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Interview: Neil Lovell, 2017 Judge


Tell us a bit about yourself.

It’s one of those questions you hope you don’t get asked but, I will give it a go. I studied English and Social Science about 100 years ago, or at least that’s what it seems like. My first full time job was as a graduate trainee in an ad agency, and although most of my working life has been in the commercial sector I moved into the not for profit world about 8 years ago. I live in Borough in Central London so I am not short of things to do in my downtime. I am also a bit of a petrol head – mostly hankering after modern classic cars as they remind me of when I first started to drive in the mid-1980s.

I am a bit of a lazy reader. I go from one extreme to another from easy to read best sellers, dare I say the Dan Brown series, through to the wonderful precision of Anita Brookner. I haven’t read any Harry Potter but did read Robert Galbraith’s The Silkworm, and the Cuckoo’s Calling. I am in the middle of Wolf Hall and The Essex Serpent at the moment but find it hard to dip in and out of them. So, I am not sure what that says about me other than I have a random reading list and don’t spend as much time reading as I would like.

Do you think you have to have a particular talent in writing to enter the competition?

I don’t know if it is talent because that’s quite subjective, but you do need to have a passion for writing and putting your thoughts and ideas on the page. Like most things, you have to enjoy what you are doing and put the time in to make it happen. Writing isn’t any different in my view. If you have something you want to say then say it. This competition allows you to do that, albeit based on a particular theme.

Which was your favourite submission in last year's edition and why?

My top scores went to Manmade Change and The Mirrors of Narcissus. I found the exercise stimulating and challenging in equal measure. Some of the pieces demonstrated a very clear link to the theme of metamorphosis and transformation while with others I felt it was not as well drawn.

What were your main criteria when you were judging a piece?

I looked at the brief and then read and re-read the entries. The first read was to see if they grabbed my attention, the second read to see how it met the brief and then read again to see what I had missed so far. It was important that I could see the subject/theme strongly in the work as that was the point of the brief. I like to be able to picture the story and the more I can see the more I tend to like, and my scores reflect that.

There may be some people that are still debating whether to participate or not. Is there any advice you would give them?

If you have something you want to say and find the theme of interest then why not give it a go. It’s a good creative and thought provoking experience regardless of the output or if you win or not.

Tell us about your experience as a judge for the UCL Publishers' Prize. Do you have any anecdotes?

None. I didn’t meet the other judges so did all my judging in the relatively sanctuary of my office, and on my commute to work.

Tell us a bit about the Printing Charity.

We have a long history and are the second oldest occupational charity. We were set up to support printers and their families who were facing financial and physical hardship. Our primary role now is still to support people facing financial hardship through grants but now we also help to champion and promote the sector to younger people. The Publishers’ prize is just one of the way we help to support new and emerging talent. It was easier to describe what printers did in 1827 but fast forward 190 years and the sector is incredibly diverse and pretty much touches our everyday life, from the books and newspapers we read to the cups we have our coffees in or the sandwich carton holding our lunch, or the Amazon delivery we receive. In some way all our lives are touched by print every day.

To find out more about the Printing Charity please go to: https://www.theprintingcharity.org.uk/.

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