Based in Lewes, Robin Houghton chats to Your County about being a speaker, trainer, author and writer.
The work you’re involved in seems quite varied, how did your career evolve?
I started in fitness promotions and got my big break when I got a job at Nike. They wanted someone to grow the fitness sector in the UK, so I got involved in everything from organising events and managing athletes to writing sales copy and merchandising shop displays. From there I moved into marketing proper, first communications and then product marketing for adidas in the USA.
I suppose I always enjoyed writing. When the internet came along I worked for a digital agency and learned how to write for the web and email, starting my own online marketing business in 2002. My interest in social media and blogging developed from that. I was one of the first three people in Lewes on Twitter in 2007!
The work has evolved constantly. I’m quite selective now in what I take on, preferring to work with other writers mentoring them in social media, or bigger projects like writing books or course development. I do some training for New Writing South, for example. I do have two or three local business clients who’ve been with me for ten years or so – they’re super and the work has great variety. I’ve been writing poetry seriously for the past five years and last year I co-founded a poets’ publishing collective, Telltale Press, so we have all kinds of plans to develop that.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
Being able to choose who I work for – basically just the nice people! I’ve always preferred long-term relationships with clients because you can really get to know them and their business, and that makes it more rewarding and interesting. I also enjoy the independence and autonomy of setting my own deadlines, my own hours, where I work and how I work.
Having worked in traditional office environments for many years, I appreciate what that means in terms of not having a boss, a hierarchy, internal politics etc. Although sometimes I do miss the camaraderie, but I have a desk in a shared office at The Hive in Lewes, so working from there a day or two each week stops me from becoming a complete hermit!
Online marketing is a constantly evolving industry – do you have any predictions for where you see the industry going?
I’m less involved in online marketing these days, but it’s certainly become much more specialised. I’m looking forward to the day when culture catches up with technology. To be honest I find the long term much more interesting than the short term. It’s still early days for the internet. So I don’t know about the next year or so, but I do know that in 50 or 100 or 500 years, people will look back on this period of history as being pretty chaotic, and what we think of as ‘high tech’ pretty crude. All technology will be fused with human qualities – we’ll all be cyborgs, if you like!
Have you always lived in Lewes?
No, but I’ve been here for 13 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere! Although we’re currently contemplating a move to Eastbourne, for more space and to escape the traffic which has got noticeable worse on our street since the prevalence of sat-nav.
What do you like about Lewes and East Sussex in general?
Lewes is wonderful – Bonfire night, the views of the Downs from just about anywhere in the town, the quirky shops, great pubs. There are so many lovely walks from your doorstep. It’s a vibrant community of artists, writers, musicians, thinkers, activists and eccentrics. I just wish it had a better train service to and (particularly) from London.
Do you have any favourite groups for writers in the county?
In Lewes, there’s the Needlewriters collective of poets and prose writers who have quarterly events at the cafe in the Needlemakers. Both Lewes Live Lit and the Lewes Literary Monday club bring big name authors and poets to the town, and the former puts on creative writing workshops.
Hastings and St Leonards is another vibrant hub for writers – there’s the St Leonards Writers’ Salon, Hastings Writers and the Hastings Stanza of the Poetry Society. I’m sure there are many more!