How would you describe the work that you do?
Basically, it’s all about collaboration. I work with the 12 major festivals in Edinburgh on their joint strategic ambition working across programme investment, international working, marketing, innovation and environmental practice. In order to this, we collaborate in turn with a whole range of creative and funding partners in our city, in Scotland and indeed across the world. It’s a wonderful job that has constantly evolved over the last 8 years.
What do you like best about it?
Keeping great company and the constant, intense learning involved in what still feels like an endless experiment.
What do you consider your best work and why?
There are individual productions and projects I’ve produced or created and of course, there is a visceral thrill in seeing these coming together – which probably has something to do with the fear that comes before. However, I do feel the scale and depth of this work with the festivals and the fact that a lot of our approaches have rolled out into the wider cultural or tourism sectors, has been profoundly satisfying – which probably has something to do with the fact that it is so bloody challenging getting to that collaborative sweet spot.
What was your first ever job?
My first job was in a bar and my first job in the arts was in a bar, the Traverse Theatre when it was still in the Grassmarket.
What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Well, weirdly it might have been that one. When I was working in the Traverse Bar, the job of Marketing Manager came up and I wrote cheeky letter to Ian Brown and Ann Bonnar who were running the theatre at the time and said I wasn’t really a bar person but a market research wiz and that, working on the front line, I knew more about their audiences than they did. They interviewed me and it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life but it got me noticed and when the Box Office Manager job came up, Katie Stuart (currently with the FST) offered me the job. She didn’t even ask if I could count! It was my entry into the professional world of the arts, my life’s work and the friendships that continue to sustain me.
What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
Do you know, I’m mostly with Edith Piaf on that one. I tend to be very clear about what I need and want and focused in pursuing these. However, I have fallen in love with Brazil and Brazilians later in life and think I would have moved there if that coup de foudre had happened in my early 30s, but I have very precious friendships and have had some wonderful adventures there. I could say a lot more about the things I shouldn’t have pursued!
What’s your favourite play or piece of theatre?
I was talking about this with a colleague just the other week and we both agreed that Robert Lepage’s Dragon Trilogy at the Tramway was a transformational theatrical moment for both of us, that it bound us permanently and passionately to the world of theatre as audiences and professionals.
What do you like the best about working in the arts?
Being the privileged witness to that first moment of encounter between the art and the audience, be it a play, a dance piece, an exhibition, a film premier, a musical commission or newborn song. To feel, the pride, the curiosity, the fear and the anticipation invested in that moment and the sense that what we are doing matters even if it doesn’t always work out.
What advice would you give emerging female practitioners in the arts today?
What can I say? I’m still learning but I reflect a lot on the value of what I do with my colleagues and indeed on how to do it. I laugh a lot too. As a woman working in the arts I think you have to develop complex combinations of attitude or artistry – for example integrity of purpose and steeliness of will, expansiveness of mind and intensive attention to detail. Most important though, is learning how to sit in complexity of all kinds, until the right idea evolves. I think women are good at that, at avoiding the orthodoxies and looking for the real answer not the right one.
Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
You’ve featured some of the Stellar Quines in my life already and I work and have fun with some truly wonderful women. Can I give a collaborative answer and nominate the four stellar festival directors/Executive Directors I work with – Kath Mainland, Joanna Baker, Sorcha Carey and Julie Weston. I learn from and relish them all.
Faith Liddell was recently awarded an OBE for Services to the Arts in the New Years Honours List 2015.