Lord of the reads: +5401
As an after thought… does anyone have any particular thoughts about whether literary festivals are inclusive enough? Michael Buerke had some really interesting things to say about that, as did Rod Stoneman (which will be put in a separate video when I get a chance). Do people think that they are too limited in their demographic? Or is that something that makes them more enjoyable?
Who would you like them to include? More enjoyable to whom?
It seemed that the vast majority of the audience were over 40 and middle class – there didn’t seem to be a lot of diversity in the audience. I doubt this is something that organisers of festivals like this plan to happen (and I know that Ways with Words do have a bursary scheme to encourage students to come) but I was wondering if having a more diverse audience would be good for festivals. And I meant more enjoyable to the visitors (i.e. is it more enjoyable when you go to events like this if there are lots of people that you immediately have something in common with in terms of age, background etc).
Having a diverse audience can only be a good thing. As one of the organisers of WWW, we’d love to be able to attract a younger audience, but it’s not easy. As Anna says, each year our bursary scheme allows young people aged 17-25 to apply for a free 10 day festival pass. Students can also buy on-the-day standby tickets for individual events at half price. And yet the audiences we attract continue to be, as Anna says, predominantly middle aged and over. This year, as in previous years, the festival programme was incredibly diverse with much to engage, inspire and entertain audiences of all ages. So what is it that’s holds young people back? Time? Money? Lack of information or worse still misinformation and the perception that events like this simply aren’t for them. Whatever it is, it’s a really important issue as I truly feel that there’s a whole generation that’s missing out on some great experiences.
I think the biggest problem that festival organizers face is with accessibility and getting the word out to larger audiences. Music festivals are able to advertise through the radio, television, newspapers, Internet, etc. Literary festivals have to try and include activities, speakers, and books that will appeal to a wider spectrum of people.
The other problem that literary festivals face is how to break outside of their already-loyal fan base. The majority of books do not inspire the widespread devotion that would ensure a mass turnout at every festival (Harry Potter and Twilight aside). Niche audiences are all well-and-good but discussing/dissecting books, authors and topics can happen across all gender/race/class/age lines and it’s important to foster and encourage all kinds of people to participate.
I have attended with my children in order to hear a children’s author. Kate should concider collecting some of the many new children’s and young people’s authors in a section of the festival and so encourage a new generation to attend and taist the experience.