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My Job in 5: Sarah-Jane Roberts

Sarah-Jane Roberts tells us about her role as Co-director at Manchester Literature Festival.
Written on 07/13/2018 - 09:43

Describe your role.
I’ve been co-director at Manchester Literature Festival for the past three years. My role involves curating and programming events, commissioning new work, meeting and looking after authors, liasing with publishers and agents, researching and brainstorming ideas, initiating and building meaningful partnerships, working with venues and other literary organisations, overseeing the graphic design and branding for each festival and reading lots.

What do enjoy about your role?
I’m lucky to work as part of a wonderful team of women who are passionate about literature and spoken word. The joy comes from developing ideas into events and commissioning authors to create work especially for us. I also love the festival itself; there’s usually a great buzz in the city weeks beforehand, and the two weeks of the festival are always immense fun.

What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just established a new partnership with Penguin Pride so have been working on the line-up for the first Penguin Pride Manchester event on 23rd August. We’re also working on a special project that celebrates different areas of Manchester and encourages more people to read and write now that we’re a UNESCO City of Literature.

What skills do you need for your role?
Patience, intuition and the ability to multitask and stay calm under pressure. You also need to be a creative thinker and find different ways of doing things. There’s a wealth of literature festivals across the country, so the challenge is to make sure Manchester Literature Festival is unique and that each programme has special events and commissions you wouldn’t see at other festivals. We want audiences to feel engaged, entertained, inspired and challenged.

What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
Working on festivals is exhausting work but it’s also incredibly exciting and exhilarating. Go to as many festivals as you can. Be adventurous and book tickets to see authors you aren’t familiar with, think about the events you enjoyed and what made them different, think about the format and every aspect, from the host to how long the events last, and get experience as a volunteer or event manager.