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Hilary Copeland

General Manager, The John Hewitt Society

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About

Hilary Copeland has worked in literary arts and event management since 2008. Whilst studying at the University of St Andrews she was a venue assistant at the Stanza Poetry Festival and The Byre Theatre. After graduating Hilary volunteered with the inaugural Belfast Book Festival before joining the Programming Team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. From 2010 she worked on a freelance basis for clients including the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Kabosh, Whittrick Press, Young at Art, and Belfast Children’s Festival. Hilary was appointed General Manager of The John Hewitt Society in 2014. She is Vice-Chair of the Integrated Education Alumni and a board member of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Summary of work

My work involves collaborating on opportunities for individuals to engage creatively with issues of relevance to post-conflict society in Northern Ireland, using literature as a medium to engage with high-profile artists and speakers from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and points of view. Internationally we’re keen to offer a platform to lesser known artists and writers of high artistic endeavour, particularly (but not exclusively!) addressing issues of cultural and political identity, divided societies, or use of the arts as a conflict resolution tool. This involves tackling the obstacles to engagement, which are cost, opportunity, and interest, with the overall aim of establishing a vibrant culture of readers and writers in Northern Ireland, who are excited about books.

Summary of work to develop

I want to inspire new audiences to creatively connect to the places in which they live. Outside of my day job I also work on collaborating with friends who are interested in creating new kinds of events, where engaging with literature might be through song lyrics, crafts, visual art, posters, illustrations. We've even had book-themed cake. I love bringing people together. Most of us who run events get a little high on happy audiences, enjoying themselves. Because ultimately a gathering of excited readers being able to talk to each other, and meet writers and create a place where they meet and can say ‘Me too!’ is so joyous.

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