Hit the North: XpoNorth 2019 preview

XpoNorth returns to Inverness to inspire creatives and offer professional advice

Advertorial by Ben Venables | 10 Jun 2019
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XpoNorth is the place to bring your innovative ideas. Scotland's leading creative industries festival has a reputation for its unique conference, allowing those ambitious to make their way in the cultural sectors learn from experienced professionals. Professionals with inspiring stories to tell and lots of practical advice to offer.

Returning to Inverness for 3-4 July, registration is non-restrictive – you do not have to live in the Highlands and Islands to take part. What's more, it is also entirely free. 

Whatever you want to do in music, broadcast media, publishing or fashion, XpoNorth aims to help your potential become a reality. Even when the possibilities don't seem to belong in this world: in one event this year, a former chief knowledge officer from NASA, Dr Ed Hoffmann, will discuss how NASA became a global brand and tourist attraction rather than only a scientific organisation. 

Kate Davies has a story closer to home. But, one no less compelling. Over the last decade, her business Kate Davies Design has published eleven books and manufactured its own knitwear brands and lines, winning the UK Microbusiness of the Year in 2016. Yet Davies only started her then one-woman business after she suffered a stroke at just 36, bringing an end to her career as a literary academic. Finding a way to support herself in her recovery, Davies brought together her flair for writing and design into the business model. In Lifestyle Choices Non Fiction: Creating Beautiful Illustrated Nonfiction, she is joined by Emily Dewhurst, who founded the specialist food and drink imprint Kitchen Press.

For those interested in narrative non-fiction, Andrew Franklin, managing director of Profile Books, and Angie Crawford, Scottish buyer for Waterstones, answer What’s Selling Now? There are also sessions over the conference on writing and marketing for children, a look at the current state of travel journalism and a talk on influential women in publishing, amongst others.

If you are pursuing your passion for music there's plenty to choose from in XpoNorth's programme. What it takes to create a hit song, and to develop the artist behind it, is not an exact science. In a special keynote Dougie Bruce, who signed Adele to UMPG, will discuss both the business and gut instincts which may propel the next era of global hits.

Other music events go into great practical detail. In Modern Music Entrepreneurs a panel of professionals discuss what you need to know to stay ahead in the contemporary music industry including how to adapt a business model, use data and identify future opportunities. Help Musicians Scotland will discuss career longevity. As a charity who are there for professional musicians of all genres, offering a lifetime of support in times of crisis, illness, and funding for career development, they have much real life experience and cases to draw on to help ensure your career in music is a lengthy one.

For musicians, the XpoNorth Listening Room is an informal listening session where you can showcase your work and gain feedback from industry. More invaluable advice which is easy to overlook when focussing on the creative side can be found in sessions on rights, distribution, pitching, building a successful campaign team and royalties.

Screen junkies meanwhile won't want to miss out In Conversation with Ian Hunter. An Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor, and co-founder and Creative Director of New Deal Studios, he most recently worked on Insterstellar. Hunter has won several VES Awards for his sequences in The Dark Knight, Inception and First Man.

Then there's Jason Lust, a producer whose work has specialised in screen adaptations of children's content. His company Soluble Fish Productions has set up a wide variety of movies, including the recent The History of Tom Thumb. During Lust's previous producing partnership with Animal Logic Entertainment The Lego Movie was made. He also spent seven years as head of Jim Henson Company’s feature film division, building a feature list which included Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio.

DIY innovations in filmmaking are shared by Finnish director Timo Vuorensola. His model of producing films with the help of audience involvement proved successful for his first film Star Wrecks. Expanding the idea further, his second film Iron Sky's sci-fi trailer was downloaded seven million times within three months of appearing at the Berlin Film Festival.

And if you've ever wondered if your screen projects will have a wider impact, there's a discussion on 'The Outlander Effect' and the popular series' role in boosting tourism to Scotland.

There is also good news from Screen Scotland, the organisation tasked with delivering support for all aspects of Scotland's screen sector. An increase in specialists and resources means it can offer more advice, engagement and development in all areas of production, exhibition, distribution, skills and training. Executive director Isabel Davis will lead an open session.

While the cultural industries are sometimes perceived as something metropolitan, for people in cities, XpoNorth goes some way to correcting the misconception. There are several events which focus on how remoter locations offer unique and original angles for stories and also have the potential to reach an often overlooked audience.

For instance, in Re-orientating the Map... the idea that 'minority languages', which make up most of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world, is turned on its head. Furthermore, there are two events on Remote Participation in Cultural Projects, which will show how best to combine your distinctive location – your great asset – with technology such as live streaming to a seemingly limitless audience.

After all, global brands have started as unknown podcasts, videos and live streams. And this subject is covered in Establishing Your Content Kingdom, featuring two speakers from YouTube, and presents case studies charting the progress of DIY outfits which now dominate world markets.

Another event which complements this theme is the DIY Marketing Toolbox, offering effective advice for independent artists and labels to market releases and the best practices for digital campaigns.

For those working in fashion, crafts and textiles there's opportunities to look at international markets and networks. If preparing for Paris and Japan, the Exploring International Fashion Markets is a fashion workshop with a focus on accessories. And the Circumpolar Crafters Network session looks at the multi-dimensional collaboration organised by the Government of Nunavut involving makers from Scotland, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Sami and Norway.

Whatever your creative passion, Skills Development Scotland are also on hand to showcase the range of programmes they deliver and give information on how they can support young creatives. They are holding an interactive session which offers practical advice on routes into the industry. Moreover, in Meet The Support Agencies participants can learn from representatives of regional and national organisations on how to access support to bring creative ideas to life, such as securing funding to develop your business and gain a valuable insight into current programmes which offer support. 

XpoNorth, Inverness, 3-4 Jul, free – register for your free delegate pass here