I've been involved with XpoNorth – formerly goNORTH – for a decade. My first experience of it was in 2007 when I was seconded from Drama at BBC Scotland to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). My brief was to create a strategy and develop a support system for the screen and broadcast industries in the Highlands and Islands.
That first year I organised three screen and broadcast panel sessions for goNORTH, which at that point was a relatively low-key grassroots music industry festival attended by around a hundred delegates. At this year’s XpoNorth we had 34 cross-genre, internationally themed conference sessions, around 200 one-to-one slots, trade stands, a gaming and technology playground, various training initiatives, film screenings, international craft exhibition and musical acts showcasing along with 2,500 delegates in attendance on site at Eden Court, the festival’s more recent home.
There have been many additions along the way: in 2012, I started up a festival radio station and introduced a film showcase, screening shorts from home and abroad. In its first year, we screened c40 films. This year, we received 3,000 entries from 112 countries around the world with 84 making the final cut, including two feature documentaries from local filmmakers. The radio station has also morphed into a live television station called XpoNorth Live!
The famous XpoNorth Music Showcase has also grown and this year over 80 emerging acts played at venues across the city.
It’s been an amazing time and something I’m very proud of. Since I became director in 2011, XpoNorth has grown from a niche music industry festival into a major creative industries conference and showcase event, encompassing screen, broadcast, game development, design, craft, fashion, textiles, writing, publishing and of course, music.
As I bid my farewells, I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has climbed on board the XpoNorth Express over the last decade. It's been quite a journey.