Global Association of Literary Festivals Holds First Online Webinar

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In examining what world literary festivals are grappling with in trying to make the jump to digital renditions of their programming, the new association for those festivals “goes digital,” itself.

Image – iStockphoto: Chaay Tee

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Festivals Going Digital: Do or Die’
Our regular readers will remember the formal establishment we reported on May 12 of the Global Association of Literary Festivals.

On Wednesday (June 17), the program offers a first webinar.

Thoughtfully set at 11 p.m. Dubai time GST, it works out this way for Western time zones:

  • Rome/Paris/Stockholm: 9 p.m. CEST
  • London: 8 p.m. BST
  • GMT: 1900
  • New York/Washington/Miami: 3 p.m. ET
  • Los Angeles/Seattle/Vancouver: noon PT
  • Wellington: 7 a.m. (Thursday)

This is the organization spearheaded by Isobel Abulhoul, CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation, with a special organizational conference during this year’s 12th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in February.

And in a way, the development of the new association may well have come at a surprisingly good moment during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. With festivals driven to consider online evocations of their usual offers, there’s temporarily less organizational burden on them, a chance to reflect and strategize.

The downside, of course, is that revenue has also come to a standstill for many if not most festivals, and while we’ve seen one sterling example of a huge success on the ether this spring—the UK’s Hay Festival with its 490,000 streams served out in a two-week offer of sessions—few festivals start with the heft of the Hay and the fundraising capacity that program was able to mount so it could stage its digital presentation.

Wednesday’s session, then, is a consideration of the issues and the imperative faced by many faces during the pandemic–which health officials caution is still in its first wave, and not subsiding.

The program is titled Festivals Going Digital: Do or Die.

It features Abulhoul with:

  • Cristina Fuentes La Roche, Hay Festival of Literature & The Arts
  • Cherilyn Parsons, Bay Area Book Festival
  • Anne O’Brien, Auckland Writers Festival

Questions at issue during the session:

  • Where can festival directors look for revenue in the digital space?
  • Is it possible to charge for tickets when there’s no on-site physical point of book sales and author autographing
  • What can authors expect from participation?
  • How realistic is it to think of an online evocation replacing, to some degree, the physical event?

Julia Wheeler is to moderate and there’s to be a chance for questions to be lodged by members of the association through their forum.

Association Membership

Repeating for you the member-festivals we have on record at this point for the new program:

  • Aké Festival, Nigeria
  • Auckland Writers Festival, New Zealand
  • Bangkok Edge, Thailand
  • Bay Area Book Festival, California
  • Brooklyn Book Festival, New York City
  • Chipping Norton Literary Festival, UK
  • Emirates Festival of Literature, UAE
  • Filba Internacional, Buenos Aires
  • Flip Brazil, Paraty
  • Hay Festival, UK
  • Head Read, Tallinn, Estonia
  • International Literature Festival Berlin
  • Jaipur Literature Festival, India
  • Lockdown LitFest, UK
  • NGC Bocas LitFest, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Southbank Centre, London
  • Stratford Literary Festival, UK
  • Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada
  • Vancouver Writers Fest, Canada
  • International Literary Festival for Young Poets, Nicosia
  • Ideogramma, Nicosia
  • Read My World, Amsterdam
  • Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville
  • Portland Book Festival, Oregon
  • Festival Literario, Lousã, Portugal
  • Bergen International Literary Festival, Norway
  • Calabash International Literary Festival, Jamaica
  • Hong Kong International Literary Festival
  • Passa Porta International Festival of Literature, Brussels
  • Boston Book Festival
  • Decatur Book Festival, Georgia
  • Bloody Scotland, Glasgow

And at this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports 8,145,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, with 440,600 deaths. Just to help get your head around those numbers, when we last wrote about the Global Association of Literary Festivals just over a month ago on May 12 those figures were 4,171,859 cases and 285,690 fatalities.


More from Publishing Perspectives on literary festivals is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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