A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

LAS appoints Jenny Niven as new Chair

The Board of Trustees of Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) is delighted to announce the appointment of Jenny Niven as its new Chair.

The appointment was unanimously approved by the LAS Board following an open recruitment process and Ms Niven will begin her three-year term in the role from the beginning of August 2021.

Jenny Niven said: “I am delighted and honoured to be taking up the role of Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland. Scottish literature and languages is full of talent and expertise, both in terms of individual writers, practitioners and producers, but also in the numerous internationally recognised organisations and institutions who all sit round the LAS table. I’m looking forward to working with so many respected friends and colleagues and to playing a role in championing our collective voice, while working to understand the needs of Scotland’s writers and organisations as we rebuild post-Covid.

“We’re in interesting times, to say the least, and we need strong representation for the role of the arts across society and the vital contribution made by writers and professionals in the sector. Literature has always played an exciting role in how we tell our stories and there are lots of possibilities and challenges ahead, from Scotland’s Year of Stories to harnessing digital to showcase and promote Scottish writing in a new era internationally. With LAS’ recent brilliant work in recognising the diversity of writing in Scotland and creating real talent development platforms, there is plenty to do; I feel privileged to be entrusted to get started and to play a part in our collective rebuilding effort at this crucial time.”

Jenny Niven is a highly regarded and well-known figure operating within the literature, languages and publishing sector. As a freelance producer and director, she is the director of Push the Boat Out, a new festival of poetry, spoken word and hip hop, which launches for the first time in Edinburgh in October 2021. She is also Executive Producer at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit Foundation and a sought-after chair for literature events, having interviewed a wealth of leading authors worldwide.

From 2014-2019, Jenny was Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland, where she provided strategic guidance across the sector, and fostered investment in hundreds of organisations and writers. During her time at Creative Scotland, Jenny led in the creation of the sectoral review of Literature and Publishing in Scotland, the Muriel Spark 100 Centenary celebrations in 2018, and Creative Scotland’s first Scots Language Policy.

In 2016, Jenny led the Edinburgh International Book Festival organisation on secondment as Acting Director over the winter months of 16/17, winning the festival a Herald Angel Award for the ground-breaking ‘Outriders’ program.

Jenny has worked internationally, as Associate Director at the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas, Program Manager at the Melbourne Writers Festival and inaugural Director of The Bookworm International Literary Festival, in Beijing, China. She was also on the founding Board of the Stella Prize for Australian Women’s Writing and has judged a range of literary prizes.

Out-going Chair Peggy Hughes has been in the role since May 2017, leading the development of LAS to where it is now recognised as a vital connector between the organisations in the literature, languages and publishing ecosystem.

During her four-year term, Peggy has overseen the creation of a “life changing” career development programme, a series of challenging writer commissions, a new Writers’ Advisory Group and a host of professional development and networking opportunities for members and the wider sector at LAS meetings and events. Not to mention pivoting the programme to online and advocating for the sector throughout the pandemic.

Peggy Hughes, who will stand down as a Trustee at the AGM in the Autumn, said: “Scotland’s ecosystem of literature and languages is a rich, breathing, inspiring place to be, and it’s been my honour and pleasure to chair this network of organisations and practitioners working with and for it. The past 18 months have brought huge challenges and changes to the literature and creative sectors at large, but the Literature Alliance Scotland network has shown that innovation, imagination, resilience and collaboration can help us navigate the stormiest waters.

“Collectively, our priority is to ensure that our brilliant writers and readers, librarians and teachers, play makers and festival builders remain connected, that their work is amplified, that they are able to lean on and learn from each other, and Jenny Niven is a superlative Chair for the times we’re in, and for a network which creates the conditions ‘where the hammer hits the stane an sparks / ur made’ (as William Letford has it in his poem ‘This Is It’). I look forward very much to the next chapter of the story of this brilliant network under her leadership.”



July 14, 2021

Introducing the Next Level 2021 Awardees

We’re thrilled to introduce the Next Level Awardees for 2021: Keira Brown and Heather McDaid.

Next Level is LAS’ career development programme that aims to equip two mid-career arts professionals on the path to a senior position with the intended outcome of increasing diversity within the literature, languages and publishing sector. The free Programme includes training, mentoring and facilitated industry connections tailored to each Awardee’s career goals. As both Awardees are freelancers, they will each receive a Living Wage stipend to cover their time participating in the Programme. This is supported by our funding from Creative Scotland.

Peggy Hughes, LAS Chair, said: “We’re thrilled to appoint Keira and Heather who both have the ambition to make positive change in the literature, languages and publishing sector. We’ve seen the impact that Next Level has had on awardees’ mindsets and driving forward their career goals and we can’t wait to work with Keira and Heather and see the positive outcomes from their journey. Both Awardees are freelancers and we appreciate how important this time and space is to allow for reflection on career development while having a dedicated support to take the steps towards future goals and aspirations.”

Keira Brown said: “I am excited to be chosen for the Next Level programme and to see what opportunities for development stem from the programme. Whilst working on Paisley Book Festival I have been keen to learn and grow in areas of accessibility, outreach and engagement, as it feels like a festival in which we can really expand and offer a great deal in these fields. As an industry freelancer, I am enormously grateful for the time and insight offered from others in the literature sector and look forward to the valuable knowledge and learning that will come from Next Level. It’s fantastic that Literature Alliance offer such a space for professional development.”

Heather McDaid said: I’m delighted to have been selected for the Next Level programme. As a freelancer, I have been able to work with a number of organisations I admire these last few years, and through my own publisher 404 Ink have been able to undertake a lot of work and projects on what matters most personally, including strides to demystify and make the publishing industry more accessible for those looking to enter it, as writers or behind the scenes. The opportunity to focus on these ideas and longer-term goals, and work towards making that a reality, is something I’m really excited about. I’ve found great support within Scotland’s thriving literature sector in my own career, and hope that as my work progresses, particularly with the amazing support of Literature Alliance Scotland now, I can continue to pay that forward for those to come.”


Keira Brown has an in depth understanding of the commercial side within the book trade and the long-term impact of book events. She has a local knowledge of the writing and spoken word scene in Scotland having co-produced Paisley Book Festival two years running. As well as the work she does for the literature sector she is also Editor of cultural review site, The Fountain, and Board Trustee for Scottish PEN.



Heather McDaid is an award-winning publisher and freelancer. She is currently co-founder of indie publisher 404 Ink, Books Editor at The Skinny magazine, and Events and Programme Support Officer at Publishing Scotland. Previous roles have included Coordinator of The Saltire Society’s virtual book festival #ScotLitFest, and Co-Chair of the Society of Young Publishers Scotland; she has worked in a freelance capacity with organisations including Scottish Book Trust, BHP Comics, Canongate, Girlguiding Scotland, and many more. She received the London Book Fair Trailblazers award for those ‘blazing a trail through their 20s’, was jointly awarded the Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year, shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for the professional achievements and promise of women in publishing, and was named by Margaret Atwood as ‘a woman shaping the future’ based on her work within publishing.

June 14, 2021

LAS announces Next Level Awardee

We’re delighted to introduce our inaugural Next Level Awardee: Nyla Ahmad.

Next Level is LAS’ pilot career development programme that aims to equip two mid-career arts professionals (in two separate rounds) on the path to a senior position with the intended outcome of increasing diversity within the literature, languages and publishing sector. The Programme is supported by our funding from Creative Scotland.

We’re excited to be working with Nyla and are already making good progress on her tailored development programme, which will include mentoring, one-to-one personal training, industry introductions and shadowing opportunities.

Peggy Hughes, LAS Chair, said: We’re delighted to have Nyla as our first Next Level professional and to connect her with leaders in the arts community to support her development. Nyla’s impressive ambition, energy and commitment to sharing positive change is clear for all to see and we know she’ll make a significant impact now and in the future.”

Nyla Ahmad said: I am honoured to have been selected for the Next Level programme. The core tenet of my work is supporting those from marginalised backgrounds to become involved in the arts, with my passion lying specifically in bringing the life-changing magic of books to as many people as possible. I am excited to see what knowledge, skills and opportunities I will gain through this Programme. Books have changed my life for the better and I am so glad I get to work in Scotland’s literary sector and bring that joy to others. As my career progresses, that joy and my ability to spread it can only grow.”


Nyla Ahmad is Reading Communities Manager at Scottish Book Trust, leading on programming Book Week Scotland. Nyla previously co-led the BHP Comics project, Full Colour, a mentoring programme for 14 – 26-year-old comics creators from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. She also worked for the Glasgow Women’s Library on their museum access project, Equality in Progress, and their first women of colour showcase, the Collect:if Herland. Nyla’s MPhil thesis examined South Asian and Muslim representation in comics, focusing on Ms. Marvel. She served as chair of the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance Awards for three years.

February 21, 2020

Peggy Hughes appointed as new LAS Chair

The Board of Trustees of Literature Alliance Scotland is delighted to announce Peggy Hughes as its new Chair.

Peggy Hughes. Photo: Chris Scott

The appointment was unanimously approved at our Members’ and Trustees’ meeting on 17 May at University of Stirling where Ms Hughes, who directs Literary Dundee, was welcomed with a round of applause by the membership.

Peggy Hughes, said: ‘I’m truly delighted to be joining Literature Alliance Scotland as chairperson, and really looking forward to building on the work of the inimitable Ann Matheson, and working in concert with wonderful colleagues across our literary community – it’s like getting the chance to conduct a world class orchestra!

“Literature Alliance Scotland plays such a vital and exciting role in uniting writers, publishers, educators, librarians and literature organisations and presenting a strong collective voice for Scotland’s literature.

“It’s a challenging global picture, but literature and stories have a huge part to play in understanding ourselves and in bridging understanding with others, and LAS is central to making those stories and voices travel. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

Ms Hughes has a wealth of experience within Scotland’s literature community, working in various roles over the years at StAnza, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City of Literature Trust before joining Literary Dundee, at the University of Dundee, as Director in July 2013 where she produces and delivers the annual Dundee Literary Festival, coordinates the Dundee International Book Prize and a variety of events, publications and projects throughout the year.

She also founded Edinburgh’s Electric Bookshop and co-founded the West Port Book Festival. In addition to her new role leading the LAS Board of Trustees, Ms Hughes is a board member of Craigmillar Literacy Trust and regularly chairs events at literary festivals and panels.

Donald Smith, LAS Vice-Chair, who led the recruitment process for the position, said: “Peggy’s experience, vigour and demonstrable track record makes her the best person with the will, capacity and opportunity to lead LAS for the next two years.”


May 23, 2017