Visiting speakers

Saltire Society Publisher of the Year

August 24th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Publisher of the Year
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Yesterday at the Publishing Scotland reception at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the winner of the inaugural Saltire Society Publisher of the Year award was made to Saraband Books by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. Our Director, Professor Claire Squires, was one of the judges for the award.

The judges said Saraband, a small Glasgow-based publisher run by Sara Hunt, ‘is a company that has shown shrewd and strategic business thinking in a shifting context. They are collaborative, innovative and are distinguished by fresh thinking in their use of digital technology. Their move to new approaches still has the interest of authors at its heart.’

Floris Books of Edinburgh was also commended for its work in publishing children’s books. The full shortlist also included BackPage Press, Barrington Stoke, Edinburgh University Press, and Freight Books. The award is administered by the Saltire Society, with support from Creative Scotland and Publishing Scotland. Further details of the award were reported by The Bookseller.

Over the past year we have had students interning at both Saraband and Floris Books, as well as some of the other shortlisted publishers. We are also very pleased that Sara Hunt will be coming in to speak to our students in the forthcoming semester.


Gaelic Publishing in the 21st Century: a Lecture by John Storey

May 11th, 2013 by Amanda Losonsky | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Gaelic Publishing in the 21st Century: a Lecture by John Storey
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Amanda Losonsky reports on John Storey’s visiting speaker session:

On 11 April, John Storey of the Gaelic Books Council, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean, came and spoke to the publishing students at the University of Stirling. His topic of discussion: Gaelic publishing and publishing in the 21st century.

In the country of the language’s birth, Gaelic is currently a minoritized language, meaning that it still isn’t widely spoken. In 2011, only 1.9% of the population have some ability in Gaelic while 0.9% can read the language, a percentage that has gone up since 1991. Yet despite these low numbers, there is a worldwide interest in the Gaelic language, with supporters and learners from countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

Because there exist so many who are interested in the language, Gaelic publishers must ensure their content will be well-received by many different markets; they cannot solely be thinking in terms of Scotland. Otherwise put, Gaelic publishers must follow and adhere to the principles that Storey termed as “The Beiber Effect”, which simply means “it must be cool”.

The Gaelic Books Council exists not as a publisher of Gaelic pieces, but as a council that supports and offers aid to those who wish to write and publish in the language. Their main aim is to build a capacity within the Gaelic publishing industry. They do everything from identify and support Gaelic authors, commission new pieces, develop content, market and design—all with just five staff members! In addition, the Council covers not only Scotland’s interest in the language, but overseas as well. In a world where Gaelic is so often overlooked and forgotten, it is the Gaelic Books Council’s job to remind people of the language’s presence and significance.

There have been a number of developments and innovations within the market in the past few years. In the 20th century, Gaelic publishing focused primarily on poetry, yet the 21st century saw the rise of “Gaelic punks”. Since then, freedom of expression has continued to grow within the Gaelic market. In April 2013, the very first Gaelic Science Fiction novel written by Tim Armstrong was published by CLÀR, which shows the versatility of the Gaelic market. There have also been a number of translations of well-known English titles into Gaelic as well. Some of these include: “Peter Rabbit”, “The Gruffalo”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “MacBeth”.

But Storey states that one of the most important developments for the Gaelic language is Ur-Sgeul. Started in 2003, Ur-Sgeul promotes new Gaelic fiction and also established opportunities for new writers. It encourages new Gaelic writers, as well as a new generation of authors. There have also been collaborations with musicians as well. In addition, Ur-Sgeul also had the first ever German-Gaelic collaboration as well. Ur-Sgeul really helped set the bar in terms of the quality of writing.

Yet there also exist a number of complications within the Gaelic publishing market. One of the biggest issues is that the market itself is quite fragile. While there do exist a few Gaelic publishers, such as Acair, CLÀR, Leabhraichean Beaga, Scottish Gaelic Texts Societ, and Padua, the market for Gaelic books is currently small, which makes it difficult to be profitable.

In addition, the quality of content can also present a problem for the market as well. Because the market is small, there is always a struggle to find quality Gaelic writing, which raises a number of questions and dilemmas for Gaelic market. How do you afford Gaelic authors freedom while still maintaining standards? What role does a publishers play in this issue? How do you discourage Gaelic authors from running to Amazon?

Speaking of Amazon, another issue is the limited avenues for minority languages to sell their products. Amazon still discriminates against minority languages, as was seen recently with Amazon’s lack of support for Welsh pieces on Kindle readers. The most recent statistics taken for the Gaelic market regarding ereaders showed that only 16% of Gaelic readers were interested in ereading, however, these statistics were taken in 2010 and current demands hint to the fact that these numbers have increased. With lacking support from such a well-known source like Amazon, how can Gaelic push its way into the digital marketplace? Or can Gaelic forge a digital path for itself without Amazon’s support?

And, of course, with 2014 approaching and a big decision on Scotland’s independence to be made, what will come of Gaelic publishing in the future? No matter what the outcome of the referendum, a New Scotland is on the horizon, and with it comes a new future for Gaelic and publishing.

It’s an important time for Gaelic publishing, Storey concludes, but this is just a crossroads. The 21st century affects Gaelic publishing just as much as it affects English publishing, but it also invites a mix of its own problems as well. Gaelic publishers must offer added value in their products. They need to be innovative in their approach to present content. They need to understand the brand and have strong imaginative interaction with audiences, but there are many opportunities available to make the market stronger.

In collaboration with the Gaelic Books Council, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication is offering a fully-funded scholarship for a Scottish Gaelic language student. Full details are available here.

Visiting Speaker – Alastair Horne

May 2nd, 2013 by Laura Jones | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker – Alastair Horne
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Alastair Horne‘s visit to Stirling on March 28th was much anticipated on Twitter, with talks the night before of red carpets and royal carriages on the 8:30am Edinburgh to Stirling train which students and tutors alike frequent to make the 10am start. Those of us lucky enough to take the Digital Process & Product module had a double dose of Alastair as he taught a class on digital start-up business models before taking up his position as visiting speaker at 2pm.

So as to avoid spilling the beans of our innovative, game changing business models (well, we hope) I will focus on Alastair’s visiting talk on the wonders of social media. Alastair himself has 10 years of experience in publishing, is the social media and communities manager at Cambridge University Press ELT with a personal Twitter account of 3.6k+ followers, a professional global Twitter account, a Facebook page for CUP ELT with 33k likes, fortnightly webinars… I could go on. Let’s just say Alastair knows what he’s talking about when it comes to social media.

His emphasis rested on building relationships with readers. Publishers need to let readers in, let them peek behind the curtain and feel part of the process. As the talk inevitably turned to Amazon, Alastair highlighted that their relationship with publishers is no longer mutually beneficial considering Amazon refuses to share stats and data. For this reason, publishers need to battle Amazon for reader loyalty. Nurturing a genuine relationship with readers is the best chance publishers have at reducing Amazon’s suffocating monopoly.

So, how does one go about shaping these vital relationships? Alastair offers two options.

1. Go to where the readers and conversations already reside and partake.
2. Create a new platform to start conversations and entice readers in. This option means not having to rely on a third party, particularly important if the conversation is, say, on Goodreads which is suddenly obtained by Amazon.* The rewards are greater for this harder option as Alastair pointed out that it took one year for CUP ELT to blossom from idea to actuality.

For publishers specifically, they need to learn to use social media effectively and to their advantage, for these 5 reasons.

1. Search visibility – Facebook Group graphs can offer great data about who is finding your page and how. Google+ brings together the social and the search by providing personalised search results through network lists.
2. Marketing – publishers must be stealthy with marketing and not post too many hard sales.
3. Customer support – Twitter can offer immediate customer support, turn a negative into a positive should someone be able to fix a problem quickly and efficiently.
4. Market research – where Goodreads was recommended as a valuable site for research.
5. Building relationships – the most important element. Trust must be built over time so publishers become part of readers’ lives. This kind of investment is long term and many publishers are too impatient to invest, especially as it’s time consuming and impossible to measure the direct effect.

And because Alastair loves a good list (who doesn’t?!) he also provided 12 suggestions for social media success.

1. Find home – you don’t need to be on every social media platform, find a platform that works best for your needs and make yourself at home.
2. Be regular – post daily on Facebook, 5x or more on Twitter, not too much, not too little. Spread out those posts.
3. Be prompt and responsive – you’re not a broadcasting station, engage with your readers, know when someone has mentioned you and don’t rely on scheduled tweets, you run the risk of looking mechanic and less human. Keep track of what your audience is discussing.
4. Involve the whole team – not just marketing, get everyone on board who is active and enthusiastic on social media, also get authors involved.
5. Share enthusiasm – let your audience know you’re excited about books. Let them see behind the scenes, the production, it can generate some very real excitement.
6. Involve the audience – get to know who shares and reads your content, make them feel valuable.
7. Encourage sharing – make it easy for your readers to share your content, create content that people will want to share.
8. Curation – you’re not the only source of good content, share other people’s content and involve the network you’re using. Add value by offering your voice to a retweet, don’t just mechanically RT something you find interesting, comment on it.
9. You’re a person – no one wants to talk to a corporation, introduce the team and open yourself up to your readers.
10. Re-purpose content – alter content for different platforms, make it applicable over the networks you’re using.
11. Take the conversation elsewhere – as above, don’t rely on those third parties.
12. Work out what’s working – all about analytics and tracking people. If it’s broke, fix it!

And so ends a crash course in social media. I was greatly encouraged by Alastair’s enthusiasm towards social media and the opportunities it can create for publishers, should they learn to use it to their advantage. I fully agree that publishers can’t create meaningful relationships with their readers fast enough. The sooner the better. Alastair was a fantastic guest and continues to be a fantastic presence on Twitter as he tweets valuable content from afar keeping true to his own advice.

*The day ended on a sour note as Amazon acquired Goodreads only hours after Alastair completed his talk, part of it recommending Goodreads as a valuable area of reader data and relationships for publishers. The irony was not lost.

Laura Jones (cross posted to

Publishing Showcase 2013

April 24th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Showcase 2013
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It’s already the end of another year!

Only a moment ago, our 2012-13 cohort of students were fresh-faced and eager to embark on their publishing studies.

Now, they may be a little more tired, and both excited and intimidated by the job search ahead, but more than anything they’re much more publishing savvy.

We’re celebrating their achievements on Thursday 2 May by showcasing their work from the Publishing Project. There also be invited guests from our Industry Advisory Board speaking on a panel on the state of the publishing industry.

You are welcome to join us – please let us know if you’d like to come so we have an idea of numbers.

3.15-4.45 Industry Advisory Board panel discussion (including Katy Lockwood-Holmes of Floris, Adrian Searle of Freight Books, Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland, Christoph Chesher of Taylor & Francis). Pathfoot B2

5pm onwards Publishing Showcase and Drinks Reception. Pathfoot Crush Hall.




February 19th, 2013 by Frances_Sessford | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on VISITING SPEAKERS FOR SEMESTER 2, 2012-13
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The Centre’s Visiting Speakers programme for this semester presents a broad mix of academic and industry experience. All sessions are held at 2pm in Pathfoot B2. Attendance is free but there is limited space so please register via to book a place.

The series begins on Thursday February 21 with an academic perspective from John Maxwell, lecturer in Publishing at Simon Fraser University in Canada. This is followed on February 28 by Emma House of The Publishers’ Association, the representative body of the UK publishing trade. Two small independent publishers based in Scotland follow: Mark Buckland of Cargo Publishing  in Glasgow (March 7) and Eleanor Collins and Helena Waldron from Floris Books  in Edinburgh (March 14). On March 21, John Seaton, Inventory Manager at Canongate Books will talk about what’s involved in good backlist management, while March 28 hosts Alastair Horne, Social Media and Communities Manager at Cambridge University Press, who will focus on digital publishing.

After the mid-semester break, on April 11 we welcome John Storey, Head of Literature and Publishing at the Gaelic Books Council. Another independent publisher, Vanessa Robertson of Fidra Books will speak on April 18, followed by the final session on April 25 with Timothy Wright, Publisher at Edinburgh University Press.

“Small publishers and start-ups have lots of opportunities right now!”

April 27th, 2012 by Kate_McNamara | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on “Small publishers and start-ups have lots of opportunities right now!”
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The Publishing Studies Visiting Speaker series went out on a high with a visit from Sara Hunt of Saraband. The perfect blend of information, optimism and advice, this was a fitting end to our course. At a time when much of the publishing industry are wringing their hands and quaking at digital advancements and social media marketing, Sara Hunt is smiling; “Be creative! Have fun!”. And Saraband certainly are. Rather than panicking in the face of change, Saraband have embraced social media and the many hours of work which it demands. “When you get it right,” Sara says, “it’s absolutely time well spent.”

Saraband began experimenting with social media in 2010 in order to promote Making Shore, the debut novel by Sara Allerton. Using a variety of sites they reached out to their customers and to bookgroups to get people talking about the book, and this was a great success. “Go out and do it,” Sara advises.“You can replicate it for all of your subsequent titles, and then it really will be worth while.”

However, it’s not enough to just use social media. You need to set yourself apart from all the multitudes of people and companies who are quickly catching on. Saraband do just that. Between their backwards rendition of Auld Lang Syne for Burns night and their April Fool’s day  blog announcement of whisper audiobooks to lull you to sleep (“the number of people who fell for it just because we used a standard format!”) not only do they not balk at the idea of social media, but they use it inventively, and with a sense of humour.

“If we can do it, you can too!” It’s a far cry from our furrowed brows and worried looks, which have accompanied the final days of our course, and an awful lot more appealing.

As the final minutes of the session ticked away and we began to realise with nervous apprehension that this was our last class, Sara delivered her closing words:

“This is a really brilliant time to be completely can-do…everything boils down to ingenuity, your ideas, and your commitment to working hard to follow things through.”

Saraband’s future is certainly bright, and thanks to the optimism of this final talk, we are more optimistic about the brightness of our own.

– Kate McNamara

The God Complex

December 6th, 2011 by Helen_Lewis-Mcphee | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The God Complex
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My mum’s just finished her book. I don’t mean she’s finished leafing through the latest Dan Brown or Marian Keyes. After months of hard work and hermitic habitude, she has emerged, blinking into the daylight with her brand new manuscript: 80 000 words currently winging their way through cyberspace towards her editor.

And, as if by magic, or miracle, there are all these new people in the world. Claudia, and Aileene, and Lydia, and Jim, and, in his own way, Marius. My mum didn’t just produce my sisters and me, she’s given life to countless characters. And she’s given them lives. With friends, and families, and jobs, and joy, and, often, tragedy.

That’s a pretty scary concept. What does an author do with all this power, all this potential? All these people, all these lives, and there she is, the omnipotent puppet-master, supreme lord of all she’s created. She can breathe life, cure cancer, bring people back from the dead.

But here’s the rub: all of that is just an illusion. There are really no puppets for the master. These characters take the scrap of existence they’ve been given, and they run with it. They make mistakes. They do things they’re not supposed to. They live their lives. And there’s apparently nothing she can do to stop them. All she can do is observe as their stories unfold and their lives unravel.

She cares about them. She worries about them. She cries with their joy, and with their pain. But in the end, she can’t protect them from themselves. All she can do is give them the best start she can, and hope they’ll do her proud with it. Maybe it’s not a God complex. Maybe it’s a Mum complex.

Another author recently said that “Writing a book is just like giving birth.” You live with this embryo of an idea, feeding and nurturing it for months from your very core, until it’s grown big enough and strong enough to survive in the big wide world. She finished by warning of the terrors of publishing: “It’s like handing your baby over to a stranger, who changes its name, puts horrible clothes on it, and leaves it out in the cold to die…”

Helen Lewis-McPhee

Read it. Live it.

December 4th, 2011 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Read it. Live it.
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‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’ – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Black text on white paper has been the format of the book for centuries. The ebook mirrors the same format on a screen with few enhanced versions featuring related multimedia content. Readers must use their imagination to experience the story beyond the text on the page. But what if instead of reading the book, you could live it?

Simon Meek and Tern Digital, a subsidiary of Tern TV, attempted to do just that when they developed a digital extension of their popular children’s show on Channel 4, KNTV, in 2008. The site offered what Simon calls ‘a window into the world behind the show’. featured character profiles, games, videos, and The Potato – ‘State-Approved News and Gossip’ from KNTV’s fictional land of Slabovia. Later, the idea to capitalize on the social networking scene came with the creation of Slabspace, a digital world in which members could enter the world of Slabovia. Slabspace offered Slabovian identities, jobs and a theatrical community to further involve the fans of the television series and website. While the project only lasted 18 months, and Slapspace showed the potential of a television station’s digital department and encouraged Meek’s interest in interactive storytelling through multimedia.

In 2009, the gaming company Quantic Dream released the video game ‘Heavy Rain’, creating an interactive storytelling platform. ‘Heavy Rain’ has four main characters embroiled in a mystery with the central theme ‘How far would you go for the one you love?”. The game’s plot is dictated by the manipulation of the characters by the player. Players can explore their environment, steer dialogue and control the characters during dramatic action scenes. If a character dies as a consequence of the player’s decisions, gameplay will switch to another character’s perspective and the story continues. ‘Heavy Rain’ turned the reader into the writer, taking control of the narrative to shape its conclusion. While the game did better than expected and led to an emphasis in plot and story, Meek admits the constant evolution of the video game development process is often not conducive to good storytelling. So how do you tell a good story and inspire audience interaction?

This is where Digital Adaptations comes in. Digital Adaptions, a new company with Meek as Executive Producer, seeks to transform the storytelling process by creating the entire narrative as a multimedia project. The concept is simple: generate a physical representation of the plot, setting, and characters of a novel and let the audience immerse themselves in the story. Their first project, John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, set for release in 2012, uses details from the novel to build the environment of London in 1914. The reader is given the opportunity to witness the events and follow the plot of the novel through the eyes of Richard Hannay, the main character of the espionage thriller. The player can take time to explore the environment, including Hannay’s personal quarters, constructed through details found in the novel. The dialogue of the novel is recreated using voice actors from the Citizen’s Theatre, recorded as they acted out the book in play form. Digital Adaptations maintains player interaction through the illusion of control; however, unlike ‘Heavy Rain’, the player only controls the character within the bounds of the original plot and completes key events to reach the conclusion.

‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ is built on the idea that a reader desires something beyond the traditional feeling of reading a novel from a page, with Digital Adaptations spear-heading the movement to expand the storytelling experience. Whether they are successful in their venture or not remains to be seen, but the enthusiasm of the class during Meek’s visiting talk bodes well for the project.

Many thanks to both Simon Meek and all of the visiting speakers this semester.

Alicia Rice

Adrian Searle and Freight Books

October 23rd, 2011 by Paola_Gonella | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Adrian Searle and Freight Books
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Our visiting speaker on Thursday 13th October was Adrian Searle, director of Freight Design, an award-winning Scottish creative design and brand development agency based in Glasgow city centre. Founded ten years ago, the company quickly established itself as one of Scotland’s leading design and marketing consultancies.

Adrian gave a very interesting talk about the joys and difficulties of setting up his own publishing company. He explained how he got involved in the business through his design company. In 2001, they decided they would do a self-commissioned project every year and their first undertaking, The Hope that Kills Us, combined two of Adrian’s favourite things, Scottish literature and football. The book, sponsored by Arts&Business Scotland and picked by The Guardian as one of the top 10 best football fictions, brings together eight specially commissioned stories from some of Scotland’s best contemporary writers, with each story examining the participants, experience and emotion that feed the nation’s obsession with football.

Following the critical acclaim received for The Hope that Kills Us, the company decided to embark on another self-commissioned project entitled The Knuckle-End, which featured two pocket-sized hardbacks joined by a fabric hinge, the first one dedicated to a selection of short stories and poems by recent graduates from the Creative Writing Master at University of Glasgow as well as award-winning writers, and the second one dedicated to images and photographs on themes inspired by the title.

A couple of other projects of which Adrian seemed particularly proud are Dougie’s War, a graphic novel by acclaimed novelist and biographer Rodge Glass and artist Dave Turbitt about the legacy of the war in the Middle East and the effects of PTSD on returning veterans, and Gutter, an award-winning, high quality, printed journal for fiction and poetry from writers born or living in Scotland. As Adrian told us, the magazine also proved to be a good way for Freight to make friends with a lot of good writers, which then helped them setting up their own publishing company, Freight Books.

Adrian described the company as small, independent and with a specific interest in both middlebrow commercial and literary fiction. They usually publish 4 or 5 books a year, which range from stunning debuts of writers that may have been published already in Gutter to forgotten classics like All the Little Animals, Walker Hamilton’s un-classifiable first novel that will be republished in June 2012. Their first book, published last September, is Killing the Messenger, the second novel from Christopher Wallace, who won the 1988 Saltire First Book of the Year Award for The Pied Piper’s Poison.

Adrian also announced that The Hope that Kills Us, Dougie’s War and Gutter will be available soon in digital form, thanks to a collaboration with Faber Factory, an initiative that Adrian described as ‘absolutely brilliant’, especially for independent publishers that cannot invest in additional resources for text digitisation.

Stories for a Better Nation

October 13th, 2011 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Stories for a Better Nation
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The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP delivered the Williamson Memorial Lecture at the University of Stirling tonight, speaking to the title ‘A Better Nation? A Personal Reflection on Scotland’s Future’. A central element of his argument was the need for political discourse surrounding Scottish nationhood, and the forthcoming independence debate, to attain a ‘different quality of imagination’.

His words were reminiscent of those spoken by Andrew O’Hagan a couple of weeks earlier, and reported on by MLitt in Publishing Studies student Nuria Ruiz. Books, O’Hagan, argued, make the world more real for us. O’Hagan’s idea, paraphrases Nuria, was ‘that Scottish civic memory actually finds its most forceful expression in the arts – Scottish plays, music, art and books are becoming powerful, punching above their weight in the cultural stakes. In particular, books are playing a bigger role in making the world “more real” for us as Scots.’

Alexander’s speech provided an interesting counterpoint to the O’Hagan’s argument. In a talk peppered with references to Shakespeare, Plato, Burns, William McIlvanney and Alasdair Gray, he made an argument for a politics informed by a pluralistic imagination and underpinned by the principles of common humanity. Democratic politics, he says, have taught him many things, including:

‘that in policy, statistics matter, but in politics, stories matter too. Because stories help shape what is hidden in plain sight all around us – what we judge has meaning, and what we judge doesn’t. And it is through stories that we provoke the feelings of hope that are at the heart of participating in a progressive society – the care, concern, and compassion that has always underpinned the will to act.’

The place of writing – and publishing – in this vision is worth considering further. Nuria ended her blog on Andrew O’Hagan by arguing that Scottish publishing can and should be central, that ‘if Scottish book culture is on the ascendant, then Scottish publishing can become as commanding as the stories it makes and preserves.’ Alexander ended his speech with an appeal to the future: ‘the history of Scotland, written by this generation, can and will be remembered not by the “The End of an Auld Sang” but positively and vibrantly by “The beginning of a New Story”.

The role of writers, artists, musicians, poets – and indeed publishers – should take its place at the heart of this narrative: asking difficult questions, creating new stories, communicating them effectively to a variety of audiences.

The conversation continues…

The full text of Douglas Alexander’s speech is available here.