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Speechwriter becomes the speaker at international conference

12 November 2018 @TeesUniNews

 

Alison Reid, Culture Policy and Development Officer at MIMA and Teesside University graduate, has spoken about her experience of speechwriting at an international conference in Finland.

Alison Reid at the European Speechwriter Network conference, Helsinki
Alison Reid at the European Speechwriter Network conference, Helsinki

The European Speechwriter Network’s autumn conference took place at House of the Estates in Helsinki from 11 to 12 October 2018. The Network brings together international communicators to promote the profession of speechwriting and provides a forum where speechwriters can raise their profile, share experience and improve the quality of their work.

Alison, who recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, was invited to speak at the conference by Brian Jenner, co-ordinator of the European Speechwriter Network.

As a freelance speechwriter, Alison has significant experience of writing for parliament, including for former General Secretary of the Labour Party and former Teesside University Chancellor, Lord Sawyer. She spoke about her personal perspective on becoming a speechwriter, as well as her parliamentary work.

Alison said: 'Although I had worked as a speechwriter for some time, as with many speechwriters, I was self-taught. It is very difficult to find training in this field, but in 2015 I came across the European Speechwriter’s Network and received mentoring for a year.

'I started attending the European conferences and I was thrilled when Brian Jenner asked me to speak at this autumn’s conference in Helsinki. Finland doesn’t have much of a tradition of political speaking – it’s very different to the likes of the United States where we are used to seeing big political speeches and rallies.'

Alongside Alison, several high-profile figures presented at the conference, including: Alexander Stubb (former Prime Minster of Finland), Dan Sobovitz (European Commission), Thomas Hart (Dutch Minister of Economics and Climate), Dr Max Atkinson (author), Alexei Kapterev (presentation expert) and Anthony Lichi (speechwriter to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe).

Alison added: 'Academics are working to get speechwriters acknowledged for their work and want to get the profession realised – there is a lot of skill and technique in speechwriting. A lot of writing training is focused on prose, but there is a clear difference between the written word and writing for speaking.

Academics are working to get speechwriters acknowledged for their work and want to get the profession realised – there is a lot of skill and technique in speechwriting.

Alison Reid, Culture Policy and Development Officer

'Speechwriting is also a very collaborative process, which often people don’t realise. You need to work closely with the person you are writing the speech for and they ultimately have the final say.'

Brian Jenner, co-ordinator of the European Speechwriter Network, said: 'The European Speechwriter Network recently hosted their 17th conference in Helsinki in Finland. Our organisation brings speechwriters together from across Europe to share expertise.

'Among the speakers in Helsinki was Alison Reid. Alison described the peculiar path that led her to do our peculiar job and described the ‘magic’ she has to work. We appreciated Alison’s humour and perspective on speechwriting. She is a great advocate for our much-misunderstood work.'

While studying the MA Creative Writing at Teesside, Alison opted to produce a non-fiction body of work, rather than writing fiction. As she studied through online distance learning, she was able to find the flexibility to work around her busy role at the University.

Dr Sophie Nicholls, Head of Department (Humanities) and Programme Leader for MA Creative Writing (Distance Learning), said: “It was a privilege to work with Alison who studied on our MA Creative Writing (Distance Learning) course. Alison is a very talented writer of creative non-fiction and it’s wonderful to see her work finding new audiences.

'A real strength of the online distance learning programme is that it enables students to work flexibly alongside employment or other commitments. Ali’s professional interest in speech writing meant that she brought a new and very original dimension to her study – and she’s now putting this into practice in an international context. We’re delighted to see her success.'


 
 
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