardworking writers in Manchester, and it’s great to get stuck in to writing some short stories again.

It’s been great to see a trio of impressive new websites launch in Manchester: Visit Manchester, Creative Times and Go See This. I contributed writing to the first two and was heavily involved in developing the content for Go See This, an incredibly useful and user-friendly new what’s on guide for the city of Manchester.

I’ve also been working on a number of interesting copywriting projects. It hasn’t been all hard work, though. Some of my work has been downright enjoyable, like researching this article for Creative Tourist about wild swimming spots near Manchester. What a fabulous way to cool off!

Spring 2010

Crikey. It’s been a hectic few months round here. Recent work has included:

– FutureEverything’s City Debate, where I joined city leaders, thinkers and some very smart people in discussing what the future of Manchester should look like. I’ve recapped the discussion here.

– Running a series of blogging, webwriting and scriptwriting workshops for young people with MYVP and Littlestar Media.

– Organising a second series of free creative writing workshops across Greater Manchester for the Rainy City Stories project, made possible by the lovely people at AGMA. I’m also working on another RCS short story contest, and plotting lots of exciting RCS shenanigans for the Manchester Literature Festival in October…

– … as well as other projects involving literature, writing and technology for Openstories, the new arts organisation I’ve set up with Cathy Bolton and Chris Horkan. (May the funding fairy smile on us.)

– A big copywriting project for Marketing Manchester’s Manchester International newspaper for MIPIM, as well as a profile of Sharp project founder Sue Woodward for their MCR magazine. Also did a bit of writing for the soon-to-launch Visit Manchester website.

– Loads of writing, commissioning, editing and sub-editing for the Manchester Museums Consortium’s fabulous webmagazine Creative Tourist, which is up for several awards, doncha know? I especially enjoyed writing this piece about a fascinating exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre

– Attending a cultural leadership development day, part of the Cultural Leadership Programme run by MLA, the Arts Council and Creative and Cultural Skills. Highly recommended.

– Developing the Aggregator Project with a group of my blogging brethren, an effort to showcase the best work of  Manchester-based bloggers (online and, eventually, off. )

– Taking part in Digital Playpen, an informal digital/cultural communications group with folks from Manchester’s creative and cultural sector.

– Working with folks at the MadLab (Manchester Digital Laboratory) to develop writing, pubishing and literary events at the Edge Street space.

– Organising blog meets in Manchester and planning the 2010 Manchester Blog Awards . And, as always, doing plenty of blogging myself on my urban arts and culture blog Manchizzle.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’m expecting a new baby in August. Plenty more to get on with before maternity leave beckons!

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…