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.) Continue reading “Staff Views: Avril Gray – Programme Leader of Publishing & University Lead on the Big Read”

Meet our team: Grace Balfour-Harle – Student Liaison

Another Monday, another ‘Meet Our Team’! This week we’re talking to postgrad student Grace Balfour-Harle about her role as Student Liaison, her experience with #NapierBigRead and the upcoming release of Detective McLevy’s Casebook

Describe your role in the Big Read? What is it that you do?

I am the Student Liaison which means I represent the Napier Big Read team when coordinating with externals, and directly to the students. I have conducted interviews with some external volunteers, and am in discussion with all the class representatives for our big launch date on World Book Day on 1st March 2018.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Big Read scheme?

At my undergraduate university, there was a kind of Big Read scheme, but nothing really was done about it beyond the academic side of it, so I was really excited to get involved with Napier’s Big Read team and send the message directly to the students.

Why do you think this project is important for the university?

A shared reading programme brings people together who wouldn’t necessarily meet otherwise. A more cohesive university will allow students and staff to learn more about each other, and ultimately become better people. The Napier Big Read is not going to bring everyone together, but every small action will result in one big movement for the betterment of the university.

Why should students be enthusiastic about the Big Read?

This is a student-run project, making it very easy for students to get behind it. Who gets students more than students? It has the aim of pulling us all together, which is one of the stand-firsts of Edinburgh Napier University. We are one team, and so the Napier Big Read allows students to connect with everyone and anyone, bringing our team closer together.

How can students get involved?

There are so many things that you can do to get involved, including just reading the book! It might inspire you to set up an event, or just have a nice coffee shop chat with a friend. Societies can theme one of their meetings around the book; Sports could play a game dressed in Victorian dress, or run a themed social. It really just depends on your imagination.

Just for fun, what’s your favourite book?

I have a few books that I’ve re-read continuously from childhood like the Anne of Green Gables series, Harry Potter, and The Great Gatsby. I also love all of Charles Dickens’ work. But obviously, at the moment, my favourite book is Detective McLevy’s Casebook.


Alumni Views: Kirstin Lamb – Project Manager of Detective McLevy’s Casebook (first edition)

Welcome to this new interview section entitled Alumni Views. This section will tell you about individuals connected with #NapierBigRead starting with Kirstin Lamb. Kirstin is currently the PR and Rights Manager at Barrington Stoke, and an alum of the MSc Publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University. During her time at Edinburgh Napier, she was part of the team that brought Detective McLevy’s Casebook to life.

What was your role in creating the first edition of Detective McLevy’s Casebook?

I was the Project Manager.

Why did you choose to publish Detective McLevy’s Casebook for your university project?

It was actually a blend of two proposed projects – each student created a publication plan for a different Scottish book complete with marketing and promo plans. Then the group voted on the title to work on and we took the marketing ideas from another similar title proposal to round out the project.

What was the best part of the process?

Holding the finished copy in my hands was incredible – after all that work, we had our very own book! Then we launched at the inaugural Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling, where we had organised our own author panel discussion and handed out free copies to attendees – that was pretty special, and a wonderful conclusion to the project.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

We were running con-current projects at the time – it was exciting to publish two paperback books and an e-book simultaneously for the real-world publishing experience, but it definitely stretched our limits at times. We then hosted two separate launches in the summer. Fortunately, our collective nerve held out!

How useful was working on this project in terms of your future career?

Working on a real-life publishing project was invaluable. It gave all the students an insight into the departmental structure and collaborative nature of publishing, and specifically for myself, it really cemented that I was keen to work in a small publishing house, as I love following a title’s journey through and having input at different stages.

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

I hope that new settlers in Edinburgh will enjoy exploring this snippet of the city’s varied past, and that all readers will relish the opportunity to dip in and out of this collection. The Napier Big Read is a brilliant initiative and I hope every student takes a moment to enjoy some reading for pleasure!

Streetreads Book Donation

As part of #NapierBigRead, students all over the campuses donated an amazing 1,000 books for #bookstohomeless in partnership with Streetreads – well done all of you! Yesterday the cargo bike arrived on Merchiston campus to collect the first 70 books. This has been a very worthy cause and we hope many benefit from it.

Rachel was interviewed by some journalism students, and some of the #NapierBigRead team were there to help distribute the books! It is evident from their smiling faces that they have enjoyed every moment of this project.

Many thanks to all of you for your incredible donations! You made this possible.



Meet our team: Damarys Campos – Website Manager & Graphic Designer

It’s Monday, which means another ‘Meet Our Team’! This week we have Publishing postgrad student Damarys Campos, our website manager and graphic designer. She’ll talk about her roles in this year’s #NapierBigRead, how to get involved, and what to look forward to in Detective McLevy’s Casebook

Describe your role in the Big Read? What is it that you do?

I’m the website manager, which means handling the webpage where you’re reading this very interview. I organise, style, and sometimes write the content that’s created for the Big Read. On the other hand, I’m also the graphic designer. I create the visuals needed for the project. Some of these include the website banner, the profile images used in the ‘Meet Our Team’ interviews, the email signature, and more.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Big Read scheme?

I was really excited to take part on a project of this scale. I loved the idea of the whole university community reading the same book together. Being able to take part of the planning and execution of the Big Read has been a valuable learning experience.   

Why do you think this project is important for the university?

It’s very special when a group of people can unite and share something together, and the Big Read is a perfect example of this. This year, through Detective McLevy’s Casebook, students and staff alike can experience the book together, start a conversation, and get to know about the real-life inspiration behind the well-known Sherlock Holmes.

Why should students be enthusiastic about the Big Read?

First of all, and most importantly, you get the book for free! Who doesn’t love free things, especially books? With this one in particular, you’ll get to explore Victorian Edinburgh through the cases Detective McLevy investigated. And, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you could even visit some of the places where the stories take place.

How can students get involved?

Right now, you can take part by donating a book at the Big Read Bookcases that are placed throughout all three campuses. Make sure to do it soon! They’ll only be up until the 14th of February. Also, be sure to follow NapierBigRead on social media to get notified of all the great things coming your way soon.

Just for fun, what’s your favourite book?

My favourite book is Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie. It has mystery,  a secret organization, espionage, and Poirot’s unique wit. The copy I own is very special to me. It was printed in 1955 and gifted to me by one of my closest friends.