Staff Views: Avril Gray – Programme Leader of Publishing & University Lead on the Big Read

Welcome to Staff Views! Here, you’ll meet key figures from Edinburgh Napier Big Read staff. This week, we turn the spotlight on Avril Gray, Associate Professor and Programme Leader of MSc Publishing. Avril is the University Lead on the #NapierBigRead and head of the team.

What excites you about the Big Read? 

Everything! I’ve been working at Edinburgh Napier University for some time and what continually strikes me is how this University really celebrates the work and achievements of our students. This year the #NapierBigRead is actually a book our students produced! Other students are getting the chance to read it, to discuss it, and to use it to shout about the great work they are doing. I’ve loved making new connections with other staff and students, and finding out about what students on other programmes are achieving.

Why do you think the benefits of the Big Read scheme are for all students and staff, not just those who are already book lovers or studying literature? 

We are all lifelong learners. Learning means reading. Whether you are studying a physical text or downloading a book for pleasure (did you know our library has 122,000 eBooks?), we are reading all the time. I’ve conducted some research into the claim that people are reading less, but this is not true. We are just reading differently, accessing a variety of resources, digital and physical. And I don’t agree that we should put barriers up to reading, or say that one type of reading is better than another. (And I know I started that last sentence with “and” – my point is, don’t judge, as this can create a barrier to connection.)

Why do you think Detective McLevy’s Casebook is a good choice for this year’s Big Read? 

Well, firstly I have to say because our students produced it! It is truly student-led. Our students asked other students what they wanted in the book – so even the size was decided by students! One of the reasons we chose it is that it is set in Edinburgh. Another reason is that it shines a light on the real Sherlock Holmes. Detective McLevy was a real detective working the streets of Edinburgh and was the acknowledged inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Also, he comes from Armagh, where I am from, so that’s a nice personal connection – and actually illustrates how much people from other parts of the world have contributed to the place we live in. There are lots of other reasons why this book is a great choice – get in touch to find out more!

What message would you pass on to new readers of Detective McLevy’s Casebook?  

It’s a book of short stories. Crime stories. Even if you don’t like crime stories, the stories are short, so you can dip into the book and find out more about the criminal underbelly of old Edinburgh. You’ll see the city differently as you read about life here just after the famous bodysnatchers, Burke and Hare, were roaming our cobbled streets!

Meet the rest of the team


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