"Dr Ruth Skilbeck: Specialist arts journalist, media producer and arts journalism scholar" Journalism and Media Research Centre, Master of Journalism and Communication; Postgraduate Coursework 2012-2013 brochure. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales.
Life Story (short version)
Ruth Skilbeck is a British-Australian author, editor, journalist, media artist, designer and publisher, and mother of two grown up children. She is the author of psychological fiction novels, and academic literary studies, and has a professional background in freelance journalism, university teaching and research. She holds an MA and PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Technology, Sydney, and BA Honours in Philosophy from the University of London. She has lived and worked in Dublin, London and Sydney as an author, editor and journalist. She is founding editor of Arts Features International (which she started as an arts writing and cultural research consultancy in 2003, reinvented as a literary arts periodical in 2018) and Escape Artists Anthology.
A longer version…
"A lucky break": how I became a journalist
By going to the offices of The Irish Times in Dublin with a short story on the off-chance of getting it published- fortune smiled and my career began right there and then
"I began working as a freelance writer (journalist) in Dublin less than a week after departing Australia and deferring my study at university in Adelaide in 1981*- through a chance meeting -with an editor at The Irish Times after my sister and I met by chance in a pub (as you do in Dublin) a traumatised doctor from Chad, who had been fighting in the jungles for years- and had a message to give to the editor. I had taken a short story with me to Dublin, and next day went to the Irish Times to see if the newspaper would publish it- as we entered the building small side entrance who should walk in but the editor we'd met the night before in a pub, on the man from Chad's mission to give the editor his letter from someone. I'm looking for the literary editor, I said. That's me! he replied. He read my story, and asked me to write a 1000 word feature on my family moving to Australia from Northern Ireland 6 years before. Two week deadline! I did, it was published and from then on I made my living as a freelance writer in Dublin, Sunday Tribune, Irish Press and The Irish Times and Magill, Aspect, U magazine published my articles.(I was lucky after my second Irish Times features was published- on the art and ideas of artist Tim Goulding- I was rung by an editor at the Sunday Tribune and asked to go to a meeting of women they wanted to write for them as they were changing the focus to women readers and young women - I was 22- I went with ideas, was commissioned and a few weeks later they published my 3000 word interview-based feature I called 'Immigrant Women' on women who'd moved to Ireland to live and work, whom I met, I was a feature writer with my articles published on the Miscellany page of the national paper and in the magazine. I moved to London and worked on Fleet Street, well, freelanced for the Daily Express and wrote and presented for World Service radio BBC Book Choice as well as writing for listings magazines City Limits, Time Out and had articles published in NME, Melody Maker, Times Higher Education Supplement, and more. Then came to Australia where I started writing features when living in Newcastle, published in Australian Mother and Baby, the Newcastle Herald, and Australian Style magazine, then moved to Sydney and focused now on art and artists - my features, reviews and articles were published in (Not Only) Black + White, HQ, POL Oxygen: Design, Art, Architecture, Australian Art Collector, started up Arts Features International, art writing and cultural research business, in 2003, one of my first stories was on James Fairfax's collection of old masters, I interviewed him, and wrote the feature and arranged a rare photo shoot AAC was delighted as they'd been trying for years with no success. My next major feature was a 3000 word piece I wrote on Tracey Emin, then dubbed the UK's most famous living artist... followed by equally long and detailed features on Antony Gormly, David Adjaye Charlie Co, Tracey Moffatt, all written from my interviews with them, and including my reviews/discussion of their works. (These were published in POL Oxygen). But the major article perhaps was the one I wrote on Australian contemporary art stepping onto the world stage, for which I interviewed by phone several leading figures in the Australian art world, and compiled and wrote up my features based on my interviews, and my choices of quotes from my interviews to illustrate the topics from the questions I asked each of the curators and gallery directors (who include Bill Wright, Nick Waterlow, Jenepher Duncan, Djon Mundine, Jennifer Isaacs, Joan Kerr and John McPhee). I still have all the materials from which I wrote these, my interviews, outline, ideas. How I did this - it's a 12,000 word 20 page series of 4 features- in under a month I still don't know, it was the most challenging piece I have ever researched, written and published. I am aiming to publish a book of my collected art writing features in the not too distance future. I was driven out of Sydney in early 2010, after series of traumatic events and battling to keep my art writing career, and gain work at universities, but powerful forces were against me. But the features I wrote when I was there together are a snapshot of the art world at the time, so am publishing them for the record."
Copyright © Ruth Skilbeck 2017 (Facebook post, May 2017)
* I went to Dublin to visit my sister Clare who was in the Focus Theatre Company, and I was never to return to university in Adelaide. Instead I took a BA Hons in Philosophy at the University of London (Birkbeck) in the 1980s, whilst continuing to work as a writer, and arts journalist, work that included writing and presenting book talk scripts on the BBC World Service program Books Choice, and writing occasional news and features on a range of topics: art, music, women's soccer, women's banking, consumer issues for women (published in the Daily Express), published in Fleet Street newspapers and the listings magazines, Time Out and City Limits and music press, NME and Melody Maker. In the 90s I returned to Australia with my young family and (now) ex husband and soon started to write features again, first for Australian Mother and Baby (with baby and toddler in tow) and then long arts features on a local artist, Michael Bell who was at Ray Hughes Gallery in Sydney, and his collaboration with Steven Abbott aka The Sandman, comedian and writer, whom I interviewed at the ABC building in Ultimo, Sydney, (stories published in The Newcastle Herald, and Australian Style) before moving to Sydney to continue writing long features on arts, for magazines such as (Not Only) Black + White before starting up Arts Features International, my sole proprietor trading name as an arts journalist and cultural researcher which was to prove so successful. How I was driven out of Sydney and my career ended is a story I plan to tell in a memoir based on my experiences as an arts journalist in the international contemporary art world, and the art writing I have continued to do, and still do, such as my coverage of the Boycott of the 2014 Sydney Biennale by artists in the biennale, in protest at the links of the chairman's company to profits from immigration prisons such as on Manus Island where writers and artists were held- I was the only Biennale media writer to cover it all (on my blog, The Daily Fugue). This is a new book writing project that I will begin soon. Almost forgot the academic qualifications, the Master of Arts (by thesis) in Writing, 2002, and the Doctor in Philosophy (PhD) in Comparative Literature (Arts Writing) 2007, which I did at the University of Technology, Sydney. Whilst I was studying for these I continued to work full time as an art writer and arts journalist.
Ruth Skilbeck, August 2018, Newcastle, New South Wales
EXAMPLES OF RUTH'S JOURNALISM- arts, criticism, opinion (medical humanities)