05

February 2020

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06

February 2020

INTERNATIONAL LITERARY FESTIVALS CONFERENCE 2020

CONFERENCE 2020

The first International Literature Festivals Conference was held during the 2020 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (4-9 February 2020), hosted by the Emirates Literature Foundation. The conference provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, examine common issues and discuss mutual challenges, with 29 delegates attending from 25 festivals. All continents were represented, with festival directors coming from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada, The Caribbean, Africa, Indonesia and many countries in Europe.

During the conference there was an agreement to establish a Global Association of Literary Festivals, a forum through which Festivals can share best practice and explore partnerships, perhaps introducing new audiences through reciprocal working. This will be a long-term proposition connecting literary festivals around the world.

It is hoped that the conference will become a bi-annual event, with other literary festivals hosting the conference in future years.

Festival Directors’ Comments

  • "To see the festival and take part in the conference and meet all the wonderful colleagues was just amazing! Looking forward to collaborating world-wide in the future!"

    Marit Borkenhagen, Norwegian Festival of Literature, Lillehammer, Norway

  • "On all counts it has been a wonderful experience and I’m very grateful for your energy, vision, generosity and kindness."

    Anne O’Brien, Auckland Writers Festival, New Zealand

  • "Thanks so much for hosting such a wonderful forum! It was so incredibly generous of you and far exceeded my expectations."

    Janet DeNeefe, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Bali

  • "I am especially grateful to you for providing us with an opportunity to meet our peers, to discuss common issues and solutions, and to share our passion for books and ideas."

    Leslie Hurtig, The Vancouver Writers Festival, Canada

  • "To see the festival and take part in the conference and meet all the wonderful colleagues was just amazing! Looking forward to collaborating world-wide in the future!"

    Lola Shoneyin, AKE Arts and Book Festival, Nigeria

  • "What a fabulous experience you organised for us all. I felt so happy being amongst all the other people across the world who do the same mad job as me (us!). I made some wonderful connections"

    Nicola Tuxworth, The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK

  • "We had a stimulating and wonderful time in Dubai. The conference of Festival directors was informative and it was cool to become connected with these people."

    Carolyn Greer, Brooklyn Book Festival, USA

  • "Thank you for all your hard work in making the Literary Festival Directors Conference so interesting and successful. As a relative new girl on the literary festival block, it was great to meet which such a diverse and talented group of people and to hear and share ideas. I am sure some very positive collaborations will come out of the meeting."

    Narisa Chakrabongse, BangKokEdge, Thailand

  • "The gathering you created was beyond extraordinary and I cannot thank you enough for the enriching experience I had. To meet such a warm, bright, generous big-hearted group of like-minded people from every corner of the globe was truly brilliant."

    Edwina Johnson, Byron Writers Festival, Australia

  • "Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of the Festival Directors Conference - it was really interesting, very well organised and we were very well looked after."

    Cristina Fuentes La Roche, Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, UK

  • "We were so impressed by both your program for the conference and the festival sessions we were able to take part in. All very inspiring and in such a welcoming, engaging and professional spirit. We felt very privileged to be a part of it"

    Kristine Terp Jensen, Louisiana Literature Festival, Denmark

  • "I was so impressed by the initiative, and by the quality of the conference content. I love the idea of an ongoing network"

    Clare Mackintosh, Chipping Norton Literary Festival, UK

ATTENDEES

Lola Shoneyin

AKE Arts and Book Festival, Nigeria

Anne O’Brien

Auckland Writers Festival NZ

Narisa Chakrabongse

BangKokEdge Thailand

Ulrich Schreiber

Berlin International Literature Festival

Liz Koch

Brooklyn Book Festival, USA 2020

Carolyn Greer

Brooklyn Book Festival, USA 2020

Clare Mackintosh

Chipping Norton Literary Festival, UK

Pia Cortez

Bay Area Book Festival

Amalia Sanz

Filba Internacional, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mauro Munhoz

Flip Brazil International Literature Festival of Paraty

Cristina Fuentes La Roche

Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts

Ankur Bhardwaj

Teamwork Arts/Jaipur Literature Festival, India

Marina Salandy-Brown

NGC Bocas LitFest – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Christine Saratsiotis

Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada

Bea Colley

Southbank, London

Nicola Tuxworth

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Ian George

Cheltenham Literature Festival

PROGRAMME

Wednesday, 05 February

 

The USP, brand and identity of each literary festival, how does that happen and is it important? Creating a clear vision and identity and how to communicate it to authors, audience, sponsors

Panel:
speaker
Cristina Fuentes La Roche

Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts

speaker
Marina Salandy-Brown

NGC Bocas LitFest – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

speaker
Razi Ahmed

Lahore Literary Festival, Pakistan

Moderator:
moderator
Julia Wheeler
How Important is Brand?
  • Super important in order to attract funding
  • Copyright everything to counteract imposters/copiers, guard the brand
  • Taglines are important
  • The Bocas festival literary pedigree is in Trinidad and efforts to create an eco- system of literature has resulted in Caribbean writers now winning literature prizes.
Sponsorship
  • Discussion on ethical responsibility in accepting money from extractive industries/banks. Mining is a fact of life in emerging economies.
  • Lahore receives no government support and sponsorship comes from foundations, individuals and trusts.
  • Festivals must be creative in developing funding sources
  • NGS Bocas: No history of philanthropy and in some locations money laundering is an issue. Be careful where the money comes from. Due diligence!
Founders – can it be hard to let go?
  • Where there is a strong and involved community, they may take responsibility/ownership
  • In some cases it can be difficult to just pass something on. Relationships, multi ethnicities and a strong board mean that it can take a number of years to hand over.
  • Festivals are like machines and ideally, one is able to think, plan and then step back.
  • Part of the process is to grow eg Lahore has developed strong links with the Asia Society in London and now travels to London.
Who Pays?
  • Different festivals have different models. Audience consensus was that it is good to charge in case external funding fails. Also, ‘having skin in the game’/commitment is important for stakeholders.
  • Charge less for schools.
  • Brooklyn is free and the inclusive outreach is part of the brand.
  • Another model is that events are free for the low income; also a small fee can be refunded if they attend.

Vision, Strategy, Themes – The balancing act -popular culture vs niche, local vs international authors, crowd-pullers and providing a platform for new writing

Panel:
speaker
Liz Koch

Brooklyn Book Festival, USA

speaker
Bea Colley

London Literature Festival, Southbank, UK

speaker
Marit Borkenhagen

Norwegian Festival of Literature

Moderator:
moderator
Julia Wheeler
Where do you start?
  • Discussion on programming process
  • Brooklyn uses a literary council where 50 people are involved over 6 committees responsible for fiction, non-fiction, YAs.
  • London Lit Festhas 400 outreach events, 100 festival events. Programming incorporates evergreens, publisher pitches, colleagues, ethnic minorities, Book prize readings, partners.
  • Norway: – Lillehammer has 20 venues and emphasis is to not have too many launches but introduce new writers along with literary stars.
Are Themes helpful?
  • London -Themes can be challenging for the Marketing team.
  • Norway – They have themes but sometimes it doesn’t work and authors sometimes don’t like it as only about 30% of them fit into the chosen theme. Geographic themes – Spanish, French, Indian
  • Brooklyn – 60 bookend events in the city. Themes can be artificial. Likes contemporary themes like ‘constitution’, ‘POTUS’; or universal themes like ‘restlessness’
Do Audiences Notice Themes?
  • General discussion:
    Climate change and gender issues are very contemporary
    Sometimes good for marketing
    Government funders want to see themes – this is artificial as authors haven’t been asked
    Consensus- it’s better not to have themes but, at the end of the festival, see what themes have emerged.
    Themes are sometimes useful internally for the teams
    Does it hang together creatively? Themes can restrict.
    Often themes come up organically eg 3-4 writers working on common themes eg environment, migration
Popular Culture v Niche
  • Brooklyn– Literary festivals v airport authors. Media want ‘stars’. Match the iconic with the emerging authors in conversation.
  • London– Use big names to shine a light on emerging authors.
  • Timing Clashes
  • Norway – Trace through the programme so that there is something for everyone. Festival differs according to time of the week: week days emphasise professional, weekend is family readers. Don’t put poetry against poetry. Don’t cannibalise the audience. Separate children’s day. Schedule authors multiple times so there is a chance to see favourite author.
  • London – Important to consider gender parity in programming
  • Brooklyn – Diversity in ethnicity on panels and programming
  • Group discussion on pressure from sponsors/govt regarding programming. Directors need to respect sponsors but do not censor. Refuse money from controversial companies eg oil & gas who may want to use their position to influence programming.
  • Formats
  • Brooklyn– committee system makes the structure very contemporary in terms of subject matter and new moderators.
    Group discussion on programme diversification: vineyards, dinners, reaching multi age groups, showcasing the city

Crisis Management –plus the influence of digital media and how it helps/hinders

Panel:
speaker
Isobel Abulhoul

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

speaker
Syima Aslam

Bradford Literature Festival, UK

speaker
Ankur Bhardwaj

Teamwork Arts/Jaipur Literature Festival, India

speaker
Ray Eglington

Four Communications Group

Moderator:
moderator
Brandy Scott
  • Some directors spoke of boycotts or controversies they had experienced.
  • Crisis planning cannot anticipate a social issue boycott. Transparency is vital: context, empathy, action. Controversy can be good if it doesn’t impact long term.
  • Don’t respond to what you can’t control. Go back to why you do what you do- Festivals.
  • Managing controversy should be limited to 1 – 2 key people. Pick up the phone/ issue joint statement. Step back from social media.
  • Scenario planning is important. Social media is a useful barometer. Festivals have multiple stakeholders; rely on them. The talent can use their platforms, social media to get people back on side.
  • *Controversy is not a crisis. Be honest from the start.

 

The role of festivals in breaking down stereotypes with author Roudha Al Marri

Panel:
speaker
Ahlam Bolooki

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

speaker
Anne O’Brien

Auckland Writers Festival NZ

speaker
Janet Deneefe

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival Bali, Indonesia

Moderator:
moderator
Julia Wheeler
How Important is It to Export Authors?
  • Sharing Emirati culture via the arts helps to counteract negative politics.
  • The biggest stereotype for Arab writing – Women+++. Many misconceptions from outside the Arab world.
  • Gender equity should feed into programmes, and an awareness of local and diverse voices
  • Stories help us to understand what it is to be another person. New Zealand has a big immigration programme and has a large schools/diversification programme. This diversification is seen on stage and in the programme.
Structure of Festivals
  • Important to include local staff/mix of ethnicities
  • Bali – No board. 23 local staff, 1 Australian.
  • Auckland– Board of 8 pax.Partnerships with Maori. Inclusion with other ethnic groups. Use of Maori language in correspondence.
  • Dubai– Board all Emiratis except 2. More than half of session in Arabic and English.
Thursday, 06 February

Can festivals be financially self-sustaining?

Challenges of sponsorship and ROI, fundraising, charitable giving, corporate and public sector investment, marketing, digital rights. We look at different models and tips on how to save money and market your festival without a big budget.

Panel:
speaker
Edwina Johnson

Byron Writers Festival, Australia

speaker
Lola Shoneyin

AKE Arts and Book Festival, Nigeria

speaker
Anna Kulp

Leukerbad International Literary Festival, Switzerland

Moderator:
moderator
Vivienne Wordley

Buckingham Literary Festival UK/Santa Fe LitFest USA

Discussion of business models, sales, partnerships. Limits to growth and benefits to selling 1 and 3 day passes.

Payment of Staff
  • General discussion of underpaying staff through necessity. Boards have to be encouraged to invest $$ on publicity in order to realise an increase in ticket sales. Training/developing audiences is an important aspect of AKE’s work. Philanthropy/patrons seen as important but requires a funded, dedicated person to manage.
  • Audience discussion: NZ has a strong patrons’ programme where patrons give $500 – $5000 in return for which they can take part in curated tourism/visit international festivals, cocktails/programme launches, connect to Board members. Make major donor a board member.Suggest 6 year board terms. Major fundraisers are handed to the board to organise. ‘Whiskey & Writers’ fundraiser. Ambassadorial roles.
Practical Ideas for Audience Growth
  • Sponsors should be matched to particular session (like a go-fund-me), and canvas for audience. Writers competitions.
  • Marketing on a budget –. Partner with bigger organisations to bring other voices in – media, gallery, theatre, cultural organisations partnerships. Align dates with other festivals plus mount out of season events.1. Creative partnerships to extend the budget; 2. Bring in special people/donors to assist; 3. Be an opportunist

Literary Tourism – The importance to the tourist industry and building a cultural city/destination

Panel:
speaker
Mauro Munhoz

Flip Brazil International Literature Festival of Paraty

speaker
Carolyn Greer

Brooklyn Book Festival, USA

speaker
Christian Lund

Louisiana Literature Festival, Denmark

Moderator:
moderator
Amandeep Bhangu
  • Brazil – Spoke of Paraty and a sense of place in a destination where governance institutions are weak but there is a rich popular culture.
  • Brooklyn – Brooklyn event is set up as a tourist destination with events in pubs, cemeteries, the river. Artists produce and donate posters which are then sold. Bookend events.
  • Louisiana, Denmark – Festival is linked to art museum and matches the high quality of the art. Writers invited to produce work based on a piece of art/put to music/performance. High expectations on the calibre of work.
Payment of Staff
  • Brazil – There is a tax exemption/ incentive for private companies
  • Brooklyn– Government grants = 25% of budget
  • Denmark – A Foundation supports this festival and the museum
How to get out and into the Neighbourhood
  • Audience discussion of cross promotion of destinations using tourism agencies. Signage vital to have successful multi- site events.

 

Audience attraction

How do we get people through the doors – free or ticketed? Day passes? Capturing the audience attention – marketing strategies and specifics, digital v traditional methods etc.

Panel:
speaker
Christine Saratsiotis

Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada

speaker
Ulrich Schreiber

Berlin International Literature Festival, Germany

speaker
Andrea Gissdal

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Moderator:
moderator
Julia Wheeler
  • Toronto: surveys show that evening/weekend events sell best. Average profile is 45+ female.
  • Berlin: – Science Year collaboration was very successful
  • Dubai: – Day and season ticketing; free tickets for authors/publishers; wrist bands indicating age groups ?????
Marketing – What Works?
  • Toronto – Print, social media, FB, Instagram, partner exchanges who send materials to their people, postering. Depends on author/audience; niche marketing
  • Berlin – Works from gut. Good authors, moderators and actors to read translations
  • Dubai– Good media partnerships, PR. Now considering Toktok. Uses digital media, good for tracking

 

Perspectives on delivering a seamless event. In conversation:

Panel:
speaker
Ankur Bhardwaj

Event Management Director, International Festivals Jaipur

speaker
Chris Bradley

Sponsor (Chevron)

Moderator:
moderator
Vivienne Wordley

Buckingham Literary Festival UK/Santa Fe LitFest USA

moderator
Julia Wheeler
Event Management
  • Core teams needs to bond before the event
  • Create ‘the bible’ to ensure consistent approach, and reference for every eventuality Tracking sheet
Moderators
  • Get moderators involved at an earlier point and give moderators a couple of gigs to make sure they are in sync with the Festival vibe.
Sponsorship
  • Must plan way ahead of time and consider ROI (health, education, economic development) to sponsors or to the community.
  • Consider corporate sponsor events where their staff can participate.Matters to consider: why is that sponsor affiliated with that event? Get spelling and pronunciation right, don’t take money unless you can see the direction of the relationship.
  • There is untapped potential in terms of business advertising, media and risk management.
Panel:
speaker
Flora Rees

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

speaker
Leslie Hurtig

The Vancouver Writers Festival, Canada

speaker
Nicola Tuxworth

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK

speaker
Graeme Simsion

author

Moderator:
moderator
Julia Wheeler
What Makes You Happy?
  • Vancouver: Publishers need to understand festivals. Stress book sales in negotiations
    Cheltenham: Lots of quid pro quo at Cheltenham. Publishers are big stakeholders and support with flights etc. one has to take risks with new writers.
  • Proof parties – publishers bring 2 – 3 authors/editors and a limited run of proofs – then there may be a signing. ‘Fiction at 7’ is a popular initiative where refreshments are served, there is an experienced chair and emerging authors discuss their books – then there is a big event 2 years later. This allows development and also commitment to publishers and authors
  • Graeme – Must consider that festival payments are low, book sales are low compared to a bookshop event. Need events that are author exclusive, interesting location where respect is paid to time, moderator and pecking order.
  • Cheltenham – sometimes authors will not want to discuss certain things so be prepared Eg Atwood and Gilead and its wider geo political ramifications. Know your author and the parameters of the discussion.
  • Dubai – Must have writers that are suited to the Dubai market
  • Trevor Naylor – Cairo Press. Asked how invitations are decided.
  • Cheltenham – seeks out small presses to be more inclusive.
    Vancouver- Publishers should send out more information – and only the very best. They should give a reason for pitching authors. A video of the author reading is helpful.
  • Graeme – Be aware of how much you ask authors to do. A ‘debate’ involves a lot of work. Writers should not expect payment. They want to be there.
    Vancouver – A lot of authors want payment. They pay all authors the same amount and a fee per event.
  • Cheltenham- Impact of FANE – one- off theatre tours. Fane pays large fees and they create large book tours.
  • Graeme Need the big names to fund the smaller names. Must be egalitarian with payment as it’s also about the accommodation, food, experience. Publishers tend to quarantine the big names. Perhaps festival directors could share their top ten list of authors in local regions and bypass the publicist
Moderators
  • Get moderators involved at an earlier point and give moderators a couple of gigs to make sure they are in sync with the Festival vibe.
Sponsorship
  • Must plan way ahead of time and consider ROI (health, education, economic development) to sponsors or to the community.
  • Consider corporate sponsor events where their staff can participate.Matters to consider: why is that sponsor affiliated with that event? Get spelling and pronunciation right, don’t take money unless you can see the direction of the relationship.
  • There is untapped potential in terms of business advertising, media and risk management.

The importance literature plays in including ‘others’ and in building bridges across communities.

In today’s uncertain world, with some people taking increasingly polarized positions, it has become ‘us’ and ‘them’. As communities have become entrenched in their views, looking inwards and being unable to see another’s point of view, what part does literature play in bringing about understanding and showing us that we should be building bridges and not walls? Talk by Khoula Al Mujaini, Director of Fairs and Festivals, Sharjah World Book Authority,

Panel:
speaker
Khoula Ali Amed Al Mujaini

Sharjah Book Fair –attends 130 book fairs per year. They are developing new local authors through workshops and use an Emirati publishing house.

Moderator:
moderator
Amandeep Bhangu

Literary Festivals and The Future – sustainability, streaming/broadcasting digital rights, tech solutions, audiences changing profile/ expectations

Panel:
speaker
Ian George

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK

speaker
Ulrich Schreiber

Berlin International Literature Festival, Germany

speaker
Cristina Fuentes La Roche

Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts

Moderator:
moderator
Amandeep Bhangu
Future of Festivals?
  • Cheltenham –Festivals should be a celebration!
  • Berlin – Children and YA, archive, communication between festivals,
  • Hay – Consider how to cater to digital readers, environmental awareness is increasing with some authors declining to fly
  • Cheltenham – There is a balancing act between sustainability and the human contact of festivals, carbon credits on flights. The sustainability conversation is paramount
Limits to growth?
  • General discussion – once a festival has reached certain capacity, it is more about depth of programming and not numbers

CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation

The establishment of a Global Association of Literary Festivals was discussed, to enable the conversations to continue.

Next Conferences to be organised:

Nigeria, 27 – 30 October 2022

Brazil, Paraty July 2024