Spotlight on Ben Stevens

31 October 2013

Ben Stevens

This week the spotlight is on Ben Stevens, Content Producer (Editor), UCL Marketing and Communications.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m Content Producer (Editor) in UCL Communications and Marketing. The slightly convoluted job title reflects the fact that my time is split roughly 50:50 between print and digital projects.

So, on the one hand, I write for and edit publications such as the About UCL guides, Brain Food and the Annual Review, while I also produce content for the UCL Soundcloud channel, oversee UCL’s corporate Flickr channel and jointly manage the UCL Events blog.

Over the past year or so, I’ve worked with my colleagues in the Digital Communications team to redesign the UCL and London website, the About UCL website and, most recently, the UCL homepage itself.

Finally, I also maintain the UCL house style and enforce it by proofreading each issue of The Week and most of the publications that the Communications team produces. I get through a lot of red pens.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I’ve been at UCL for two and a half years. Prior to that, I was Internal Communications Officer at King’s College London, which was my first taste of working in HE and saw me edit a weekly e-zine. Oh the memories!

Before joining King’s, I was an Editor at a contract publishing agency for five years, producing magazines, annual reports and websites, and editing many titles including a quarterly journal for the Landscape Institute and Cardiff University’s alumni magazine.

My first job after graduation was as a radio journalist in York after university there and my second day at the BBC was fairly memorable: it was 11 September 2001.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

The newly-released UCL Audio Tour, which I wrote, interviewed contributors for and edited.

None of this would have been possible without the support of our very talented graduate intern Claire Roberts (UCL French and Italian 2013) and, with her coding expertise, I was able to achieve my ambition of making the tour a fully-featured iPhone/Android app. 

I was also extremely proud to secure Jonathan Dimbleby as the narrator of the tour.

I also take pride in the fact that, when I was a radio journalist, I managed to get Tony Blair to answer my question about the government response to the major flooding in North Yorkshire in 2000.

Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of your to-do list.

My immediate priority will be to liaise with the Provost and his office to produce the next edition of his monthly column, The Long View.

Once that’s finished, my next big project will be to write and proof the print version of the Annual Review, in collaboration with Vice-Provosts’ offices and our Production Manager and Graphic Designer.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Favourite album: In Rainbows by Radiohead. I’m a huge fan anyway, but I think this is their best album.

Either that or The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses, which is arguably the greatest debut album in British music history.

I’m going to bend the rules and name my top three films:

Withnail and I – the quintessential British film

Fight Club – a dazzling, twisted paean to the 20th century

Singin’ In The Rain – one of the most life-affirming things ever committed to celluloid.

Favourite novel is a tough question – especially considering that I studied English Literature at university. 

It’s strictly a novella, but the book that I’ve returned to many times and had such an effect on me when I read it for the first time at A level is Heart of Darkness. It’s hard to believe when you read its haunting prose that English was actually Conrad’s third language. 

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

A woman walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre. So he gave her one.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

It’s a big list, so I’d undoubtedly need the help of my colleagues in the Corporate Events team and probably my sister, who’s a chef, as well. I’m not sure my homemade lamb kebabs would quite have sufficient wow factor… 

So, in no particular order: Chris Morris, Michael Palin, Thom Yorke, Marion Cotillard, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, Rachel Weisz, Guy Garvey and Jarvis Cocker.

I’d also add Francine Stock, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme, and Jennifer Egan, whose brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, I read a couple of months ago.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of routine. It’s not the enemy of creativity; it’s often the catalyst for it.

On a less serious note, I’d probably impress on my younger self that double denim is never a good look.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Aside from my immediate colleagues, most people are probably not aware that some friends and I appeared on the BBC2 quiz show Eggheads and beat the eponymous quiz experts – walking away £2,000 richer.

The fact that may surprise people most, though, is that I’ve done the highest bungee jump in the world – a 216m drop from beneath the Bloukrans bridge in South Africa.

What is your favourite place?

Cape Town and the stunning natural scenery that surrounds it – especially Table Mountain and the winelands near Stellenbosch.

Closer to home, I would say the BFI Southbank. I love the walk across the Golden Jubilee footbridge from Embankment and then along beside the Thames; but most of all, the feeling of anticipation I have when I reach the main screen, NFT1 – a place that has provided many happy memories.