Meet ...

Peggy Hughes, Manager of Literary Dundee
Who are you? Peggy Hughes

Where do you work? Literary Dundee, External Relations

Where are you from? I am from Larne, a small coastal town on the north-east of Northern Ireland, and I live in Dundee.

Your role at the University? I manage Literary Dundee, the University’s bookish initiative (which is 10 years old this year)! This means that I get to dream up and deliver creative ways to join the dots between town and gown and students and staff, via the medium of books, writing and reading.

What do you do at work? Literary Dundee sits within the broader events team, sharing an office with Major Events (Leanne, Peter and Aileen), Revealing Research (Jon and Shabnam) and cultural liaison agent, Anna. My key projects are the Dundee Literary Festival (an annual 5 day event in October), and the Dundee International Book Prize (a prize of £5,000 and publication for an unpublished debut novel).

I also work on a year round spectrum of activities for the public, which include our monthly Literary Lock-Ins, miscellaneous author visits, World Book Night, book launches, as well as lots of behind the scenes activity, which can range from working with the Careers Service and students, doing a little teaching on the Continuing Education programme, assisting academics, supporting and promoting literary activity in the city, and generally connecting people up, in person as well as via our social media channels and website.

I represent Literary Dundee at other events: for instance this week I was in London participating in a selection panel for an international literature showcase devised by Writers Centre Norwich and the British Council, and also at a conference of librarians, giving them a sneak peek behind the scenes of book festivals. I also host lots of events with authors around Scotland, which is a great way to meet people and spread the word about our work in Dundee. My job spills outside 9-5, and it has lots of variety which I enjoy. I’d say a typical day is mostly spent in Word, on WordPress, on Twitter and Facebook, in Excel, and on the phone.

What gives you satisfaction? When an event I’ve been cooking up comes together in the way I hoped – when the authors are inclined and able, and the perfect venue and willing partner are on board. When a student who has been a brilliant festival volunteer gets a job in the area they had hoped for, and we have been able to help with giving them experience and support and a reference. When asked to find a poem for an occasion and the right poem is found. These lines from Theodor Storm’s wee poem called ‘At the Desk’ sum up a satisfying day: you know, one of those days when you just crack on through the inbox and get a power of work done:

‘I felt that tiny insane voluptuousness,/ Getting this done, finally finishing that.’

Basically I am satisfied when the stars align and a plan comes together!

What challenges do you face? The main challenge I face is that I would to do more than is sometimes possible or realistic. I am blessed with fantastic colleagues and a supportive network of partner organisations and peers but sometimes I am impatient. That is a challenge I have to deal with by managing my own expectations!

  • Paper or Digital? Both! I’m flexitextual me and couldn’t do without either.
  • Tea or Coffee? Both! Coffee in the morning, tea (loose leaf, preferably) at all other times.
  • Facebook or Twitter? Both but I probably prefer the brevity of Twitter.
  • Pen or Pencil? Oh…. Pencil!
  • Morning or Afternoon? Morning. When you’re up before the world and it’s only you and the radio and it feels like you’re the only person in it.
  • Phone or Email?  Phone! I love a good blab.
  • English or Maths? Definitely not maths…
  • Books or Films? Not only books but films, too. But books, first, last and always.

Dundee Literary Festival will take place from 19 – 23 October and you’re invited! Visit our website for full details of the programme (launching mid-September) and more news of our year-round activities:

Tell us something we don’t know about you. My love for Daniel O’Donnell is longstanding and not ironic.

What do you do outside of work? On being asked what she does when she’s not reading, the author and journalist and all round book goddess Cathy Rentzenbrink says: ‘I like books and talking to people about books and that’s about it.’ I don’t really seem to have any hobbies that aren’t to do with books, but if you love books, that seems an impossibly wonderful state to be in. In my head though I am a tremendous swimmer, fantastic gardener, and I can cook more than just shepherd’s pie. In reality the things I like best, apart from books, are cooking shepherd’s pie, tweed, Daniel O’Donnell, a nice quality of light, and beards.

What springs to mind when you hear ‘Dundee’? Dundee’s for me because this is a job that is full of possibilities and satisfactions: to get to work in concert with such a wide-ranging set of passionate people, to bring the best writers in the world to Dundee, and to have the University avail itself as a meeting place, actual and metaphorical, for books and words is a truly lucky thing. The city of Dundee has the happy combination of: the world’s best optical emporium with my prescription on file (; Braithwaites’ for wonderful tea and coffee and a trip to the past; more than a number of excellent hostelries and taverns, and an unusually high concentration of parks and vistas (including Dudhope Park on my doorstep, Dundee Law out the back and the Tay out my front windows). Oh, and that light I mentioned.

University of Dundee campus hotspot? The wee secret meadow beside the library gets my vote.

Someone at the University who inspires you? Muriel at Tower Reception. I can’t think of anyone who gladdens a day more than Muriel.