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Olaf Furniss, Born to be Wide

Can you tell us about yourself and your creative background?

I started out editing a fanzine as a teenager and then became editor of my university paper, while studying for a degree in interpreting and translating student. Far too often, a translator's job involves trying to polish a turd, so I quickly switched to journalism as I preferred to write my own words. After a lot of freelancing, I ended up working for several music business titles. Although I still write a column about new music in Scotland, as well as occasionally doing reports on Radio Scotland and the BBC World Service, these days most of my creative outlets tend to be via the events I organise with my fellow director, Michael Lambert. They include our Born To Be Wide seminar and social evenings, the forthcoming Wide Days convention, a series of youth music business days, called Off The Record and our Born To Be Wide Edinburgh Night, which features 10 acts performing during the Fringe, doing ten minute taster sets.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

When it comes to writing and broadcasting, I love doing the research and interviews, as well as being able to tell people about something unusual, amusing or amazing. With our events, I like the fact that we are able to bring so many inspiring speakers to Edinburgh and have them engage with our local music scene. Being able to discover a new act, write about them and then put them on a stage in front of people who can help them get ahead, is an amazing process.

When did you start your business?

We started Born To Be Wide in February 2004 as a way of bringing together everyone in the local scene. The idea was to have guests come and play their favourite records and for people to meet each other to a completely random soundtrack. Four years later, we began hosting seminars and got some really important figures from the music business to come and talk [as well as DJ]. In 2010 we organised a special German Night in partnership with the Conulsate, and then decided to to host our first Wide Days event a couple of month later. Our original venue double booked us, so we ended up switching to somewhere else with a week to go. Thankfully, we now have a great partner in EUSA and have been using Teviot Row House since 2011.

What makes Edinburgh a good city to be based?

People from outside Scotland want to come to Edinburgh, so if you can get the necessary budget together and have a good network, it is relatively easy to attract amazing speakers. In fact, it is often easier to attract senior people from international creative companies and media, than it is attracting academics working on your doorstep. From a personal perspective, I love the fact that I can step out of my door and exchange ideas with people I know. There are not too many places where you can combine a pleasant stroll with getting work done.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up a creative business?

I would think very carefully about taking a degree focusing on media, music business or photography. Most people I know who are working in the creative sector, studied something completely unrelated or did courses lasting less than two years. There are people teaching photography and journalism at Edinburgh institutions who have no experience working in the media, and there is the more general problem that the majority of lecturers teaching creative subjects seldom, or never, engage with those working on the coal face. In terms of starting up a creative business, look beyond getting grants and think about how you can make a living without these. Also, find a sympathetic accountant who has an understanding of different company models and can hold your hand as you are putting things together. Just make sure that you agree the rates and charges at the beginning! One of the most important things to do is build relationships and a community around the business and yourself. Avoid hiding your homework and be generous with your experience. Regardless of what I am working on, being able to pick up the phone and ask somebody for suggestions or advice, is what allows me to stay in business.

For more information on Born to be Wide visit http://borntobewide.co.uk/

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