The Lit Fest Newsletter
March 2021 Edition
At the moment it appears to be a year of two halves with festivals scheduled before June staying digital but with hopes that the second half of the year will bring a return to physical events. Many pop festivals have announced their line-ups, ticket sales have been bouyant but they have also been in the news due to the lack of women on the bills. The Guardian reported that 91% of artists announced by Creamfields were men. Meanwhile bookshops re-open on April 12th, and the government remains confident about the timing of their road map that would see all restrictions removed by 21 June. They have also announced, “Over the spring the Government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.”
There are some further reading links at the end of the newsletter but i just wanted to highlight this one piece by Matt Locke discussing The Year of Remote Culture and how we should be thinking about a ‘remote’ rather than a ‘digital’ strategy.
Interview with Susie Troup from the Hexham Literary Festival
Could you tell us a bit about the history of the festival? And why you decided a CIC was the right way to go?
I started the Festival in 2006 with small amount of ACE project funding and supported by Queen’s Hall Arts venue as a two day weekend event, we have grown since then with support from Trusts and Foundations, private patrons and sponsorship, one-off project grants from ACE for outreach work and support from Northumberland County Council for year round work with schools, libraries and the community – helping towards maintaining an office and part-time staff. We decided on CIC rather than a charity recognising that currently many grant giving bodies recognise this structure and as we started as a voluntary organisation that moved into Ltd Co this was the easiest transition for us, we maintain a steering group that acts as an advisory body.
How have you managed to cope with the reduced turnover in 2020 and how far advanced where you in your planning when you decided you had to cancel?
We suffered loss of 60% of our annual revenue (box office income) in 2020, the Festival was fully programmed and we cancelled it six weeks before delivery, and have used some of our reserves since then, we were successful in a bid to ACE CRF which has replaced these reserves and helped us to plan our Festival now scheduled for July 2nd-11th. We have continued to deliver author workshops virtually – both in schools and to young people. We have taken advantage of the government furlough scheme and have furloughed two of our part-time members of staff (currently on 50% ).
We have developed a small income stream delivering a programme of online workshops for adults currently in progress.
What is the attraction of using a Speigeltent?
We had planned and found funding from the Gillian Dickinson Trust for the delivery of a two year new Children and Young People’s Festival for 2020 and 21 (back in 2018) and key to this bid was the Spigeletent element to bring young people from schools across the very large county of Northumberland to the tent for author events and workshops, we then procured further funding for a new part-time member of staff to programme this so we have always been committed to the Spiegeltent as a magical new venue for young people. This has worked in our favour with the pandemic as we cannot guarantee our main venue will be open so we have now programmed a reduced festival for adults around the young people’s festival in the Spiegltent, location is key as it is set in the 12th century abbey grounds and if the abbey is open we will be using some of their venues too.
Can you explain a little about this year's festival?
A wide variety of authors who were booked to be here this Spring have been happy to move to July dates which also means we can have many events for young people in outside areas as weather will be more clement for this
With the social distancing i am just interested in how you go about learning what is the right way to do it?
We have been taking advice from colleagues at the local independent cinema and the abbey here who both opened after the last lockdown, also obviously government advice. The Spiegletent in normal times can seat 350 so we are assuming a distanced scenario of flexible seating accommodating 100, also outside seating with live relay to screens. We have consulted on portaloo companies who will supply with sensor activated taps and we are planning extra staff for cleaning and ushering to ensure restriction are adhered to.
Government money from the Culture Recovery Fund slow to be distributed
From the Guardian. . . “A government fund established to prop up the arts and heritage sectors during the coronavirus pandemic has handed over little more than half of the money it has allocated, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has discovered.
The National Audit Office said the culture recovery fund had budgeted for £830m in grants and loans funding so far, but only £495m had been paid out.
MPs have responded angrily to the findings, urging the government to hand over the cash while “there are still organisations left to support”.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced the £1.57bn fund to help the cultural, arts and heritage institutions survive the pandemic last summer.
But auditors have examined the allocation of the funds so far and found that of the £1bn that has been made available, about £830m in grants and loans has been awarded to different organisations but only £495m of that has been paid out, auditors said.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee, urged payments to arms-length bodies to be sped up”.
LoveReading announce digital litfest run by Paul Blezard and team from Lockdown Lit
Just launched this new literary festival is an illustration of just how things have changed in the last twelve months. The LoveReading LitFest has no live events, is not based in a specfic location and does not take place over specific time period. To watch the events you need to sign up for free and become a member (or pay £2 to watch without signing up). They are starting by putting on two events per week and hope to grow a gloal audience. LoveReading is a book recommendation website that was started in 2005. Authors lined-up include Linwood Barclay, Hafsa Zayan, Mercedes Rosende and translator Tim Gutteridge, Konnie Huq, Gill Lewis, Katie Fforde, Kate Mosse and David Baddiel.
Urban Sun promises to clean spaces of Covid
Icon Magazine reported. . .
“In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, Studio Roosegaarde has launched Urban Sun, a light installation inspired by the sun which aims to ‘clean’ public spaces of the coronavirus to create safer outdoor social gatherings.
The project draws on scientific research which shows that specific ultraviolet light (far-UVC) with the wavelength of 222 nanometers can reduce the presence of viruses, including various strains of coronavirus and influenza, by up to 99.9%.
Taking the form of a suspended light source over a black sphere, Urban Sun casts a large circle of far-UVC light on the ground, with an effect visually mimicking a solar eclipse. At night, it defines a visible area of public space that is purportedly safe from viruses.”
Further Reading . . .
‘Until the law catches up, all we have is our stories’: my year-long fight to hold my attacker to account. Caitlin McNamara, formerly of the Hay Festival, writing in the Guardian.
On March 12th last year I was sitting in a blustery, empty car park in Blackpool, Lancashire, eating a bland prepacked sandwich beside a giant mural of Barry from The Chuckle Brothers. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Shane Hegarty reflecting on how children’s authors have adapted to online events.
Damian Barr announces new hosts for his literary salon, ‘I’m delighted to announce that Anthony Anaxagorou, Sam Baker, Alex Clark, Sara Collins, Natalie Haynes, Alexandra Heminsley, Paul McVeigh, Sarah Perry and Sathnam Sanghera are all joining Salon!’
London Library celebrates 180 years with an online lit fest in May , guests include Salman Rushdie and Sarah Waters.
An overview of what Scottish literary festivals have planned for this year.
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