How to be a UK Festivals & Events Specialist

Jennifer McDermott
Mar 22, 2015 · 5 min read

This post originally featured on KQ Magazine, which I co-ran

At KQ we’re on a mission. A mission to bring you the inspiration, industry tips and low-down you need to motivate your career. Need a change? We’re here for you. Feel like there’s something missing in your job? We’re here for you. We’ve been speaking to those in desirable, interesting and creative industries so you don’t have to. This week, I’d like to introduce you to Dr Roxy Robinson, a UK Festivals and Events Specialist and Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University.

Dr Robinson is a self confessed events obsessive. She is also a half Persian salsa dancer battling a nightly addiction to Ted Talks. Roxy works as a lecturer, writer and events consultant, specialising in UK music festivals. This journey began in a field in Hampshire at age fifteen-and it has since brought her to a place where almost every aspect of her work today concerns music festivals; how to run them, programme them, make them safe, make them interesting. She tackles these issues weekly, in lecture theatres across Leeds Beckett University and Leeds College of Music. Her book Festival Culture and the Politics of Participation has recently been approved by Ashgate publishers, and it is set for release at the end of the year, as well as Pop Festival: Music, History, Media Culture, edited by Professor George McKay, which features a chapter (11) written by herself. On her written achievements, Roxy says, “I like to think all of this paper-pushing makes a difference in the real world of festivals — my consulting work involves working with private festival owners in the areas of creative design and marketing. I love my job!”

1) What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Important, like my Dad. I had a powerful sense of the pride he took in his work, in his own success as the founder of a construction company which he called Roxan. I wanted to experience that life-affirming sense of pride myself. I always knew I wanted to throw myself into work, like him. He encouraged me, too — though now he is beginning to do the whole ‘where are my grandkids’ routine.

2) What does your job entail?

My job entails a mixture of writing, lecturing and industry work — a portfolio career you might say. The constant has been the UK Centre for Events Management at Leeds Beckett University, where I have worked part time for four years as a lecturer. During that time I have also held a 3 year contract with Beacons Festival, written a book, written a chapter for someone else’s book, and embarked on a new development project for Kendal Calling festival.

3) If you went, what did you study at university?

My first degree was Philosophy BA at Cardiff University. My post-graduate degree was in Events Management at Leeds Beckett (then Metropolitan) and my doctorate was in festivals research, at the School of Music, University of Leeds.

4) What other qualifications do you have?

Without wanting to sound up my own arse, three degrees are enough.

5) When you work with other people, do you like it?

Yes and no — it depends who I am working with. But mostly yes. In fact, I crave working with others. Oddly enough lecturing can be isolating — you go in, teach, come home, sometimes without speaking to someone over 19 the whole day. I need interaction with peers that challenge and motivate me. As a portfolio careerist that works autonomously, a lot of working with others is done remotely though there are obviously benefits to that too.

6) When are you happiest at work?

When I am doing what I love, and smashing it. The most recent examples of that include a Festivals Panel session I put together and chaired for the UK Centre for Events Management. It was just fantastic; a huge amount of preparation but the thrill of the session which was delivered to an audience of 200 was amazing. Another example would be consulting with Kendal Calling on developing a new area within the site for the 2015 event. All of this kind of stuff is in my blood. I don’t know how or why but it is. It’s not all happiness of course — it’s stress too, and I feel it probably more than most, but you happen to have caught me at a high point where I’m reaping some rewards!

7) What challenges you most?

The biggest challenges yield the most satisfaction when overcome. For me, many things I wished I could do seemed completely impossible for years and years. Public speaking is an example. But throwing yourself out there, taking the risk — over and over again — does magical things over time. I have the same philosophy with most challenges that seem threatening, but are aligned to my goals and interests. This means that I literally spend half, if not two thirds of my life worrying — worrying that I am not going to make it through the next hurdle. But nothing compares to the feeling that you have proved yourself wrong. That you are not an idiot. That you did it. I’m addicted to that feeling (my friends compare me to Lesley Knope from Parks and Recreation — enough said)

8) What is the most exciting thing that’s happened to you in your career?

Probably what happened two days ago. My publisher told me they were ‘very pleased’ with my book manuscript — the culmination of a decade of research, that was all done without knowing if any of it would ever be seen by the world. Now it is, how awesome is that?

9) Of all of your jobs, which was the worst?

This is a tough one as they all had value in some sense, even the ones that really sucked. Working at Claires Accessories as a shop girl was pretty grim. You had to clean the whole shop at the end of an 8 hour shift on your feet, unpaid.

10) What advice would you give to someone who wants to do your job?

Stop at nothing, take every opportunity you can to present yourself and your work, prepare to make many sacrifices, find a true passion and follow it, stand up for yourself, know that you are not a fraud — even if you feel like one. Be brave.

Click here to pre-order Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture With Dr Robinson’s chapter ‘No Spectators! The Art of Participation: from Burning Man to boutique festivals in Britain’

Image used with permission from Dr Roxy Robsinson. Feature image source: Making A Modern Man


Product Owner. Previously SEO & Digital Marketing. Northerner in London. Favourite pastime is eating, followed by learning new stuff.

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