A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Evaluation on LAS Sector Away Day – Turning The Next Page: Future-Proofing Our Sector

This free (but ticketed) event, advertised on Eventbrite, was designed to provide a space and time to bring together our members, literature professionals and peers as well as others working in Scotland’s literature, languages and publishing sector for a planning and information-sharing day.

It took place on 1 October from 1030am to 5pm at Malmaison Dundee.

We aimed to make the event as accessible as possible so carefully chose the hotel,  lunch and refreshments were included, and we asked interested attendees to contact us if travel costs were a barrier, an offer taken up by three writers.

The spirit of the conference was to listen and engage with one another in openness, kindness, respect and generosity within an inclusive, welcoming and supportive space for all with self-definition at the sole discretion of the individual.

We carefully curated the programme to take into account our members’ input from the May meeting. It featured the following (view the full programme on our website here):

  • Opening talk from local historian, library worker and storyteller Dr Erin Farley
  • Keynote address on new perspectives / personal stories by Laura Brown, writer, editor and former Editor-in-Chief of Comics at DC Thomson
  • breakout discussions on key issues affecting the sector on and offline
  • the launch of our second Literature Talks commission from award-winning author and journalist Chitra Ramaswamy On A Lifetime of Ticking Boxes
  • time to chat to and connect with other delegates and peers from Scotland’s literature, languages and publishing sector
  • A super speedy and efficient LAS AGM
  • Quick-fire (10 minute) talks on upcoming sector opportunities and best practice case studies including upcoming literary anniversaries by Dr Daniel Cook, Head of English at Dundee University; VisitScotland’s Year of Scotland’s Stories by Marie Christie, Head of Development – Events Industry; Scottish Books International update by Manager Sasha De Buyl; Marjorie Lotfi Gill from Open on outreach/building networks; and The Lighthouse owner Mairi Oliver on working with the industry and beyond.
  • A Vision for Change from Creative Scotland’s Literature team
  • What’s Next – summarising the consensus topics from the breakout discussions
  • Networking

We built a comprehensive guest list for e-invitations and we advertised the day on Eventbrite, promoting it across our communications platforms, especially on Twitter. As we’d agreed at our May meeting, the e-invite to members was for 2 people and we encouraged them to invite a junior colleague to increase the diversity of voices and develop their connections across the industry as a means of succession planning.

Attendees included LAS members and Trustees, the above speakers many of whom joined us for the whole day, members of our Writers’ Advisory Group (whose travel costs we covered), publishers, Dundee-based writers, academics and programmers, Scottish Enterprise. For a full list, please see the headline feedback below.

We did not have time on the day to collate the consensus topics into the top three priorities to take forward as outcomes for 2020 on the day, so in our follow-up email to attendees sharing the headline notes from the day and the survey link, we asked attendees to let us know their top three and from that we have reached a consensus focus on: 1) equality, diversity and accessibility; 2) Payment; and 3) Climate emergency, including festivals.

Feedback from the survey, completed anonymously by 33 attendees was overwhelmingly positive with 90.91% of respondents both rating the overall experience of the day as Excellent and Very Good and confirming they would attend the event next year.

Top highlights of the day mentioned in the open comments section of the survey were 1)keynotes; 2) Quick fire talks; 3) Chitra Ramaswamy’s reading; and 4) meeting new people in the sector. Please see the headline feedback attached.

The Sector Away Day was attended by 65 people, including 10-week-old baby Sophia with mum Rachel Humphries on maternity leave from Moniack Mhor. 33 attendees anonymously completed the survey.

Further information and feedback

LAS Trustees and members:

  • Association of Scottish Literary Agents
  • CILIP in Scotland
  • Cove Park
  • Edinburgh City of Literature
  • Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • Gaelic Books Council
  • Indie Authors’ World
  • Moniack Mhor (and 10-week-old Baby Sophia!)
  • National Library of Scotland
  • Publishing Scotland
  • Scottish Book Trust
  • Scottish PEN
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • SLAM / Chapman
  • SLIC
  • Society of Authors’ in Scotland

The literature community:

  • Aye Write!
  • Billy Kay
  • Claire Wingfield Literary Consultancy
  • Creative Scotland
  • Dundee University
  • Edwin Morgan 100
  • Floris
  • Fraser Ross Associates
  • Leisure & Culture Dundee
  • Lighthouse Bookshop
  • Liminal Ink
  • Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
  • Open Book
  • Paisley Book Festival
  • Prance Press
  • Scottish BAME Writers’ Network
  • Scottish Books International
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Stanza
  • Stewed Rhubarb
  • Tramp Press
  • VisitScotland

90.91% of respondents rated the overall experience of the day as Excellent and Very Good and would attend the event next year and

  • 82% strongly agreed it was well put together
  • 55% strongly agreed it was thought-provoking
  • 58% strongly agreed it was an interesting programme
  • 85% rated the location as excellent or very good

Top highlights of the day mentioned in the open comments section were:

  • Keynotes
  • Quickfire talks
  • Chitra Ramaswamy’s reading
  • Meeting new people in the sector

Other comments of note:

  • As a POC (person of colour) I felt the programming was inclusive. All the speakers provided thoughtful & interesting content. As a writer it was great to get some insight into other areas of the literary sector.
  • A focus on literature, rather than publishing industry concerns, made the day differ in a positive way from other sector conferences/events. I enjoyed the speakers having time to speak, and there being no panels. Laura Brown and Chitra Ramaswamy were highlights, also appreciated Erin Farley’s overview of literary Dundee.
  • I enjoyed the different talks – as a writer we often hear talks about getting published or talks by writers who are already on their journey. It was interesting for me to see other facets of the sector.
  • Speaking with people from your sector and also feeling like you are not in it alone.
  • The speedy but effective AGM.

Most frequently mentioned suggestions to improve the event next year (in open comments section):

  • Microphones – sound was an issue as well as the noise from the catering.
  • More focus on specific discussion topics during the roundtables
  • More time for discussion & more quick-fire talks

The ‘any other comments’ section was very positive:

  • Jenny and Peggy did a fantastic job of organising the day. Their attention to detail was apparent (a wee sweetie on the table is always welcome) and there was a wealth of energy in the programme and its contents. Wonderful speakers, although perhaps the Creative Scotland talk could have been stronger were MK able to speak. I would go to all meetings were chips involved – a lovely addition!
  • Thanks for organising, I made some useful contacts and had some useful discussions. Great to know that LAS is taking equalities seriously and that we can work together on this.
  • Useful networking opportunities and a good sense of action and development across the sector – impression of LAS as very open.
  • Very good day. I wasn’t sure it was going to be relevant to me as a writer, but it was very interesting. Everyone was happy about the chips!

Data collection:

10% of respondents self-identified as BAME.

Age breakdown of 33 respondents:

16-24 3.03% (1)
25-34 30.30% (10)
35-44 27.27% (9)
45-54 18.18% (6)
55-64 9.09% (3)
65+ 12.12% (4)


Twitter & email highlights:

Thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s LASAwayDay. Great to learn a bit more about Dundee’s literary history and meet some new people across the sector. Highlight was @Chitgrrl’s talk, available to read on the LAS website. As far as conferences go, a real breath of fresh air. ~@Lauraewaddell

Excellent speakers and examples of people working with passion, integrity and connection at the Literature Alliance Scotland sector day in Dundee today. My favourite quote was from @chitgrrl around how greatness, like mediocrity, can come from all walks of life. ~@viccyiswriting on Instagram

It was an excellent day – really good to have representatives of so many different parts of the literature sector in one room. ~Claire Wingfield, publisher