Festivals on Your Doorstep

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about UK publishing outside of London, thanks to the dedication and the hard work of organisations such as the Northern Fiction Alliance to get the voices of publishers outside the bubble of London heard. Unfortunately, before my time at Edinburgh Napier and studying my MSc in Publishing I didn’t even know that companies outside of London or Edinburgh even existed, let alone ones so close to me in the Yorkshire city I did my undergraduate degree in.

Hull.

Aside from the fact that I am now following all the right people on twitter to hear about such companies, one thing that helped me discover the literary scene in Hull was the urge to get a placement. It seemed fitting that I would head back to the place where I first learnt that publishing could be an option for me as a career path and started my journey to Edinburgh. To have my first placement with Wrecking Ball Press it completed a nice narrative circle for me, and as I learnt more and more about working in a small publishing company I also learnt about something else.

There is a thriving literary scene surrounding the area that had simplly seemed to pass me by before, and I like to claim that literature is what I love the most. I was beginning to hear of festivals because of the fact Wrecking Ball Press often helps bring such events into reality. Such as Lyricull, which celebrates music and song writing in Hull, and Humber Mouth a literature festival that focuses on literature and draws attention to the city of Hull and its passionate people.

Hull and Wrecking Ball pooled so much into their literature, art and culture ventures in the past year as they also celebrated being the City of Culture for 2017, (something I was gutted to have missed out due to the fact I graduated a year before this took place). With events happening every day to help spread the awareness of the city’s thriving culture, it simply proved that Hull has such a large wealth of talented people committed to the arts.

Poppies
Weeping Window – an art installation during the City of Culture 2017 (25th March -14th May on the Hull Maritime Museum), originally held at the Tower of London. A poppy tribute to those who served in the army.

However, learning all this got me thinking, what other cities have such thriving publishing, literature and arts scenes that are simply hidden by the size of London’s stake in the pool of festivals and companies? I was surprised at how much happens in Edinburgh when I moved here 8 months ago and it’s a capital city, so what else is out there that I simply didn’t know about before because I didn’t have the knowledge to find them and check them out?

Literature festivals help publishers, writers, readers, and even people who don’t count themselves as readers, to connect and share in their love of literature. It is platform that has helped Wrecking Ball showcase their works to a wider audience and I’m proud to know that these things were, and are still, happening in Hull. So now, wherever I end up, I will be on the look for festivals and events that will help keep me connected to literature as I pursue my career into publishing. There’s always something on your door step, you just have to look.

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Independents: Original Content Curators

It’s becoming an issue, mostly in film and TV, that all our top-rated content is either an adaptation, sequel or remake (how many King Kong stories do we need? 8 apparently). Even fiction, to an extent seems to be relying heavily on remade content. Although thankfully this is done with different angles and edges making the stories feel fresh, new content seems to be lacking in today’s spotlight. Sometimes it can feel as if we’re all absorbing the same things, over and over again. The top TV series are often based on something else too, Game of Thrones anyone? Spiderman has had three different films series in 15 years, and how many times can we really watch Uncle Ben die just because the industry knows that consumers will often go back to the things they love? Save that man from his Groundhog Day, please, somebody. We need to give stories time to rest before they are refreshed.

Most of these remakes, prequels and sequels are not horrible. Most are actually pretty good, some are brilliant, but it leaves me wondering if people are simply giving up and sticking to their tried and tested ways, or if they are running out of ideas.

There is one place however, that seems to be overflowing with original content; independent publishers. I was not aware of how many, nor how successful these publishers were within the industry before MSc Publishing. Most of the independents I have encountered since September are all dedicated to introducing new viewpoints and stories into our lives, something sorely needed to keep the industry fresh and interesting.

What was also surprising was how these smaller companies are so much more willing to take risks on newer content than the bigger household names are. Well-loved series are great, and often a large source of income (something that was not a surprise), but some of the best sellers that come from publishing are the standalone thrillers. The books that are fresh and new and risky are the ones that stick in the mind, the ones that you can’t stop thinking about long after you’ve finished. Independents are giving a voice to the often ignored, and giving consumers much more choice when it comes to content.

The publishing pool is much larger, deeper, and richer than I ever knew it was. Not just in Edinburgh and London, there are publishers spread across the country if only you know where to look, and now I’ve learnt how to find them. Independents are an exciting part of the publishing world because they are all so closely involved with the content they produce; every job links, and the books become the love of the whole company not just the author. Maybe this is the reason that their part of the storytelling industry is flooding with new content, because they care so much about the stories they tell they are more open to the new stories that have yet to be told.