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Profile: Ian Brooke, Programme Editor

Can you describe your job in 1 sentence?

I edit the programmes for all the Company’s productions, commissioning articles and illustrations, liaising with performers and all in-house departments, writing synopses and biographies, organising advertising, collaborating with the graphics department on design and layout, and distributing the printed copies to theatres around the country. I'm a bit like air-traffic control, hopefully bringing all the various sections of the books together in the right place and at the right time. The printed programme is one of the few tangible records of a production, so it's important to get everything correct.

What do you love about working in opera?

I come from a publishing background. In publishing houses, editors deal mainly with a single author. As the programme editor in an opera company, I've discovered that you have to work with just about everybody! It's great to see what goes on behind the scenes throughout the Company, and it has shown me just how many people are needed to stage an opera. My input for each production finishes a couple of days before opening night, so I'm in the privileged position of being able to sit back and let the full power and emotion of the performance wash over me.

10 years ago, did you imagine that you would be working for this Company?

I was working in a Glaswegian publishing company 10 years ago, editing books on Chinese Astrology, SAS Survival, Babies’ Names and Scottish Wildflowers, among others, so opera didn't loom large in a work sense. However, I have attended opera and orchestral concerts regularly since I arrived in Scotland 20 years ago, and when the opportunity to work for Scottish Opera on a freelance basis arose 4 years ago, I jumped at it.

If you weren't working in opera, what would be your ideal profession?

Most people assume that I would like to write but, truth to tell, it's something that doesn't appeal, apart from transcribing my great- grandfather's World War One diaries. When I was at school, I thought I'd like to be a chef – I must have been mad! Then I thought I'd like to be a cartographer – until I discovered at college that I couldn’t draw maps (I do like to collect antique maps though). So it occurs to me that I am incredibly fortunate to do something that I really enjoy, and hope that I can continue to do it for as long as possible!


What do you do when you're not working?

I love the outdoors. I try to get out walking as often as possible. With friends I climb the Munros (mountains over 3000 ft) scattered across Scotland, but I'm just as happy sauntering on a beach or exploring less wild terrain. I also enjoy the theatre and cinema, particularly the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

What 3 things might people be surprised to learn about you?

I have an agent. Over the past few years, I've appeared as an extra in various Scottish TV programmes. My two main claims to fame are being offered a roll and sausage by Scarlet in River City, and being shouted at by a radio DJ on Taggart, though wrecking a Lorraine Chase scene in Emmerdale because my bald head was shining too much may well be my greatest contribution to the televisual medium.

I have a fascination for airships – what a totally crazy invention. A relative worked on the design of the R101. I tried to fly (or sail) in an airship for my 40th birthday at Friedrichshafen in Germany, where the Zeppelins were built, but the wind was too strong and there was a thunderstorm nearby. Somehow, I should have known...

I used to play the piano (grade 7) and the euphonium (grade 8). I played the notes, but not much beyond that. I recently had my first lesson on the ukulele. Imagine my horror when I discovered I had to sing as well...


Where is your favourite place to be in the world?

Three places spring to mind. Gloucester Cathedral (awe-inspiring, and now familiar to all Harry Potter-ites); Venice (mind-boggling); and the view from the road up to Ilkley Moor over my hometown, Keighley in Yorkshire (particularly in the evening looking down on all the lights).