Interview with QMU graduate: Reem Allam, MA Arts, Festival & Cultural Management

By Press Office

Reem Allam, 22, is from Cairo in Egypt and graduated with an MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management from QMU in 2016.

Reem's passion for festivals management started when she attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas, USA, in 2014. This led to her moving to Edinburgh for postgraduate study at QMU and working as Business Development & Marketing Coordinator for Just Festival as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016.

During her time at QMU, Reem was awarded the Santander Universities Scholarship Award.

Reem also has a passion for both writing and acting. She worked as a journalist for Scotland's Arts and Culture Magazine, TV Bomb, and acted in several short-films, including a film that won an award at the 2013 Filmapalooza Festival in LA, USA.

Reem is now Executive Manager of Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) - the only international multi-art form festival in Cairo.

Why did you choose to study at QMU?

“I found out that QMU specialises in creativity and culture, and 'Festivals Management’ in particular through the University’s website.

“I was passionate about gaining academic and practical experience in the management of festivals, and so having this area as a focus within the programme was a crucial persuasive factor for me.

“I’d also read inspirational testimonials from previous international QMU students talking about how informative and valuable the MA programme in Arts, Festivals and Cultural Management was to them. They emphasised the practical aspect of the programme and one former student described her entrepreneurial success story of starting her own arts organisation in Africa. I immediately imagined myself fulfilling a similar success and applied to the programme to help me reach my potential and achieve my career goals.

“The final factor that informed my decision was the fact that I was awarded the 2015/2016 Santander Scholarship award through QMU, which helped support the cost of postgraduate study.”

Why did you choose to move to Edinburgh and QMU?

“I was really looking forward to studying this Master’s degree in a city highly renowned for its rich culture. I also wanted to compliment the academic theory of my studies through actively engaging with the flourishing arts and festivals sector in Edinburgh. I couldn't find a better fit than the city of Edinburgh, including the world’s biggest performing arts festival every summer and an impressive year-round arts scene.”  

What did you like best about living in Edinburgh?

“Edinburgh's arts and cultural scene, including cutting-edge contemporary dance, music, drama, and visual theatre performances. Edinburgh Festival Fringe and key festive events such as the Beltane Fire Festival are all unforgettable experiences that I will always cherish and love Edinburgh for.”

Where in Edinburgh did you live?

“I lived in Gillespie Place right next to The Meadows. I loved how it was in the heart of the city and close to all the popular streets. I was captivated with the impressive beauty of Edinburgh.”

What did you enjoy most about studying at QMU?

"“I loved how this degree went against my expectations of being a typical management degree that uncritically uses the business management discourse as its base for explaining the theory of managing arts organisations. On the contrary, the MA Programme Leader and key lecturer, Dr David Stevenson, has succeeded in fulfilling my intellectual thirst of loving to being critically challenged and forced to question any taken for granted ideas; and thus realising the unconfined beauty and art of management and not just the management of the arts."
Reem Allam


“Another key aspect that I greatly enjoyed was the MA final thesis, where we given the chance to not only undertake a research dissertation, but choose other more practical options, such as developing a business plan or a feasibility study for an existing or new arts organisation.”

Tell us about your graduate job

“I’m now an Executive Manager of Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), Egypt’s only international multi-disciplinary contemporary arts festival, which takes place over three weeks in March-April each year, at multiple sites in Downtown Cairo.

“My job involves planning, delivery and evaluation of the upcoming festival editions by working closely with the festival's Artistic Director, Marketing, PR and Finance teams. I’m responsible for hiring and supervising the seasonal festival staff, fundraising and acting as a point of contact for funders, delivery partners, staff, artists, and members of the public, as well as establishing and maintaining close working relationships with a wide range of delivery partners and artists to ensure smooth running of the festival and successful achievement of its yearly goals.”

How do you think your QMU degree help you with your career?

“I managed to land a high profile graduate job with an international arts festival at the age of 22. This is definitely owed to having earned such a specialised master’s degree in arts and festivals management, which is not offered in any university in the Middle East.

“My ambition is to make a valuable contribution to the still small yet growing festivals scene in Cairo.”

MA Arts, Festival & Cultural Management

For more information on MA Arts, Festival & Cultural Management and QMU, visit our course page.

Notes to Editor

For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Marketing Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E:  T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239 and Jon Perkins, Press and PR Officer, E: T: 0131 474 0000.

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