Call for Collaboration – Jenny Niven – China Now Call for collaboration – jenny niven | China Now

Call for Collaboration - Jenny Niven

Areas of interest: Inclusion
Location: Edinburgh
Date: From 30 November 2020 to 18 December 2020

About Jenny Niven

I am a freelance cultural producer with a specialism in the literary arts and in cultural dialogue. I have worked internationally in cultural projects, in both Beijing (see below) and Melbourne (Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas) for ten years before returning to Scotland as Head of Literature Publsihing and Languages at Creative Scotland.

I am now freelance, working for Edinburgh International Culture Summit, and on various other commissions and projects for clients including Edinburgh International Festival, Creative Scotland and many Scottish book festivals. I am also developing a new poetry festival for Edinburgh, ‘Push the Boat Out’ which would have taken place in 2020 if not for Covid 19.

I am a skilled creative facilitator and communicator, connecting easily with people from diverse backgrounds, countries and communities. I speak basic conversational Chinese. I am interested in supporting international cultural dialogue through literature and the arts more broadly and have a track record in developing ambitious cultural projects. I have a solid working knowledge of contemporary Chinese literature and lived experiences of some of the complexities of running cultural projects in China. My work is recognised at a strategic and governmental level; in 2018 I traveled to Beijing and Shanghai with a group of cultural leaders from Scotland as part of a delegation of the Scottish government, alongside Nicola Sturgeon, whom I interviewed at Fudan University in celebration of the Chinese translation of a seminal Muriel Spark novel in her centenary year.

Collaboration Ideas with China

I lived in China from 2004-2010, in Beijing. I worked for China Radio International as a producer and presenter initially. I then began to run events at English-language bookshop, The Bookworm. Over the course of 2005-2010 we established a vibrant, dynamic literary events program and festival, which ultimately spanned the three cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. British Council were a regular collaborator in these projects. During that time I developed a love of China, and learned a great deal in terms of cultural understanding – not least that you are never finished in attempting to learn about China!

So much change has occurred between 2010 and 2020 and although I still retain friends and connections, and some family in Beijing, I am very keen to refresh and renew my professional contacts. Obviously, relationships between China and the UK can take a long time to foster and develop and after so much ground work I did earlier in my career, I am eager to continue to build and develop in this area and to find ways to expand my network. My language skills while basic are a huge support in developing relationships and my familiarity with many customs and culture I believe put me in a unique position to build and sustain new networks and relationships smoothly.

I am interested in projects which facilitate intercultural dialogue between writers and believe there is scope to make lasting connections between Scottish and Chinese writers, which would lead to publication projects with the potential to reach large audiences.

In the Covid context, a great deal of literary activity has moved online which offers interesting options; in some regards China already has more experience in this arena which it would be interesting to learn from. My specialism in book festivals (having run one in China, and am a recognised leader in this field in the UK – I was acting director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Winter 2016/2017) puts me in a very advantageous position to be able to support fledgling or established literary events programs in China with expertise and connections.

I also would be interested in supporting Scottish publishers to explore their Chinese options more deeply. I have begun to work with the Nanjing City of Literature project and would be interested in deepening the relationship there. I have also been discussing with One Way Street Bookshop (OwSpace) in Beijing the establishment of a network of literature organisations to facilitate global cultural exchange in this transitional and difficult Covid timeframe.

I am open to collaborations with people and organisations from across the cultural sphere. My specialism in literature and ideas would probably be advantageous but I am also very interested in social inclusion and in ways to bring those excluded from conversations and networks further into the fold. I would expect a partner willing to learn and to share information, who would bring fresh ideas and perspectives to me and vice versa. I would rather work with a larger organisation or network rather than another ‘sole trader’ as I believe the reach and impact of possible projects may be greater. I would hope to update and deepen my knowledge of the contemporary Chinese literature arts and festival context. I would hope to improve my own ‘offer’ as a cultural bridge between Scotland and the UK. I would hope to contribute more widely to the key, basic areas of connection which international exchange and diplomacy rests on – trust, communication, creativity, and respect.

Useful Links