My Media Day: Lorraine Wilson, freelance writer and music consultant

LORRAINE Wilson is a freelance writer based in Dundee.

She is the author of ‘Take it to the Bridge, Dundee’s Rock & Pop History’, and is working with Radio Tay on a documentary based on the book, which will incorporate performances from a concert of the same name held last year. She occasionally appears as a guest on BBC Radio Scotland and STV’s Scotland Tonight.

Lorraine also works in music consultancy, and is currently building a music programme at the newly-refurbished Gardyne Theatre in the city.

She started her career at DC Thomson – on teenage magazines, such as Jackie – and subsequently returned to edit publications as varied as Animals & You and The Scots Magazine, leaving in December three years ago.

Like all journalists, she’s finishing off a novel, but it’s not crime nor a thriller. She’s also wrestling with a play.

She submitted this on Wednesday, February 27.

What exactly is it that you do?

At the moment, in common with many other freelance writers, I survive. It’s a tough old time out there and those lovely editors who treat us well are rewarded, I think. We want to hold on to those clients.

 When things started to get tight, I strayed into PR but had to pull myself back because, 1. I don’t enjoy it and consequently, 2. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it.

Programming music and building the venue’s reputation for quality gigs at the Gardyne Theatre has been enjoyable. Seeing people on show nights say,”We don’t really know them but you always have good stuff here”, is extremely rewarding.

Apart from that, I’m throwing all my energy into freelance writing again, particularly in the arts. But I like the variety of what can come across my radar. Commissioning editors: be prepared for an ideas deluge.

 I’m also part of Dundee City Council’s Ambassador Programme, which is great as there’s so much to shout about at the moment.

There’s a great spirit about the city just now, which isn’t entirely linked to the V&A coming to the riverside. There’s a confidence here, and about time too.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Today isn’t nearly over, so let’s concentrate on yesterday. I started the day with the dulcet tones of Brian Cox – the Dundee one, not the ‘universe botherer’.

I had interviewed him at length on Monday at Dundee University, where he has been reinstated for a second term as Rector. 

Listening back to transcribe, I realised what a wonderful interviewee he is.

I think we just blethered, but the fact that I come from the same kind of background tickled him and we found a lot in common. The feature is for the June issue of The Scots Magazine, which relaunches in a new format in May. Because of his tight schedule, I took the opportunity to interview him face-to-face now.

I also planned a column for Friday’s edition of The Courier. I write for it occasionally, preferring to contribute only when I have a genuine opinion about something rather than confecting umbrage at an event or news story.

I prefer to plan it, have a bit of a think, and then go back and write it quickly, so that will be done this evening, for tomorrow.

Today was also an advertising feature day, this time Mother’s Day for the lovely David Ross at the special projects department of The Herald and Evening Times. I used to work in this department, more than a decade ago. I know the pressures that were on us then. I can’t imagine how much worse they are now, given the advertising situation. Despite the commercial considerations of his job, he always manages to draw a balance and look after his writers.

l also spoke with an agent about a couple of autumn gigs for the Gardyne Theatre, which sits within the Gardyne campus of Dundee College. It’s a beautiful 400-seat venue, particularly acoustically, and the plan is to get the right acts in the room. It has its own recording studios linked to the stage, so bands can easily record a live show.

How different or similar was it to your average working day?

Here’s the old cliche, but every day is different. Tuesday was a particularly busy day, I’ll say that, but I’m piling through as much work as possible at the moment to give myself time to recover after an upcoming surgery. No sick pay as a freelancer, so I need to build a little financial cushion before it happens as it might be six weeks before I can get back to full-on work.

How different or similar was it to your average working day when you started in post?

I won’t be going back to the days of writing horoscopes (oh, yes), quizzes and appearing in photo stories in teenage magazines.

In 2001, I started out as a freelance after taking voluntary severance from The Herald. And there’s been a consistent thread since in that there tends to be one strand of work which provides a steady income, but you always need to keep an ‘eye out’ for other opportunities. Income that you were relying on, it can dry up with little warning.

How do you see the job evolving?

I think I’ve tried to spread work too widely at times, but when the bills need to be paid, it’s easy to grab anything and everything that’s offered. But now I can see sees the two streams of writing and music consultancy going along quite well together.

I’d like to write more about mental health issues, as that’s something extremely close to my heart. I think it deserves to be handled sensitively and from those with first-hand experience. I was (joint) Journalist of the Year for Epilepsy Scotland in 2012 and enjoyed bringing a difficult story to the page in a way that can explain the difficulties of a situation, without being too maudlin or over-dramatic.

Apart from that, I’m hoping that presenting the Take it to the Bridge documentary will give me a calling card for more radio work. It has been sporadic but I have thoroughly enjoy it. I’m not sure if it’s location and being away from Glasgow and Edinburgh, but I think it’s easy to forget about the freelancers outside of the two main cities. The BBC needs to sort out its Dundee studio though. The guys working there deserve better.

What gives you most job satisfaction?

Not having a boss is great, although I like to think I treat every commissioning editor with the same level of respect as I would a boss.

Although I wouldn’t turn down the right offer of full-time employment, it’s still the freedom of the freelance life that appeals. The fact that I can be struggling over something and instead of walking round an office and getting yet another coffee, I can stick the dogs in the car and within five minutes I’m walking through the woods and thinking it through in the fresh air.

It’s balancing that with no paid holidays, no sick pay, no real career structure and the uncertainty of income streams. However, it suits me – for the moment.