Birmingham poet's portfolio career advice

Posted on Friday 13th December 2013

Jan Watts, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011-12

Jan Watts, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011-12, delivered an insightful talk to College of Arts and Law postgraduates, detailing the trials and tribulations of a portfolio career in the arts.

Jan nominally considers herself a poet, but also writes plays, performs and writes for a wide range of media outlets. She discussed the practical difficulties of earning a living from a number of sources rather than from a salary, as well as the continual drive to gain commissions, and the joy of working on creative projects.

And she described the process in which a mother and grandmother can continue to pursue the work they are interested in – often with very early mornings. She also extolled the virtues of maintaining a part-time, peripatetic career which can help fund your dream work without hampering it, as she herself has when working as a supply teacher for much of her working life.

A former student of Birmingham’s MPhil in Playwriting (now MRes Playwriting Studies, convened by Fraser Grace), Jan says that following her time at the University, “I was a much better writer”, and acknowledged that, even when working in the creative arts, having a qualification had proved invaluable when looking for work. She even expressed an interest in studying for a PhD.

Student Rahees Kasar, who attended the event, commented:

'The event with Jan Watts was a very honest and inspiring look at how she managed to express herself creatively and still be able to get through and fulfil her responsibilities as a mother. Her short talk had a wealth of knowledge and experience which I will be benefiting from immensely.'