A huge thanks to Sarah over at #BookOnTheBrightSide for inviting me to take part in the Morecambe & Vice Blog Tour. Opening up the tour, today I’m going to be shining the light on Bob McDevitt, Bloody Scotland Director, who is appearing on the #FestivalOfFestivals panel on Sunday 29th September, where he will be in conversation with Quentin Bates, Dr Jacky Collins, SJ Bradley and Ben Cooper- Muir talking about what led them to take part in the madness that is organising book festivals. I’m so gutted that I am going to miss this!
Morecambe & Vice made its sparkling debut, in 2017, at the glorious Morecambe Winter Gardens. Described as a weekend ‘full of warmth, wit and wisdom’, authors, speakers and guests from across the globe flocked to the sunny seaside for a weekend filled with criminal shenanigans.
Now, in 2019 they are back for their third year running! This year the North West’s quirkiest crime-writing festival will be bigger and better than ever before!
This year, the theme for Morecambe & Vice is (rather fittingly!)‘Bring Me Sunshine’. They will be shining a bright positive light on the world of crime fiction, filling the festival with tales of inspiration, overcoming hardships and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when good things happen!
So, who is Bob McDevitt?
Bob McDevitt is a Glasgow based photographer, who focuses on taking photographs of people including professional headshots, family portraits and weddings. Among his work you’re likely to see photographs relating to his other passions: the stage and books.
In his spare time Bob has acting in musical theatre but mainly, for over twenty years, he has been steeped in the world of books and literature. Despite gaining a degree in Biology and going on to train as a teacher, after graduating Bob started working at Waterstones in Edinburgh – immediately he was captivated by the world of literature.
He has worked both in publishing and book selling and when he moved to work at Waterstones in Glasgow he soon found himself responsible for events. Since then he has gone on to work as Festival Programmer at various prestigious literary festivals in Scotland including, Winter Words Festival at Pitlochry, Dundee Literary Festival and Aye Write! – Glasgow’s Book Festival. And of course, he is the man behind Bloody Scotland, the top crime writing festival in Scotland.
And more recently, Bob published his own book 101 Men in Kilts where he brings together men from all walks of life, including bus drivers, engineers, barbers and doctors in a year-long photographic project. Shot in the picturesque lochs, islands, city streets and stately homes of Scotland, the book celebrates the winning combination of a handsome man and a kilt!
Excerpts from my interview with Bob in 2017:
My career began as a Bookseller for Waterstones in the early 1990s, firstly in Edinburgh before moving through to Glasgow. I gradually took on the role of Events Organiser and this was something that I thoroughly enjoyed, from organising bookstore signings and meeting the authors to organising the bigger events in venues such as the Concert Halls and the Armadillo. I then moved into the publishing world with Headline as a sales rep in Scotland before moving down to London where I became Accounts Manager. Here I was responsible for WHSmith, Waterstones, and Amazon (at that point Amazon had a much smaller profile than it does now). I became homesick for Scotland and in 2004 moved back North of the Border where I worked for Ottakars before moving back to Headline as a publisher. In 2011 I was made redundant and this presented a new opportunity in my career. I began working with Dundee Literary Festival, Pitlochry Winter Words, Aye Write and last year became the Festival Director for Bloody Scotland when Dom Hastings stood down. So there you have my potted career history over the last 25 years or so!
How much pressure do you feel being the “man at the top” of all three festivals?
To be honest I don’t feel under pressure with each festival, in terms of timing, dovetailing into each other. Bloody Scotland has a very active Board and a great team working behind the scenes to provide ongoing support. I suppose Aye Write is more of “my gig” as the programming committee have more of an advisory role than hands on approach. It is also backed by Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life who offer technical and media support. Here I have a greater control over the festival programme whereas at Bloody Scotland I’m involved in everything from venue and accommodation organising to the management of audio visuals and social media. The pressure is there in terms of working to a timetable but I don’t feel isolated in what I do with a great team of support across all three festivals.
In the run up to Bloody Scotland, what’s a typical day in your life?
There is no such thing as a typical day! Obviously, the pace is very much dictated by priorities, starting off with the programme planning which is then followed by the production of the programme. We then move onto our launches in both Stirling and London before the focus falls on the McIlvanney prize with scores for the longlisted books collated before being sent off to the judges. I’m also involved in arranging venues and accommodation for authors, agents and publicists so it is really all systems go from day one! Although the programme is launched on the 1st of June and the festival doesn’t start until September those months fly in and priorities change as the event moves closer.
Literary Festivals are becoming increasingly popular – why the increase in their popularity?
I think that people like the experience of being in the room with other people experiencing the same thing as they are and with something like Bloody Scotland where you have a genre that people are really passionate about they relish the opportunity to get together with others with the same passion. Crime fiction, in particular, has always been a popular genre and the festival experience adds to the popularity. In general Crime writers are pretty decent people, they are accessible to the readers and those attending Bloody Scotland know that they are going to get that unfettered access to their favourite authors; they can go into the pub and know that Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Lin Anderson are going to be sitting in there like everyone else and that they are happy to chat with fans, sign books and answer questions.
The other string to your bow is photography and I know you do author promotional pictures – who was your most intriguing subject?
Yes in my spare time (what spare time he laughs) I am a photographer and I really like to photograph people whether as professional headshots for authors, theatre photography or family events. My love of photography stemmed from my interest in Theatre, in fact, tomorrow I am going to photograph 9-5 at the Citizen’s Theatre. It is very much a switch off from the world of books and it is my chance to be creative. Festivals are about facilitating creative people but my photography is about nurturing my creativity.
My most intriguing subject, and indeed one of my favourite photographs is of William McIlvanney (below) taken at Dundee Literary Festival. William was starting to look at little older at this point and his health hadn’t been that great but he still had the most amazing piercing eyes and was an incredibly handsome man. It is one of my favourite pictures and I am glad to have had that opportunity before he sadly passed away.
If you are heading to Morecambe & Vice, I’d highly recommend going along to this panel. It will be a fascinating insight into all the work that goes on behind the scenes of some of your favourite crime writing festivals!
You can follow Bob:
For more information about Morecambe & Vice and this year’s programme then check out their website here
Check out all the other stops on the tour below: