Above the Fold interviewed Alan Bennett – the brains behind HeadStuff media – ahead of his talk at Above the Fold Creative Conference 2017.
How, and when, did HeadStuff begin?
I started the website in February 2014 because all my friends were doing something else one night and I was alone. The original idea was that it would be a personal blog where I could put various writings about things I was interested in. It very quickly became a collaborative effort from where I could share the work of creative friends, and from there people started submitting and I decided that the Irish creative community was so vast and enthusiastic that HeadStuff should be a platform for them to share their work and ultimately get paid for it. So we’re still trying to get there, but so far so good.
Where did you find the inspiration for the name?
The name HeadStuff might be the least inspired thing I have ever come up with. Originally it was “stuff from my head” and “stuff from my head to your (the reader’s) head” and now I suppose it’s just “stuff for your head”. Basically, we want the stuff on our site to be thoughtful or thought-provoking, and you need to use your head to experience that stuff. How’s that for an answer? Awful? I did warn you that it was uninspired.
I can see the highs from my low vantage point, and they’re nice to look at.
Business wise, there aren’t many highs yet, other than the experience and all I’ve learned. Money is a definite low point, in that, I have none of it.
Setting up HeadStuff though has put my life on a very different course, and it has been great. I have met so many excellent, really excellent, people, I have learned a lot about all sorts of things including writing, podcasting, technology, business, managing and organising.
I feel good every time someone from HeadStuff gets a big opportunity that they might not otherwise have had, and every time somebody is complimented for their work. Every share or like or retweet is a little tiny victory like finding a rogue sweet in a packet that you were about to dump, and it’s your favourite flavour.
Sorry, I’m bad at this.
If HeadStuff didn’t exist, what do you think you would be doing?
I wouldn’t be answering these questions. I genuinely have no idea. I might be struggling as a writer with people around me gently hinting that there are jobs flooding back into the country.
What is your proudest HeadStuff achievement to date?
Oh, that’s a tough one. There have been a few nice achievements. When we first reached a million readers, I took a moment to think about how many people that really was… it’s a lot. Also, we’ve had over 500 contributors to the site, it’s nice having so many people involved and getting those creative names out there.
Setting up Ireland’s largest podcast network has been pretty cool, and seeing that industry grow and grow from the inside has been a delicious pleasure. Honestly, I think just the overall thing, “HeadStuff”, meaning the media, all the people involved and the atmosphere around it… is probably the best so far.
If somebody is interested in creating a website, where should they start?
Less cheekily, with a good idea. And also with a keen understanding of web development or getting a web developer involved early, because most issues we have relate back to mistakes we made at the very beginning.
What’s the best piece of creative wisdom you were ever given?
That it’s ok to fail, that failure isn’t some negative result, it can be just a few steps on the way to success. Failing is learning if you look at it properly. So basically, try stuff. A lot.
You once said that passion is infectious, do you feel it is important to share creative stories in order to inspire others?
Did I say that? That’s interesting… I mean, it sounds good. I’d like to see that as one of those Facebook meme things with a hyphen beside my name. I don’t remember saying it, but I agree with past me. I think it is infectious. You could give me the most boring subject in the world and bore me to death with it, but if you give me the world’s most passionate person talking about that subject, I’m sure I’d be enthralled.
This is where HeadStuff Lectures came from, which is a monthly series of talks that we do in The Workman’s Club, Dublin. Actually, now that I think of it, I may have said that passion is infectious when I was trying to get people to come to one of those events. The tag line is “talks about stuff you didn’t think you’d care about“, and you probably didn’t care, until someone who does care talks about it, then it becomes interesting.
The tag line is “talks about stuff you didn’t think you’d care about“, and you probably didn’t care, until someone who does care talks about it, then it becomes interesting.
Sorry, I’m not answering the question. Do I feel it’s important to share creative stories in order to inspire others?
No. Not really. I think creativity in itself is important because without it, what is life? I think people will be inspired by whatever happens to inspire them, but if they are inspired by a creative story, then that’s a bonus, but I don’t think it needs to be the goal.
Anything exciting in the pipelines?
YES! Loads, absolutely loads. We’re in the process of building a new website, so it’s going to be bigger and better than ever (actually better, not like a Hollywood sequel which is generally more “explodey” but less good). We are working on some really big live events, which I won’t announce just yet, but, watch this space (HeadStuff.org), we also have loads of new podcasts on the way and some exciting developments for the creative scene in Ireland and abroad. I feel like HeadStuff is all exciting at the moment and my brain is wobbly and I can’t sleep.
See you all at Above the Fold, we can chat and you can berate me for this ridiculous interview.
Interview by Ciara Coogan.