Simon Clews | writer | educator | publisher | arts & event specialist
Simon Clews’ early years in the theatre developed the DNA for an impressive career combining words and ideas with events and oral and written communication. Storytelling has also become a recurrent theme in his work with the art of how to tell the story and the science of making it accessible and profitable becoming both a feature of his core skill set and a passion.
Simon has a track record in taking organizations and turning them around to be professionally managed, profitable and extending their reach beyond their physical geography. His ability to generate saleable ideas, his highly developed networks and an ability to simultaneously manage multiple projects of varying scales and spanning multiple disciplines and genres always results in genuine value add for all involved.
He was a very early embracer of the digital world (allegedly and proudly the fourteenth person in Melbourne with a commercial email address!) and a firm believer in and operator across a borderless world. His favourite quotes about his work are from a board member of an organization he ran for many years who said “Simon has the comparatively rare ability to use both sides of the brain simultaneously and with equal effect.” and a Melbourne publisher who said of his time at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival: “You can say what you like about Simon Clews, but at least he made the trains run on time!!!”
Over fourteen years, Simon took Melbourne Writers’ Festival and placed it firmly on the world stage and over the last decade his current role as the Director of the Melbourne Engagement Lab at Melbourne University has allowed him to enhance the reputation of a world leading and innovative university through training, encouraging and facilitating some of this country’s brightest minds to make their work accessible to non-academic audiences. This unique place supports postgraduate students, early career researchers and academic staff as they transform their research into writing for non-specialist audiences. Graduates of the Lab’s programs have published everything from award-winning books to trend-setting blogs, including articles, newspaper columns, opinion pieces and essays. Simon also works with writers and academics around the world to help them improve their writing and develop their careers as providers of creative, well-written non-fiction for a commercial market.
Simon is a huge supporter of the Three Minute Thesis competition and points proudly to Melbourne University researchers Eamonn Fahy wining the Melbourne, Trans-Tasman and U21 competitions in 2015 and Nathaniel Swain winning the Melbourne competition this year and going on to come second in the Asia-Pacific Finals.
He is Creative Program Director for Melbourne’s Reader’s Feast book store producing Crime & Justice, a celebration of crime writing and social justice that takes place in November (12 and 13 this year) and the History Writers Festival (scheduled for the weekend of 16 and 17 April). And his literary event experience extends well beyond his time as Festival Director and CEO of Melbourne Writers’ Festival – prior to this, he was responsible for programming Stories Alive, a large-scale celebration of writing for children, and two precursors to Writers on Collins - Writers at the Convent and Writers at Como. In total he has staged thirty major literary events, in addition to dozens of smaller events, and has presented over 3,000 writers to a combined audience of nearly half a million book lovers. Put simply – Simon knows books and writing!
In 2002 the French Government honoured Simon’s contribution to the promotion of French culture in Australia by awarding him the French Flair Award. As well as some very flattering speeches and much kissing on both cheeks, he received a bronze casting of Degas’ La Danseuse from the Louvre and a magnum of Pol Roger. The statue still proudly adorns a shelf in his office. The Pol Roger – sadly – is long gone.
He is a regular book reviewer and contributor to newspapers and magazines and once even took his highly honed retail skills and ventured into the world of guidebooks with Let’s Go Shopping, a very tongue-in-cheek international mail order shopping directory. Much praised and slated to become an annual fixture on the publishing calendar, this bright idea was killed stone dead by something called The Internet. You may have heard of it. Simon is still plotting revenge.
Last year Simon launched a digital publishing house: check out ideePOP for more details of this very exciting venture. He is currently working on an anthology of short stories set on iconic Orchard Road, Singapore – Orchard Road Stories – and a second collection set on another of Simon’s favourite places, Granville Island in Vancouver – Granville Island Stories.
And, if you haven’t read enough about Simon here, you can find out about what came before all this here.