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XpoNorth brings unexpected benefits for creatives from around the Highlands and Islands

By Barbara Henderson

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Barbara Henderson at a previous (sunny) XpoNorth!
Barbara Henderson at a previous (sunny) XpoNorth!

So much to do, so little time!

That particular sentiment may not be your experience of lockdown, or mine. However, emerging out of my fifth XpoNorth webinar this week, that’s how I feel.

Of course, XpoNorth is the Highland’s flagship event of the year for the creative industries, combining film, fashion, music, makers, publishing and more. It’s the conference where the buzz lands right here, when world leaders share their wisdom from a stage at Eden Court, and when discussion and networking spills over into the grounds and onto the banks of the River Ness. It is sunny for XpoNorth. Always.

The heartsink I felt as it went the way of so many other events I cared about! ‘This year’s festival will be online only’.

However, I must admit that there have been unexpected benefits to this new status quo. The possibility of finding yourself behind some hot-shot Hollywood producer in the coffee queue may be gone, but here is what has been great about the online Xpo experience:

1. I could dip in and out of sessions without the cringeworthy creak of the chair and the tiptoe to or from the door. Hey, I could even hang up washing, empty the dishwasher, or cook a meal and still not miss a word!

2. Others could join from afar. My editor is based on Lewis and rarely attends events in person unless there is a definitive benefit to the publishing company. She and many others from remote parts of the Highlands and Islands could participate in exactly the same way as those of us who had planned to be here. We may not like the situation our world is in, but for Xpo, it has been a great leveller.

3. No attention-hoggers. We all know the frustration when one audience member monopolises the discussion. Well, that’s a lot harder to do in a Zoom chat box. A definite plus!

4. No time is wasted because you can act on advice immediately. Before the expert on business branding had even stopped speaking, I had revised my website and downloaded an app she recommended.

5. We need practical, constructive things to do, and we need a perspective beyond the here and now. An online festival like Xpo gives us all of that.

As creatives, let’s learn, let's create, and let's be ready to hit the ground running – as soon as running is allowed again!

Anna by Laura Guthrie.
Anna by Laura Guthrie.

Look out for: Anna, a remarkable debut just out from Laura Guthrie. The Beauly-based author has already hit the Amazon No.1 spot with her modern interpretation of Polyanna – a life affirming and touching tale of a girl with Asperger's who has to move to Scotland following the death of her father. It will resonate with fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but with a more satisfying ending, in my humble opinion! Even the cover makes me smile.

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