Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Career > Work

How I Unintentionally Joined an Organising Committee

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Warwick chapter.

Last summer, I was an on-the-day volunteer for the BeaconLit Book Festival in Buckinghamshire, where all profits go towards the Beacon Villages Community Libraries. This year, I’m part of the organising committee and am solely responsible for assembling a ‘Poetry Circle’, new this year under my initiative. But how did I get here? How did last year’s Mother’s Day gift indirectly lead to my involvement in such a large community project? I’ll explain it all below…

Last year, my mum and I attended a talk by local crime author Dave Sivers for Mother’s Day. His novels are set in the towns and villages nearby, which is the primary reason my mum likes his work. But that’s beside the point. After the event, we went to purchase a copy of his book to get it signed. When we were about to pay, he said the card reader was playing up. We had no cash and my mum was ready to leave, but Dave Sivers very kindly offered to sign a copy of his latest novel and for us to pay him later. So, I sent him a friend request on Facebook later on and reminded him about who I was. I made the payment and we exchanged a few messages, where I told him that I was local to the area but studying English at university and had a particular fondness for poetry. A few weeks or maybe even a month later, he messaged me and asked if I’d like to be a volunteer on the day of the BeaconLit 2023 Book Festival. I’d heard of the event because it was local to me and fundraised for the community library, but hadn’t been to one previously. I was thrilled and accepted immediately.

The day itself went smoothly, and I was all too aware of how fortunate I was to meet so many authors in one day and have the opportunity to speak with them directly. My role was to greet the general public and sign them in, but also to give the guest authors a tour of the venue and keep them comfortable until it was their time to speak. Speaking with them personally meant I spent a little too much on books, but how could I not buy their work after hearing about their writing processes and intentions? They also gave me lots of useful advice about starting as a writer and were very honest with the struggles of it. It made me realise how there is no set path or timescale and that- cliche as it sounds- the best thing I can do for myself is be consistent and work towards my happiness. Anyhow, I had a debriefing with the committee shortly after the festival had ended (by this point I’d attended a few online calls and helped with minor set-up and packdown of equipment), where we reflected on strengths and areas of improvement and any other comments. I voiced my enjoyment and gratitude for being involved and, a few weeks later, I was invited to join the committee permanently.

BeaconLit 2024 will be held on Saturday 13th July, and we’ve recently finalised our programme and are working on publicising the event and organising sponsorships. I advocated for the inclusion of a Poetry Circle, which was approved, and have found three amazing poets who I’m excited to see in discussion. It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing on my part, largely because some of the committee members have been doing this for a decade now and I have so much to learn. But, I know that I need to trust in myself more and that organising an event in any capacity will always have challenges.

Support is there when I ask. Dave Sivers very kindly sent me a template email to use when contacting poets and their agents, which I tweaked for each person I contacted to be more specific to them. I was anxious about this for a few months and wasn’t as on the ball as I could have been. Sure, I attended most of the monthly meetings and made minor updates to the website, but assembling a Poetry Circle was so daunting that I took the first few rejections to heart and avoided sending out more emails. But, I can confidently say now that, while I understand why I felt like this, it was not necessary. I know for certain that next year will be even stronger and I will have learnt so much more than I already have.

For the Poetry Circle, PhD Student Robert Gainer will be leading the discussion, joined by former Warwick Laureate Olga Dermott-Bond and Wendover-based poet Will Burns (local to the area). Though I let my nerves get the best of me at times, I’m proud of myself for persisting and, after all, there’s a first time for everything. I’ve also learnt a lot about website design (not in terms of programming but rather on presentation and content), the costs of promotion, funding the festival and how specifically the profits are used. Next, I’ll be speaking to Dave Sivers for advice on what prompt questions to give to the poets to steer the discussion, though I already have a few in mind.

I never would have thought that I’d join an organising committee, least of all for a literature festival so close to home, but I’m grateful that I have. I’m excited and nervous to see how my contributions play out. Ultimately though, I want to do the best I can so that the Beacon Villages Community Libraries can continue to run.

Hi, I'm Kelsey, a final year student at Warwick Uni. I study English Lit and Creative Writing so books, unsurprisingly, take up a lot of my time. I'm seriously considering taking a blanket into the library because I spend so much time there. When I'm not panicking over my degree, I write articles for here, co-run online poetry collective BoundBy, organise the BeaconLit Book Festival, tutor, read and write nonsense, paint instead of sleep and think about my pets. And also schedule in way too much. But, I wouldn't change a thing (except maybe my time management).