Paige Goodman’s journey to QMU started just one year ago in Toronto, after learning about the MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management programme from her Canadian professor who was undertaking a PhD through the university.
It’s been a whirlwind experience, upping sticks from Canada to begin her one-year course in Scotland, a country she’d never visited before. Here, Paige tells us about her experience of QMU, life in Edinburgh, and the career path she’s carving out for herself within the film festival community.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - on the prairies - but I moved here from Toronto. I was living there for about three-and-a-half years. Where I grew up was quite isolated. The closest big city was about a two-and-a-half to three hour drive away.
It was a very insular, small city life and I did my undergrad in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan, where I majored in theatre. So that was what I thought was going to be my career, but five years ago I felt acting wasn’t for me and I thought journalism would be a good route, as I like writing.
So I moved to Toronto to go to Ryerson University, but that also wasn’t for me. It was a really big life decision and a lot of changes all at once. I started the Master of Journalism programme but felt it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
After I dropped out, I was working in Toronto doing different jobs and I ended up getting a job at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) working in their exhibition on their annual art-meets-technology children’s exhibit called digiPlaySpace. A friend of mine was working for their exhibitions team at the time, and so I ended up getting a facilitator job in the gallery. Getting to know TIFF, the people who work there, and see what the organisation does, really showed me that arts management was the area that I wanted to go in.
I ended up getting an internship there that summer, working for the festival, and that was what really started my course towards the Master’s in Arts, Festival and Cultural Management at QMU.
Why did you choose QMU/Scotland?
After my internship with TIFF, in the summer of 2014, I decided that I needed to go back to school if I wanted to focus on this career.
I ended up doing an arts and cultural management diploma through MacEwan University which is in Edmonton, Canada, and I was thinking of moving there as I’d been there a few times when I was growing up (it’s about a six hour drive from Saskatoon). In the end, though, I decided Toronto was where I really wanted to be. Luckily the programme was offered online so I ended up doing the first year from home to save some money, and then moved back to Toronto and did the second year from there.
My professor, Annetta Latham, was doing her PhD through QMU, and she told me about an articulation programme that she and David Stevenson [QMU’s Head of Division of Media, Communication and Performing Arts] set up especially for MacEwan graduates.
It was only this time last year in December that I started the application process, and it’s been a whirlwind from hearing about the programme to being like “Yes, this is what I want to do, I want to move to Scotland”.
Had you ever been to Scotland before?
I’d never been to Scotland. I did a theatre studies programme in London eleven years ago, and I attended a music festival in Reykjavik in 2014, but that had been the extent of my European adventures.
It is interesting because I know some of my heritage is Scottish – my grandmother was a MacNaughton – but I don’t know much about her side of the family. So it has been interesting to come here knowing some of my ancestors were from here.
We did a day trip to Glasgow for one of our classes, which was really nice, but one of my goals after the Christmas chaos is to do more trips within the country and get to see more of Scotland. I'm going to stay with a family in Galloway over Christmas as part of the Host Programme for international students and we’re taking a small class trip to the highlands in April for a few days to tour some arts organisations up there, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Scotland has a reputation for being hospitable and welcoming to visitors. Did you receive a good Scottish welcome? How did you find the Scots people in general?
So far, everyone I've met here has been top-notch. My Scottish classmates are the best - we recently had a group Christmas dinner at a little vegetarian restaurant in town and it was lovely to spend time with them outside of class.
One of my Scottish friends is going to organise an outing for us in January to attend a ceilidh. Although I worked in a Scottish pub in Saskatoon for six summers, and one of my best friends was a competitive Highland dancer, I've never been to a real ceilidh!
And what drew you to this course?
I think a lot of the things that we’re talking about, the content and ideas, are very similar to what I’d already done in my diploma - it’s just having the opportunity to take it a step further in terms of critical analysis, thinking about cultural policy and looking at things from a global perspective.
It’s really enriching when you have that experience to take back to your own country, having knowledge of how other countries are structured, although Canada is very similar to the UK in terms of their cultural policy and how arts are set up.
Most interesting part of the course?
The arts management in practice class has been really interesting, even though I’m not actually in it! Anthony [Schrag], our programme leader, was nice enough to invite me to come on all of their field trips. The whole class is about visiting arts organisations in Edinburgh and we get opportunities to talk with people who are working in the field there. Sometimes they’ll do a presentation, other times we’re just observing. So even though I’m not doing the assignments for that class, it’s interesting to get out and see the arts and cultural organisations and what they’re doing.
How have your lecturers supported you?
I think Anthony is kind of the ideal person to be leading this type of programme. Arts and cultural management is a relatively new profession within the last few decades, and Anthony approaches it as a practising artist, which is an interesting perspective. The kind of research he does is so fascinating and I wish there was an entire class on action and participation research! He’s been nice to get to know.
David, of course, is a brilliant thinker in the arts and cultural field, and it’s always good to have someone there to challenge you and push you in terms of your critical thinking.
In our cultural policy class, led by Rachel Blanche, we have the best debates and I think that’s down to how she structures the class. We have a lecture for the first hour and a half, then we split into two groups and have smaller seminars, and that’s our time to discuss these ideas with her. I really enjoyed how that was structured.
Are there any challenges you’ve come up against, either through the course itself, or life as a student in Scotland?
I think, when you’re living away from home, the challenge is to build your own support network, because you don’t have your friends and family around. It’s been really nice to meet a lot of different people in my programme, who are in the same situation.
Also, my living situation has worked out really well. My flatmate is from Pakistan and goes to University of Edinburgh, so it's always interesting to compare our international student experiences over dinner. That’s the challenge – how to make yourself at home in a different country.
Have you got any advice for students thinking about doing this particular course?
Don’t underestimate the workload of a master’s programme! There’s a lot more expected of you than is expected of an undergraduate, and you need to step up your game in terms of your writing and your thinking. But it’s a really good opportunity to challenge yourself as an academic and hopefully, challenge your assumptions of the arts sector.
Have you been a part of any societies or groups alongside your studies at QMU?
I’m a class representative, so that’s been an extra thing I thought I could do since I don’t have as many classes as others. Next semester I only have one class, so I thought it’d be a nice way to stay connected and involved. I’m really glad I decided to do that. It basically involves going to meetings and collecting feedback from classmates, and funnelling that back to the programme leader. It’s been really interesting getting to know people a bit better in terms of what they’re struggling with and where things could be improved.
Your study here in Scotland was made possible, in part, due to the Saltire Scholarship. Can you tell me a little bit about how the Saltire Scholarship has benefited your studies here in Scotland?
I was in Vancouver when I got the email saying that I had been selected for the Saltire Scholarship. I randomly woke up at 6am and checked my phone - needless to say, I wasn't going back to sleep after that!
The scholarship has taken a financial weight off my shoulders and I'll have more freedom to travel next semester, not only to see more of Scotland but other parts of Europe and Asia too. I've already booked a trip to Spain in March and I'm really hoping to visit Pakistan with my flatmate, who grew up in Lahore.
One of the best experiences I've had in Scotland so far is attending a Saltire Scholar event back in October. There I met other international Masters students who are studying at universities all over the country. I now have friends to visit in Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen, so aside from financial support, the Saltire Scholarship has given me a network of like-minded students who are in the same boat as me.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned here at QMU?
Probably to have more confidence in my ideas and my understanding of the field. I’ve pushed myself to take on leadership roles within the class, to make myself feel comfortable in that area. I think this will help me when I go back [to Toronto] in terms of how I sell myself in order to get another job, and then how I assert myself within that organisation.
I have a much better understanding of arts management in terms of a holistic approach, whereas I felt like when I was working before I left for Scotland, I was very myopic in terms of my role and my department. It’s nice to have a much broader view of how things are run in an arts organisation.
Plans for after graduation?
I think I’ll continue to pursue work within film festivals. After my internship when I moved back to Toronto, I did a few contracts with TIFF, and last January I got a full-time job working with Hot Docs, which is a documentary film festival in Toronto. I was working in development there as the Stewardship Coordinator, and that was a really great experience for me
It’ll be interesting to go back after this life-changing experience in Scotland. It might take a while to land a role, I know it’s always difficult, but I think the decision to come here was a good one and it’ll stand me well in the years to come in terms of building my career.
"[The MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management course] is a really good opportunity to challenge yourself as an academic and, hopefully, challenge your assumptions of the arts sector."