I’m very busy with the day job this week. I’m a music booking agent for folk-type artists from a Canadian-Cowboy bluegrassy duo called Over the Moon, to a troupe of Zulu singers and dancers from KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, called Zulu Tradition. There are performers from the USA and Canada as well as British artists. I have to find gigs for them UK-wide and organise their tours. This is my current crop of lovely performers.
I’m also a UK Government licensed sponsor, which means I can issue Certificates of Sponsorship (think of them a electronic work permits) for artists coming in to play in the UK from abroad. After eighteen months of no music agency work other than rearranging gigs from 2020 to 2021, and then from 2021 to 2022, everyone has suddenly woken up and I’m getting lots of requests for CoS. There are two different ways of using them. Nationals from countries whose citizens don’t require a visa for leisure travel to the UK can come in and work in Tier 5 (entertainment) on a Certificate of Sponsorship. These include citizens of America, Canada, Europe, Australia etc. But nationals from countries whose citizens do require a visa for leisure travel, also have to get a visa to work here. So they need to take the CoS that I issued and make an application for a visa (called entry clearance) before travelling. This includes countries like Russia, China, African countries and some South American countries. It’s not straightforward and in these days of our ‘hostile environment’ visas are sometimes (very frustratingly) refused on the flimsiest of reasons, even if the musicians were only coming in for three days to play at a major festival. (Some of you might remember that in 2018/19 the WOMAD festival had half its artists denied visas.)
So that’s what I do when I’m not writing.
I’m busier than usual because I’m trying to cram three weeks of day-job work into one week because I’m going to Milford in September and I’ve set aside one week to prepare for it and one week to attend. Why so much preparation? Milford is a week of peer-group critique. There are no leaders and no followers. Fifteen writers are kettled up together in a not-so-secret location in North Wales. We each take something that we’re currently working on, up to an upper limit of 12,000 words, in one or two pieces. Mornings are free time to catch up with reading and critting. Afternoons are formal crit sessions, and evenings are social time. The standard of critique is high, but remains professional and delivered as supportively as possible. Fifteen people attend which means each one of us has to read and critique up to 168,000 words. (14 x 12,000) While it’s possible to use mornings for critiquing, it would be mad not to do as much critiquing as possible beforehand.
I attended my first Milford in 1998 before I’d ever sold a book. I had, however sold one story to a DAW anthology – which is the minimum qualification for attending Milford. The story I took later became my first published book, Empire of Dust, though it underwent many edits in the intervening years. I can say, though, that without Milford I might never have sold that first book, as my introduction to my editor came through a writer I met at Milford.
James Blish brought Milford to the UK in 1972 (it had been running in Milford Pennsylvania since 1956.) It settled in Milford on Sea to begin with, and then moved around to several different locations. It was in Devon when I first attended, but for the last 15 or 16 years it’s been at Trigonos in a tiny Welsh village called Nantlle. Trigonos has lovely grounds and marvellous views. It even has its own lake frontage.
Many of the best known names in SF/F writing have attended including: George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Neil Gaiman, Alastair Reynolds, Brian Aldiss, Bruce Sterling, Christopher Priest, Diana Wynne Jones, Samuel R Delany, and Liz Williams. If you write science fiction and/or fantasy, you should consider applying to attend Milford, not only for critique, but for networking, and for a jolly lovely week in the wilds of scenic Snowdonia. I’m looking forward to it, especially after last year’s covid-cancellation.