Hi Ian, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and what your job involves?
I do three things. One: I’m the events and marketing officer for the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, which is the estate of the A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess. As well as being an educational charity, the Burgess Foundation is a venue dedicated to live literature, which I run under my real name of Ian Carrington. Two: I also write and perform. I host Bad Language in Manchester, and I’ve just debuted my new comedy show Seven Inch at The Lowry in Salford which is set inside a 3D cartoon. And three: Journalism. I’m well into bleepy music, and I write a monthly column for a magazine called Electronic Sound.
You've got your hand in lots of arts career jobs then! What’s great about your job/s?
A few years ago, my hobbies were: putting on events, performing on stage, and writing about music. Those three hobbies are now my job, so I feel stupidly lucky. The only thing missing is getting paid a million dollars to publish my short stories, maybe in a special single edition like the Wu Tang Clan.
Also, I work in a beautiful brick-walled Victorian mill in Manchester, and sometimes when you put your ear to the wall, you can hear the past’s distant machinery. It’s probably just the air vents getting clogged with pigeon feathers, but it’s nice to pretend.
What work do you do with young people?
It’s mainly 18-plus, to be honest. Anthony Burgess grew up in Manchester, so the Foundation has strong local educational links and we have quite a few undergrads and PhD students using our venue. My performance stuff might be a bit too weird for younger children, although recently I had a bunch of Salford teenagers turn up to a gig and they seemed to love every minute.
Oh and once in Bury, a bunch of ten-year-olds kept heckling me by shouting the word “dogs”.
What bits don’t you like about your job?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sorry, that’s very rude. Thanks for the question, but I love what I do, so it seems strange to think of something I don’t like. I suppose I don’t get that many days off. At the Foundation, we have a small team and so resources can become stretched, especially if someone’s off ill. Performing and writing can be quite solitary, and if I’m neck-deep in deadlines, my social life can suffer.
But these are small quibbles, like going to a planet made from entirely from desserts and complaining that there are more white sprinkles than red sprinkles in the hundreds-and-thousands.
What would you say are the highlights of your career to date?
If Davina McCall said “let’s have a look at your best bits”, the montage would mostly include other people: really witty audience heckles, astonishing creativity from my stage manager, seeing young performers grow in confidence, the superb people I work with on a day-to-day basis. Is Davina McCall still on television? I have no idea.
I think she is! How did you get into an arts job and have you also worked outside the arts?
I got into the arts from meeting the right people and showing an interest in what they did. I used to be in bookselling for a long time, and bookselling is a great gateway into arts careers because you get to know all sorts of creative people.
I did once work totally outside the arts for about two months in 1991. I was a filing assistant in a court. When a guy sues his neighbour about an overgrown hedge, and that neighbour counter-sues because the guy’s shed is the wrong shade of puce, that creates a lot of paperwork – which needs filing. I used to hide amid the filing cabinets reading everyone’s petty legal cases, imagining all these amazing short stories in my head. I didn’t do much work. They fired me, obviously.
What's the biggest challenge in your career to date which you've managed to overcome?
I’m quite impatient, so steering my career into a full-time arts thing was challenging. There was a turning point a couple of years ago when I had to say to myself: “Right – I’m getting paid for arts stuff now.” I had to decide how much I was worth, which is difficult when I’ve got the natural self-esteem of a blue whale in a ballet competition.
Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to believe you can do something and you… well… just do it.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Fake confidence. Fake professionalism. Fake both of these until you gain actual confidence and professionalism. Study the techniques and habits of people you admire. Decide what’s unique about you, and if you’re a small fish in a big pond, work out a way to get noticed. And if you feel you’re not ready for the next challenge? That’s probably the exact moment when you’re ready.
Where can we find out more about you and the work you do?
- The Anthony Burgess Foundation - www.anthonyburgess.org
- Bad Language Manchester - badlanguagemcr.com
- My comedy show Seven Inch - www.thelowry.com/events/week-53-seven-inch
- Follow me on Twitter - @FatRoland
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