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XpoNorth unveils new national and international speakers

Published: 18/04/2018

Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth, has unveiled the next wave of speakers for the one-of-a-kind event this summer in Inverness.

Taking place 27-28 of June, XpoNorth 2018 will see a range of leading voices from across the national and international creative industries gather in the Highland capital to deliver one of the most exciting, inspiring, informative and unique events of its kind.

Thought-provoking and high-impact sessions explore multidisciplinary themes in today’s creative climate and feature the likes of Jen Topping (Media Commissioner & Consultant, Channel D/Xbox), Aton Ben-Horin, (Global Vice President of A&R, Warner Music Group) plus Sara Kozak (Senior Vice President, Production, Investigation Discovery and AHC at Discovery Inc).

XpoNorth is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

HIE’s head of creative industries, Iain Hamilton, said: "We’re delighted to announce this exciting and diverse list of new speakers set to take part in XpoNorth 2018.

"Finding the right quality and balance of content is a critical part of producing the seminar element of the festival and we’re thrilled with the range of speakers set to participate in this year’s conference. It’s important that we develop a platform where we continue to attract high-level national and international speakers and deliver a great environment to connect them with our business infrastructure."

XpoNorth is completely free to attend and accessible to all. Registration for tickets can be accessed via Eventbrite and the full programme can be found online. The full speaker line up and additional details are below.

For live updates follow XpoNorth on Twitter: @XpoNorth and use #XpoNorth18

About XpoNorth:

The annual Inverness-based conference and showcase festival, formerly known as goNORTH, takes place over two exciting and energising days and nights in the Highland capital. A unique event in the creative calendar, XpoNorth is the only festival of its kind in Scotland covering craft, fashion and textiles; writing and publishing; screen and broadcast; digital and technology and music.

The conference element of the festival will return to Eden Court Theatre and Cinema and the live showcase programme will take place across several city centre venues.

By day, XpoNorth hosts a packed programme of seminars and workshops featuring leading creative industry professionals from across the international marketplace. By night, the festival sets the city alight with creativity, from the event's firmly established new music showcase soundtracking a host of city centre venues with over 60 of the hottest new acts around, to a specially curated short film programme and a range of relaxed networking events and parties.

XpoNorth offers delegates from across all areas of the creative industries an inspiring daytime schedule followed by a vibrant evening music and film mix - all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Highlands in midsummer. Having firmly established a reputation as one of the most accessible and friendly events of its kind, XpoNorth offers an exceptional experience for attendees, regardless of what stage you're at in your creative journey.

The 2017 edition of XpoNorth attracted just under 2,500 delegates across the programme, produced 34 cross-creative seminars featuring a host of leading international speakers, showcased over 60 acts across the city, produced a diverse film screening programme, dedicated craft exhibitions, a gaming and technology playground, trade areas for regional, national and international partners and various training initiatives.

XpoNorth also operates a year-round structure of support on behalf of our funders, HIE and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). These sector support programmes are custom designed to support the development of the creative infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands.


XpoNorth will be joined by Aton Ben-Horin, Global Vice President of A&RWarner Music Group, as he delves into the science and passion behind creating hit songs, great artists and delivering them successfully to the global stage. One of the international music industry’s most successful and forward-thinking A&R Executives, in this fascinating session Aton will sit down with A&R Worldwide Founder, Sat Bisla, for an intimate discussion on the passion behind creating hit songs.

The session titled ‘Understanding Commissioning’, will feature participants such as Steve Carsen (Head of Multiplatform Commissioning, BBC Scotland) and Adam Gee (Commissioning Editor, Little Dot Studios).

The MPG (Music Producer Guild) make a return to XpoNorth with another incredible line up including the legendary John Leckie (George Harrison, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Muse), Danton Supple (Coldplay, Ian Brown, Morrissey, Kylie Minogue, U2) and Bruno Ellingham (KT Tunstall, Elbow, Massive Attack). The session will be chaired by the MPG’s Executive Director, Andrew Hunt, winner of the 2017 Breakthrough Producer of the Year Award. 

There will also be a look back at ‘ShiftED’, the collaborative project between craft, fashion and textile makers from the Highlands and Islands and Iceland. This session will offer attendees the opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the project from participants including Ýr Jóhannsdóttir (Creator, YRURI), Carol Sinclair (Director, Sinclair Wilson Ltd), Netty Sopata (Owner, Designer, Diggory Brown) and Naomi Mcintosh (Interdisciplinary Designer). 

Podcast seminar titled ‘PodPilots: Podcasts as Pilots’ will see Katharina Gellein (Owner, Bifröst Media) and Charles Kriel (Specialist Advisor to DCMS Select Committee, UK House of Commons and Associate Fellow, King's Centre for Strategic Communications (KCSC), King’s College London) explore the emergence of ‘PodPilots’, podcasts designed to speed up the pitching process. Katharina owns Bifröst Media, a company dedicated to international media content with a Nordic perspective. She is a television and film director and producer, with films like HARD TIDE (US Netflix, UK Amazon), OF HER I DREAM, and documentary JUST A NUMBER. In March 2018 her documentary series LIFE OF A ROYAL REBEL aired on TV3 in Scandinavia, about Ex-royal and artist Ari Behn. Katharina is also an actress and script writer.

‘Storytelling for 21st Century Audiences’ will bring together an international panel of storytellers from across the gaming, transmedia and screen arenas to share their examples of best practise in storytelling to meet modern trends and demands. This session will include the likes of Michael Rueger (Head of Content Lab, Ravensburger AG), Nick Fortugno (Interactive Narrative Designer, Playmatics), Jen Topping (Media commissioner/consultant, Channel D/Xbox), the BBC's Paul McFadyen and Digital Publishing Innovation Expert, Nick Coveney.

The conference will also run a fascinating Heritage and Creativity programme including seminars on ‘Cultural Tourism, Remote Participation’ and a unique discussion on ‘Cultural Mediation - Interpreting the Past, Present and Future’ with Dr Stephen Vergnaud (Louvre, Lens) and Jacob O’Sullivan (Museums and Galleries Scotland).

A special Keynote with Olivia Hetreed (Screenwriter, Partner in Sympathetic Ink Ltd & President, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain) called ‘Auteur! Auteur!’ will also take place. Olivia is a British screenwriter, whose work includes the multi-award winning, BAFTA and Oscar nominated Girl with a Pearl Earring, starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson and the award-winning, critically-acclaimed radical adaptation of Wuthering Heights directed by Andrea Arnold. Olivia’s international film projects include Bosnia’s first animated feature, Birds Like Us, voiced by Jeremy Irons and Alicia Vikander, and Finding Altamira, starring Antonio Banderas. She has worked extensively in TV drama (including The Canterbury Tales, The Treasure Seekers, Roman Mysteries). Sympathetic Ink, her company with producer Andy Paterson, is prepping her next feature, The Grand Sophy, with BBC Films. Olivia is President of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, which represents over 2,000 professional fiction writers.

An integral part of the nation’s identity is celebrated through Gaelic, with the likes of Iseabail Mactaggart (MG Alba), Agnes Rennie (Acair Books) and musician Julie Fowlis set to participate in this special session. One of the most influential and important voices in her genre, Julie has won a host of awards and was recently nominated as 'Folk Singer of the Year' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. She has graced major stages around the world and also sang at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup to a TV audience of 500 million and the Opening of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  

The Edinburgh International Television Festival will also be joining XpoNorth as part of an exciting new series of talent development events designed to support young creatives to drive their TV careers forward. Among those kick-starting the programme this year will be Campbell Glennie (Director, Education and Talent Development, EITF) and Debbie Hartley (Head of Talent, The Garden Productions). Debbie joined The Garden Productions as Head of Talent in 2013. She was previously Talent Manager at Betty TV. Debbie has over 15 years’ experience in television, starting out in-house at the BBC in the Specialist Factual department before producing on the BBC One flagship documentary strand One life and Building the Olympic Dream (BBC2). She then directed on The Apprentice (BBC1) and Seven Days (C4), before turning her hand to talent managing in 2011.

Help Musicians UK (HMUK) will also produce a session looking at health and wellbeing in the music industry.

The MPA (Music Publishers Association) will be revisiting XpoNorth to deliver a session looking at this multi-faceted area of the industry with speakers including Steve Farris (13Artists Publishing) and Amy Samson (A&R Director, Spirit B-Unique Publishing). 

There will also be sessions on ‘Indies in the Mainstream - Self-publishing: A Decade on from the Launch of Amazon’s Kindle’, a Keynote from Nick Fortugno on Games as Business, an overview of Doing Business in China, an inside look at the World of Fashion Buyers with speakers including Kathy Shenoy (Commissions Project Manager, The New Craftsmen), a session looking at why the Highlands and Islands have developed as such a strong creative destination for businesses and a discussion with Andrew Harrison (Producer of REMAINIACS podcast, co-founder of Podmasters) and Charles Kriel (Kriel Agency) called ‘Not Radio 2018: Podcasting's Breakthrough Year?’ Josh Rabinowitz (EVP/ Director of Music, Grey Group) will also deliver a candid keynote address called ‘A Biased History of Music in Advertising’.

There will also be an opportunity to hear from representatives from a range of creative organisations on where to access support and how they can help your business to achieve growth.

Back by popular demand will be the ‘XpoNorth Listening Room: Your Songs in the Spotlight’ offering showcasing artists the opportunity to gain constructive feedback on their material from a range of industry voices. Among those taking part this year include Stephen O'Reilly (ie: music), Preston Rodie (A&R Executive, RCA Records), Björn Sandberg (FUGA) plus more TBC. The session will be again be chaired by Vic Galloway (Broadcaster/ Author, BBC). 

The SMIA (Scottish Music Industry Association) will also present ‘A Discussion on Music Business Model Innovation’ which will see a range of businesses discuss what can be achieved by pivoting their position in the market to access new revenue models. With reference to inspiring innovative examples of companies who have broken the mould, Scottish Music Industry Association chair Dougal Perman will moderate a discussion featuring Jessie Scoullar (Wicksteed Works), Suzanne Miller, Jonathan Robinson (Music Tank) and Brian Murnin (Music Consultant). 

This exciting new announcement follows previously released participants and partnerships including the UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors, a new collaboration for 2018 which will bring some of the most influential voices in this area of the industry to XpoNorth 2018. Confirmed speakers include Rupert Hollier, Michelle de Vries, Matt Biffa, Tom Stanford and NBCEntertainment's Alicen Schneider. Other sessions already announced include a special keynote with Mom+Pop Co-Owner, Thaddeus Rudd, a unique seminar with Interface looking at Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and ICO's and what these technologies mean for the creative industries, a discussion looking at the world of Fashion Buyers, The Power of Made in Scotland - Exploring New Trends and new Market Research Findings and many more.

XpoNorth will also be announcing full detail of an exciting new Heritage and Creativity programme in addition to releasing details on a special programme aimed at younger creatives in partnership with Skills Development Scotland.

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