May 20, 2016, by Words on Words

Life as an Intern: Derby Book Festival

This blog post was written by final year English student, Sophia Harris.

I’m currently in the final year of my English degree, in the midst of writing the last essays I will ever compose, teaching at a primary school and, resisting the urge to plan a sunny holiday, I am an intern at Derby Book Festival. I got the placement after being sent an email from the School of English with the words ‘Children’s book trail organiser’ emblazoned in the subject line – as a shameless hoarder of old editions of Alice in Wonderland this was a job that dreams were made of. I envisioned hours spent rereading favourite books from my childhood, attending literary events galore, working with children in the local community, and slightly less appealing stints of tea making; naturally I had to apply.

Derby Book Festival

Photo courtesy of Derby Book Festival

After being lucky enough to secure my internship with one of my closest course friends, Izzy, I realised that getting work experience is nowhere near as daunting as you think it will be when you are genuinely enthusiastic about your potential job. My interview involved chatting about my favourite children’s books, quizzing Derby Book Festival founders, Jenny Denton and Sian Hoyle, on what founding a successful book festival with over 10,000 participants is really like, and presenting our own ideas for the book trail. We both left the interview excited, laughing, and with reams of plans for the event – and when we got our placement we felt well prepared.

By the end of my first day I was one of the organising group rather than ‘just an intern’ – I had helped compose an email to Philip Pullman and tea making was a far cry from the actual job.

Jenny, Sian, and the rest of the team really make the internship what it is – their drive, passion, and love of reading is infectious, and the responsibility they have consistently given us has made us both more confident, creative, and resourceful.

Derby Book Festival

Photo courtesy of Derby Book Festival

So what is the trail all about? The children’s book trail will include the likes of Harry Potter, The BFG, and Horrid Henry: each child is given a quiz sheet with the name of some of their favourite characters. They simply have to spot them in the shop windows of the stores involved for a chance to win special (currently top-secret) prizes. It’s such a fun event that puts adventure back into reading – I am very likely to have a go myself.

A typical day setting up the trail involves stopping by a few of the 37 businesses we are responsible for, which means networking, checking that they are aware of any expectations for our children’s event, and making sure they are in the loop with recent updates. Our day might also include writing press releases for our book trail launch, drawing up concept designs for our children’s illustration-themed window displays, creating a design brief for marketing materials, catching up with the rest of the team, and sourcing all the children’s books we can get our hands on. Less typical days include a BBC radio appearance (which is coming up soon), smiling ear to ear upon hearing the positive impact on the community the festival is having, and planning my Cat in the Hat launch day fancy dress (I’m far too excited about this for a 22 year old!).

If you are thinking of doing a placement with the School of English my advice is to find one you are really keen on and apply. Do it now. Don’t expect everything to go to plan, and definitely don’t assume you’ll be on tea making duty all day, but do give it your all and be enthusiastic from the get go – it will be one of the best things you do at university.

The Children’s Book Trail launches on 27th May on Sadler Gate in Derby city centre from 11am.

Find out more about Derby Book Festival and peruse our wonderful literary events on sale by clicking here!

Sophia Harris

Posted in Student Words