Meet a member: Bert Preece

This month, meet Bert. He’s come a long way since reading books by the light of his digital alarm clock – scooping 26’s Emerging Writer award in 2017 and recently moving into the field of freelance writing.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

Hi, I’m Bert from Chesterfield. This sounds a bit like Blind Date, doesn’t it? Anyway… I’ll try and keep the cheesy lines to a minimum.

Chesterfield is where I grew up, but London is a very special place for me. I was born in Hammersmith. My Dad, who’s a joiner, commuted to London and worked there Monday to Friday whilst I was growing up. London was always this enchanted place where Dad disappeared to.

I studied in London. Then I moved to Nottingham for work. And now I spend my time across Nottingham, London and Berlin. I’ve been a freelance writer for nearly two months.

Where did your love of words come from?

Like most children, I always liked stories, drama and fabricating the truth. White lies, porkies, call them what you like. Most children do that, right?

I used to be on tenterhooks when watching Coronation Street with my Mum. I was lucky to have some encouraging English teachers. And I would read way past my bedtime. I remember reading with only my digital alarm clock for light. It used to hum when the light was on, but I got used to it.

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

In my second year at university, I entered a competition to do some “Word Experience” at The Writer, the world’s largest brand language consultancy.

I met and learnt from lots of lovely, clever people, including Roshni Goyate, Ed Yeoman, Nick Parker and Anelia Varela. All of them told me to join 26, so I eventually did. That was in 2010.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

Yes. I wrote a sestude on the old Wembley stadium for 26 Postcodes and a centena about Mir Dast, a brave Indian soldier, for 26’s Armistice project. I was also an Editor for 26 Designs.

26 Projects have creative constraints and deadlines. They conjure up interesting research topics, help you to meet other writers and are an outlet to challenge your creativity and experiment.

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

I like things going on around me. Not too much. I probably couldn’t write at a football match. But quiet coffee shops are good. I’ve also just joined a co-working space in Nottingham. It’s full of journalists, illustrators, designers, animators, a proper good mix of creative people – and proofreaders if I ask nicely!

I often get bored sitting in the same place, and I think it’s important to let your mind wander. So, I have to stretch my legs every now and again. Everyone always wonders what I’m doing. And I often come up with ideas whilst out and about. My iPhone’s notes bit is very useful.

What are you working on at the moment?

A variety, which is good. I’m the lead writer at a London-based social media agency that’s growing super fast. That takes up most of my energy. But I’ve also got a couple of other bits on – the e-commerce page for an Italian café and a meeting with a contemporary art gallery.

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I won 26’s Emerging Writer award in 2017. That was for a piece of writing I did for Boots, which in 2015 had just merged with giant American drug-store company, Walgreens, to form Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

I was asked to do a presentation to 400 HR colleagues on one of WBA’s new global values – Innovation. To do this I told a story through spoken word poetry. People tell me they still remember it several years on.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I listen to lots of hip hop. There are some great lyricists out there who are brilliant at telling stories. I like poetry too – both written and spoken.

My friend Ben, who’s a teacher, is obsessed with romantic poetry, so catching up with him always gets me in the mood (to write). And there are several other people who inspire me with their business writing. Lots of them are 26 members, and I won’t name them for fear of missing someone out. But 26 and its members are a great source of inspiration.

I like to read too. At the moment I’m reading Crudo, a novel by Olivia Laing.

– Sophie Gordon and Bert Preece

Well be meeting a new 26 member each month. If youd like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line at Don’t be shy.

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