Cyber and Tech
The story of the digital mastermind helping write a Gloucestershire book festival’s next chapter
The irony of a book festival being accessible only through a digital platform is not lost on Andrew Longhurst.
Founder and boss of MMOUK, it is his services Stroud Book Festival has turned to in order to make this year’s event happen in a world in which the word socialising has been turned on its head.
But something else had happened, said Mr Longhurst, whereby the skills he has honed over years in the music business, in the corporate world and in all types of sound, film and video production, can be put to use championing a medium digital once looked sent to kill.
Rather than a battle between which is best – print or digital – the significant skills of MOOUK will ensure digital is only the messenger and, despite its spectrum of cleverness, never the focus just the vehicle.
It also helps that Mr Longhurst, who clearly revels in pushing the barriers of the tools of his trade, is a passionate fan of the humble book and
“This perspective was one of the first things we discussed. Through necessity they have had to go down the digital path, and the challenge really is to produce content for people who enjoy books in a way that is accessible for as many people as possible – and for people who might not be overly familiar with digital,” he said.
His own company, which has its sophisticated studio in Fromehall Mill, Stroud, and a green room – capable of creating (digitally) any kind of realistic background or otherwise into a shot – thrives on challenges.
But this was about exploringeasily accessible ways in which everyone – from authors to audience and even schools – could take part with ease and benefit.
He has not ruled out using some of the firm’s incredible abilities – like 360 filming – but there is a budget and the creative thinking is focused on content, inclusivity and accessibility, not wowing people with the magic wands MMOUK has in its repertoire.
It is a challenge Mr Longhurst seems to be enjoying. A day after an unrelated shoot for a business client, made able because of its studio facilities have taken on board the correct covid-secure levels of cleanliness and allow for safe social distancing.
“We are also hoping to be able to announce some work placements for people behind the scenes, those from communities who might not usually get the opportunity to get anything like this on their CV,” he said.
“And we are talking to schools. Normally schools come here, they listen and they ask questions. We need to be able to offer them something authentic and valuable.”
Was the festival – a charity – learning some commercial skills from mixing it with a full-on media firm?
“It really is mutually beneficial, I think,” he said. “I am sure they taking things on board, but they are already very savvy and we are learning a lot from them. It is a reallygood experience.”
Which is not only exciting for the fans of Stroud Book Festival, which celebrates five years old this year, but for MMOUK – which Mr Longhurst admits is currently afloat in an industry decimated by the pandemic.
“There are so many freelancers in the industry. And if there are no jobs, they don’t work. There are lots of people who are highly skilled who do not know when or whether they will work again in the industry. It is very difficult.”
In MMOUK’s favour its habit of continual investment had ensured it remained at the forefront of technology, its position in Stroud made it accessible to a number of major cities with customers, but also allowed it to outbox its competitors on price.