Fri 14 August 2020
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Through the Door
Fresh out of University, Conor Whelan blogs about his experiences as an intern for Ilkley Festival and beyond

Having graduated this summer, it’s been good to be making things happen, and getting outside the student bubble. Performing a poetry set at 2009 Ilkley Fringe for The Scribe was one of the highlights of Uni. Now I am enjoying being part of a team providing some fantastic events. Much of what I have been doing could be called marketing, which always sounded like a slimy word to me. Now I realise everyone has something to sell, from bog roll to poetry, and what counts is that you are proud of what you’re asking people to part with their money for. And I am, immensely. There are some fantastic names that will be a treat to see, such as Simon Armitage, dub poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Scottish Macar Liz Lochhead, and punk legend John Cooper Clarke. The Poetry Business’ 25th with Ian McMillan will be a personal highlight, and having them also doing a Fringe reading, with Ed Reiss in the line-up, is a bit of coup. Other events shake things up a bit – I can’t wait for the Poetry Banquet at Panache, an Indian restaurant I’ve been ogling for some time. The Multilingual Mushaira will introduce me to an Islamic poetry tradition. Marketing these has simply been a matter of sharing my excitement.

You couldn’t really ask for a better setting than the one in which I’ve been working: looking from my desk to the moors; having lunch on a rock by the river and popping out the odd poem; commuting through Wharfdale. Admin is improved by the staff – when I had a load of photocopying, I was given a new poetry book to pass the time.

I saw a play recently called Through the Door that included a character who was depressed that their day consisted of spreadsheets and meetings. I have been lucky to meet the people behind my spreadsheets, bringing them to life. Yesterday we had the Fringe Briefing, and I met performers and organizers from the different events. They were a great bunch, and it was good to hear the stories behind what they were doing, such as how the Emma Decent’s work had been affected by a secret that came out after her father’s death. Now these people’s names jump off the screen, and I am happy to do mail outs letting people know what a strong Fringe we have.

However, all this talking about it is getting a little frustrating, and I’m glad that it kicks off at the end of the month with Simon Armitage’s reading. Hearing authors and meeting audiences while Stage Managing will be fantastic, as that’s what it was all for.

Ilkley Literature Festival runs from the 30th September to the 16th October.