Welcome Back Bookfests! Happenings across the Globe

Literary Festivals and Contemporary Book Culture by Millicent Weber

A Little Back Story

Like most performing arts, literary and book festivals are slowly returning in a new, hybrid format that includes both live in-situ and remote online audiences. As one of my favourite indulgences, hearing authors read and talk about their work is something I find captivating, inspiring and uplifting. I am not alone in this experience, as a good deal of qualitative and mixed method research projects are beginning to unearth and demonstrate similar outcomes, not least of which is Dr Millicent Weber’s multi-site ethnography of various events in Australia, USA, UK and beyond.

While Millicent Weber’s (2018) book emerged in the couple of years pre-pandemic, the insights remain valid and can certainly still inform event planners and researchers alike, going forward. They did, in fact, help to inspire and inform my own mixed methods ethnography of audience experiences at the Ninth Belfast Book Festival, 2019. Here are a few extracts from my dissertation – I found the project exciting and enjoyable and hope that comes across! Firstly, where did book and literary festivals spring from?

“…While book signings have been part of author promotion for decades, the consumption of literary festivals operates on a much more expanded level, with their diverse programmes and a more interactive dynamic between audiences and presenters.  This world of Literary and Book Festivals displays both cultural and commercial aspects, and is linked to an upsurge in reading groups, to the recent expansion of the Independent Book Shop industry, and with the tendency towards arts promotion through the festival model, globally…”

What are book festivals for? For authors…

“…Authors spend a good deal of time on tour when promoting a new release and as such are becoming more and more like musicians and others in the performing arts. Book sales and book signings have become ubiquitous features of all events that form literary festivals…”

And for book lovers, it’s…

“…the informative, inspirational and pleasurable qualities of event experiences, feeling combinations of being ‘fired up’ and ‘spellbound’… It was also clear that the Festival provides many patrons with opportunities to connect socially and to share celebrations with family and friends…”

Ultimately…

“…Literary festivals are open for business: for authors to engage with their audiences; for aspirational audiences who desire personal growth and wellbeing; for organisations with plans for social engagement; and for marketers who seek to help consumers fulfil their needs, hopes and dreams…”

Here is a little potted summary of the project findings:

  • motivations and experiences were described by audience members across three emergent categories:
  • Cognitive-cultural (knowledge, empowerment and literary activism);
  • Emotional (inspiration, feelings, passions, hero worship and author charisma);
  • Social (connecting and sharing resonant atmospheres in ritualised, liminal spaces of escape).

(click here or on the image below to view my presentation on the design, findings, insights and recommendations).

What’s happening around the world?

Finally, book and literary festivals are thriving again as Dream Vacation Magazine has listed the Top 25 literary festivals worth a visit – I’m choosing Berlin next, travel permitting… what’s your choice?

Happy Reading

Commission for Short Story – Northern Ireland Office Brussels

Delighted to hear this news from author Paul McVeigh and other NI writers. Check out more at http://www.paulmcveighwriter.com

The Good Son

The Quarter Hour Summer

I was commissioned bythe Northern Ireland office inBrussels towrite athreeminutestory for their Summer Postcard Series.There’s many other great stories from N Ireland’s finest writers.

You can watch me reading it by clicking here.

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Picking up on Poetry: My Workshop Experience

Book ID Parade

On Developing My Poetry Journey by Roberta McDonnell

I just spent ten weeks under the online tutelage of celebrated Irish poet Kevin Higgins and I cannot tell you how transformative it was. Not only did we receive tremendous weekly prompts and expert edits from Kevin, but we were able to read each other’s work and the group members were so encouraging and informative that I feel like I have just been through an intensive, high level tutorial.

There are more online courses to come and anyone interested can sign up at the Over The Edge website. Kevin runs face-to-face courses in Galway Arts Centre as well and produces the fantastic monthly Over The Edge poetry reading events. You can sample some of his work in the book Identity Parade (just click on the link below or the image above) and in numerous books, journals and newspapers, including his own published collections.

For anyone interested in poetry writing, particularly if distance and finances are challenging, Kevin’s affordable online course is a brilliant opportunity to push your own envelope, get some expert feedback and some fabulous peer support. All with a bit of a start to perhaps your first collection, who knows? I for one can testify to the value of this kind of tuition and will keep going, spurred on by the great community at Over The Edge.

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Let’s Hear it for The Beats

When I read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road the voice in my head insisted on reciting it in an American drawl with a jazz rhythm and haunted tone. Quite why this occurred is a mystery to me but I admit that it certainly added to the enjoyment of the book. Yet on hearing the author himself read the extract above I was blown away. So what made the work of The Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac in particular so enthralling?

For me it’s the depth; the scary extremes; the delving into and compassion for human experience that underpins their expressions. A fascination with the era of the early sixties further fuels my current obsession with The Beats, all of which are brilliantly portrayed in the regularly repeated documentary on Sky Arts 1 which charts the life and work of Jack Kerouac and includes interviews with a number of his contemporaries. With the programme due to be repeated on Sky Arts 1 next Tuesday 31st March 2015, I’ve the timer set and it’s in my diary. If you’d like to join me please feel free to comment on here as well. Happy reading, viewing, whatever floats your boat, until next time 🙂

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