Past President and Life Member Profile: Alison Leigh

From Alison Leigh:

I didn’t grow up dreaming that one day I would be …. the Editorial Director of the World Congress of Science Producers. No such thing existed. Now it does and like the best things in life – it evolved.

I emigrated to Sydney from the UK in 1988 – bicentennial year; fully expecting my on-screen career as a BBC TV and radio reporter /presenter to continue to flourish here. Wrong. I was “too old” and “too English”. Yikes! What to do? Try my hand at producing? My current affairs credentials landed me the job of Producer, Media Watch, with the task of getting series one to air. Next thing I know after that baptism of fire, I’m being courted by the Executive Producer of “Quantum”- to be the Series Producer – i.e. day to day manager of that show. Saying yes to that job changed my life – and my focus.

For several years I was Series Producer and then Executive Producer of the ABC TV Science Unit. This gave me the privilege of being closely involved in the development, production and commissioning of dozens of science TV programs in addition to Quantum:  Hot Chips, What’s your poison?, The Future Eaters to name a few. I was also closely involved in the development of major initiatives that have enhanced the celebration and understanding of science in Australia such as National Science Week and of course, our very own ASC – I was a founding member. We were a small group then and now look how far we’ve come.

As Executive Producer of the ABC TV Science Unit, I used to represent the ABC at a small somewhat chaotic annual get together of science producers and broadcasters hosted each year by one or other public broadcaster somewhere in the world.

My great good fortune is that just as I left the ABC in 1998 to go freelance, the science broadcasters decided that their annual get together, or congress as it was now called,  should become a professional conference. In 1999, they asked me to be the programmer of the event, the role I’ve held ever since.

The World Congress has grown into a unique forum of presentations and discussions, where television producers and executives from all over the world come back year after year to catch up with world trends in science and factual programming, to talk passionately about program-making, and to be inspired. The convivial and informal atmosphere creates lasting friendships which lead to binding business relationships and co-production partnerships, and the all important deals to be made down the track.

It’s not a full time job:  in addition to my Congress commitments, I freelance as a science and health writer when the project interests me enough. Everything from scripts for TV series and documentaries to health articles for magazines  and most recently I co-authored the book “Eight steps to happiness” to accompany the ABC TV series “Making Australia Happy”.

But it is my dream job. Fancy being paid to watch science films and science television, to keep abreast of innovative and exciting trends in the industry, to keep in touch with some of the smartest most creative people on the planet and even to travel to exotic places to meet them all face to face. Can’t be bad. Yet if it hadn’t been for some racist and ageist attitudes way back when, it might never have happened!