We were delighted to welcome 65 people from all walks of literary life to our Sector Away Day in sunny Dundee on 1 October, including writers, publishers, literary agents, literature organisations, festival programmers – not to mention 10-week-old baby Sophia with mum Rachel Humphries currently on maternity leave from Moniack Mhor.
The day has been described as a fascinating, informal and welcoming and we’re very grateful to all the speakers and delegates for their contribution.
Below are the headline notes from the day, including Valentina’s excellent round-up of the key issues highlighted in the roundtable discussions.
We asked for input from delegates and LAS Members on which 3 priorities to focus on as outcomes to develop for 2020. The majority consensus is: 1) Diversity, Equality & Access; 2) Payment and 3) Climate Emergency.
LAS Chair Peggy Hughes opened the event very positively, by showing LAS’ strengths: our openness and willingness to share our knowledge, as well as our concrete actions, which she returned to later in the AGM. Through our open meetings and our current initiatives, we encourage co-operation and collaborative working. Peggy mentioned the work of ROAR in promoting gender equality, as well as our willingness to listen to our sector, diversifying and amplifying our work through meetings and with our network of writers, including our Writers’ Advisory Group represented on the day by Maisie Chan and Heather Palmer.
Director of Scottish Poetry Library Asif Khan’s reading of ‘Mary Shelley on Broughty Ferry Beach’ by Robert Crawford from Whaleback City and his discussion on Shelley showed the way in which this city has inspired “the aery flights of imagination.”
Literature in Dundee – Dr Erin Farley, local historian, storyteller and library worker
Erin addressed these ‘aery flights of imagination’ with aplomb in her opening address, citing how literature is part of the landscape, is social and inventive – this city, where “landscape, memory and people are intimately connected”:
- Dundee has a vibrant literary history
- Literature is social – citing examples of the Green H, a sign of the Hopscotch literary group meeting; Scrieve, Dundee’s new monthly playwriting scratch night; and Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities, a snapshot of a selection of writing from one city at one time as chosen by a guest-editor (Erin Farley).
- Literature works example of Dundonian poet, songwriter, weaver and activist Mary Brooksbank
- Stories will always be in fashion
- Dundee’s literature belongs to everyone and is open to everyone to participate in.
Keynote speaker Laura Brown – writer, editor and former Editor-in-Chief of Comics at DC Thomson
Laura’s account of her nimble career in future-proofing, through keeping abreast with the things that keep people buying magazines was inspiring:
- Stories are what matter, whether that’s the Beano or pricey hardback fiction
- The future is so out of date so quickly
- Focus on what we do best: telling stories; we peddle the exteriors so the interiors can be experienced
- Future-proofing is more about keeping the best bits of what works while adapting to tech and social change, rather than chasing fads
- In literature you’ve got bold thinkers, you’ve got innovation
- In terms of future-proofing, literature is already embracing new technology and new formats. You make an event out of a book. We (in magazines) have a lot to learn from you.
Breakout discussion – how do we tackle key sector issues on- and off-line? Facilitated by LAS Trustees with the 6 key topics highlighted in the ‘What’s Next?’ session below.
Literature Talks launch: ‘On A Lifetime of Ticking Boxes’ by Chitra Ramaswamy, award-winning journalist and author.
You could hear a pin drop as Chitra read out her deeply personal and incredibly powerful essay on diversity in literature and publishing. Read it here: http://bit.ly/ChitraRamaswamy
LITERATURE ALLIANCE SCOTLAND AGM
Download the AGM papers.
QUICK-FIRE KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE, chaired by Ali Bowden
Upcoming literary anniversaries – Daniel Cook, Head of English at University of Dundee
VisitScotland’s Year of Coast & Waters 2020 and Year of Scotland’s Stories 2022 – Marie Christie, Head of Development – Events Industry
- Opportunities for promotion, celebration, participation, collaboration and industry engagement
- Chances to spotlight and celebrate Scotland, in all its particulars and diversity
- See the slides here.
Scottish Books International – Sasha de Buyl, Manager
- An outline of SBI’s strategic plan for activity for the next 14-month period, including aims to empower Scotland to connect with international literary ecologies
- Core aim is to act as a connecting force for Scottish books and writing around the world
- Three pillars of Informing, Connecting and Growth
- The plan intends to raise awareness of Scottish books and writing overseas, connect our publishers, writers and organisations with international partners and to create an infrastructure for sustained development in the longer term.
- Newsletter launched
- Online opportunities page coming
- News and blog section aimed at outward-looking writers/publishers
- SBI website is a shop window for Scottish writing
- The aim is to develop an international database
- Germany is the focus for 2020 with plans for market insight seminars, inbound delegation to Germany and delegations of Scottish writers to German literary festivals with a tie-in to Scottish Book Festivals
- Plan is to scope current knowledge via a survey with the aim of developing a road map for growth
- See the slides here.
Open Book on outreach/ building networks – Marjorie Lotfi Gill, Co-Founder and Development Director
- Advantages of shared reading – without homework – through reading aloud together with a paired poem and then take participants to see authors at literary festivals
- Objective and aspiration to allow lots of people to have access to a book who might not otherwise
- Valuing of diversity in authors – allowing groups to own their own sessions from Stranraer to Eyemouth to Shetland
- Building connections through reading workshops in prisons, healthcare, community, libraries and with people who have vision problems, who have English as a second language, with refugee women and children
- Participants are more confident and connected at the end of the session
Lighthouse Bookshop on working with industry and beyond – Mairi Oliver, owner
- The bookshop has a key role in the literary landscape
- Sell books <–> build community
- Bookshops are the interface between authors, publishers and readers – and performers too
- Met young poets and people of colour through Intercultural Youth Scotland who use the space of the bookshop for their events
- Book Fringe collaboration with Golden Hare Books
- Link with Zines offering both artistic and literary collaborations and connections
- Great advice: find local bookshops, meet passionate people and hold events.
The Scottish BAME Writers’ Network – Jeda Lewis
- Jeda offered to give an impromptu talk on the Network as co-founder Jay G Ying was ill
- Advocacy role of writers of colour with a connection to Scotland
- Creating a community and space where everything goes with no need to self-censor
- promoting work, and making opportunities with literary events for
- Launch of Ceremony on 15 Oct – a new pamphlet featuring 15 writers from the BAME Writers’ Group who met at Scottish Poetry Library
- Panel at Golden Hare Books Festival on Fri 18 Oct
- Network event on 23 November in Edinburgh
A Vision for Change – Creative Scotland
Mairi Kidd, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing at Creative Scotland along with her team members Harriet MacMillan, Viccy Adam and Alan Bett.
- Responsive talk on our ‘Literature Ecosystem’
- Shared their thinking on Is literature in an ‘Equalities Emergency’ and welcome challenge on this topic
- How do we understand and tackle barriers?
- How do we move past diversity initiatives to sustained change?
- Why do we (sometimes) find the discussion threatening and how can we change that?
- Encouraging and inviting us to contribute to their work in progress
- We need a fundamental change in the way we work together as a sector
- What is the product of a not-for-profit sector?
- How do we understand what value for money looks like?
- We need to move beyond the well-intentioned outreach model, and the idea quality & diversity are separate, to make sure that benefit it given back to everyone who lives and works in Scotland.
Priorities from breakout discussion with Valentina Bold, LAS Co-Vice Chair
The following priorities came out of the breakout discussion in the morning session. We asked for input from delegates and LAS Members on which 3 priorities to focus on as outcomes to develop for 2020. The majority consensus was for 1) Diversity Equality & Accessibility; 2) Payment and 3) Climate emergency, including festivals.
Diversity, Equality & Accessibility (events)
- Respect the author
- Ensure quality of experience
- Deploy sensitivity readers (more than once)
- Embrace diversity but be critical
- Need for Scottish data
- Ensure equality in income
- Listen and be open to those affected
- Possibility of Citizens’ Assembly model
- Travel grants needed
- Sign language
- Share resources
- Break down hierarchies
- Give writers time/space – a longer vision
Diversity – advocacy, support, sensitivity.
Equality – advocacy, practice.
Accessibility – survey LAS members, members to include accessibility info on websites, invite speaker on accessibility to next LAS meeting.
- Reduce expectation of work for free (anthology / events)
- Use Scottish Book Trust Live Literature rates as a starting point
Suggested actions – advocacy, show good practice, payment as the norm.
- Be green (keep control if poss, not always poss [venues])
- Adopt carbon reduction plans
- Avoid branded merchandise (often not sustainable)
- Reduce meat/dairy
- Support local writers
- Involve Creative Carbon Scotland
- Carbon off-set flights
- Ensure diversity in programming
Suggested actions – advocacy, build knowledge
Action: Consider the following
- Travel in Scotland / international
- Technological issues – potential for access.
- Book sales
- And reservations – social media: take care with pronouns
Suggested actions: Consider how we do this already; how can we be innovative; offer social media training sessions through LAS.
- Need for flexibility
- Amplifying Scottish voices
- Open Book model – support writers in getting voices heard
- Developing community
- Exploring what is ‘Scottish literature’ for diverse voices & experiences (language, ethnicity)
- Avoid no-platforming and censorship
- Stop ideological divides
Suggested actions – next steps, future-proofing.