Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is it time for a book festival for Ronnie C? A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Today's editorial is another one of those bum-clenchingly 'awkward' ones that probably should be well and truly steered clear of, but it concerns a subject I can't help picking at - much like a pimple or a scab that you really know you should leave well alone but will bleed profusely if you monkey around with it too much.

It's partly inspired by a couple of things but after some top notch advice from a truly fantastic lady (the awesome Zoe over at Playing By the Book), I'm going to pare it down to one.

The rise and rise of the literary festival is truly a modern phenomenon. Each year, you can quite easily lose count of the number of bookfests happening up and down the country and nearly every city or town wants in on the act. This truly is a good thing to see - after all, what better way to spend time than with other like-minded folk who love books, or hobnobbing with the very folk who make them!

Sadly, we've only ever managed to attend the sum total of one book festival, purely because we wanted to see a favourite author / artist doing his thing and as this was happening in our home town and for once we had some spare time, we jumped at the chance.

Literary festivals are a fantastic way to gain an insight into what makes the publishing industry (not just children's books but the whole industry in general) tick. They're quite often sponsored by the sort of newspapers Ronnie Barker in the middle of the image accompanying this article would read, or perhaps even John Cleese.

It's quite unusual to see literary festivals sponsored by the sort of newspapers the little fella on the far right would scan over his morning egg and bacon bap, and sadly even if it happened you'd imagine that certain folk would be fairly sniffy about them anyway.

You can sort of see where this is going, right?

Literary festivals in general are "not for Ronnie Corbett". They cost - and they can cost a lot. Recentlywe planned to attend a Literary Festival that wasn't the other end of the country for once, and started to work out how much it would cost us to A) Drive there B) park C) Hahahahahahaha heavens forbid, take public transport as an alternative, which thanks to the way we run public transport in the UK, meant that it would cost our family of 3 twice as much as it would to do A) and B).

When you also start to look at longer events, and factor in D) the cost of accommodation / staying over (even in a Yurt on the event's grounds) and E) consuming any sort of sustenance while there, things really start to ramp up.

For what it would have cost us to go and get the most out of the event we had in mind, we could probably have booked ourselves a nice quiet cottage or lodge somewhere picturesque and just read a crapload of books in peace and quiet instead.

(So we did that, had a great night in a hotel in Bristol and soaked up some culture, science, books AND art while there!)

Discussions have been sparked about the true purpose of the events, and that's where it becomes clearer why there are so few 'free' events that poor little Ronnie C could attend without breaking the bank. Publicity would perhaps be the only 'end product' of a free event, perhaps building up enough buzz around the attendees to ensure that their books are the ones you go for next time you're spending your meagre family budget on cool things. Any event would need to offset its massive staging costs, pay venue fees, author and illustrator appearance fees, heck even pay for printing all those groovy tote bags and freebie sticker sheets so once again you'll begin to understand why these events are the way they are.

I wonder if, perhaps, it's time for a more inclusive type of literary festival (and heck, why stop there, it really isn't purely literary festivals that cost a bomb and then some to attend), perhaps one backed by folk who are already working hard to put books into the hands of children who would never otherwise actually own one (folk like Bookstart / Booktrust for instance?) Are there more friendly festivals out there that we've somehow missed, that just charge entry and then let you wander around in book-exploring bliss? Please do drop a comment below if you know of some, we'd definitely love to learn more about these.

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