“The diversity is incredible. There is so much to learn from so many people.”
Alan Meggs, MA Creative Writing talks about his course and his fascinating career.
Could you tell us a bit about your background – what have you been doing prior to starting your MA and what your first degree is in?
I trained professionally as a dancer. The early part of my career was spent living in Italy working in a small, touring cabaret dance company. When I returned to the UK I worked in the West End, tv and film. Eventually I moved into the technical aspects of theatre, predominantly stage and production management and costume. Prior to starting my MA I was a freelance stage manager and wardrobe technician, and a casual technician for the Theatre Royal Brighton and The Dome. I call the graduation ceremonies – the voice that makes sure all technical aspects happen at the right time. If the lights or music don’t happen when they’re supposed to, you know where to look. I have no other degree.
What drew you to studying MA Creative Writing at Brighton?
Whilst working at The Dome, I was asked to stage manage the university graduation ceremonies. A conversation with Hugh Jones, events manager, led to a meeting with Jess Moriarty, head of the Creative Writing course. I had begun to write about my life in Italy, mixing it with the history of cabaret and looking at the similarities between my life and the performers of one hundred years ago. Jess introduced me to autoethnography and opened my world to a new and inspiring way of writing and encouraged me to explore different avenues of thinking and research. It was obvious to me that Brighton should be the place to pursue my higher education, given the connections I had already made.
Why straight in at the deep end? Is there any other way? I’m in my late fifties, I have no time to sit around!
What are you enjoying about the course?
Oh gosh, where to start.
The challenge – being encouraged to look at all aspects of writing from so many different angles. Being introduced to new ways of approach and research for my work.
The camaraderie – we know we’re all in the same boat so we have each-others’ backs. An encouraging support network has been quick established – and it’s not too serious. We do a lot of laughing (even if it sometimes borders on hysteria).
The age range – I’m learning along-side recent BA graduates and people who have already had long careers. The diversity is incredible. There is so much to learn from so many people. Everyone brings a relevant, original and personal perspective to the seminars.
I never imagined I would go back to full time study, forty years after I left school.
What do you plan to do afterwards?
I intend to apply for a doctorate, in order to develop as an academic, lead workshops with other students and community groups, and create practice-based research initiatives at the university. I would like to dig as deep as I can into the history of cabaret and also continue work I’m starting with the Theatre Royal and their archives in February 2019. There are also the books about my life and research that need to be written.
Dance is a strange vocation. It is very insular, strict, one has to be single minded. Being in front of a live audience is the most addictive drug imaginable. Something that is difficult to describe. What I refer to as the seventh sense. When that short career is over, one can find oneself drifting aimlessly, desperate to recapture the totality of performance. Writing, creative writing, is re-connecting me with this inner spirit. This time though, the steps and words are my own.