Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Stage a Successful Literary Festival Event

(as produced by Heather Rodenhurst and colleagues at Oswestry Library, Shropshire - part of the Oswestry Literary Festival).

1. Choose a good venue.

These are the steps to the splendid library extension at Oswestry. The front of the building is traditional, but behind this facade these enticing and slightly mysterious steps invite the reader onwards to a children's reading area featuring a castle

complete with intriguing lanterns that look as though they have real flames.

2. Organise 'extras'.
I didn't take a photo, unfortunately, but Heather and her colleagues had organised Welsh cakes, and also Wyn Davies, a member of a Llansilin choir, to come in and sing one of the hymns mentioned in my book: 'Oh God our help in ages past,' (which he sang beautifully) and all of the rest of us joined in (without accompaniment, just as the Welsh may have done in Patagonia).

3. Encourage community involvement.
Apart from the organisation of the singing and the cakes and tea Heather had put in a request for memorabilia from Patagonia, and recollections of relatives and friends that had been out there. This brought in a table full of objects including a poncho, a cup and straw for maté (the local tea), various books, letters and pictures. All fascinating stuff. After my talk I had the opportunity to talk to some of these people and listen to their stories and was excited to encounter Rev. R. Glyn Jones who has ancestors that went on the Mimosa (the ship that took the first settlers to Patagonia).

4. Liaise with an enthusiastic and excellent independent bookseller.
In this case Booka Bookshop, who have only been open eighteen months, but of whom I have heard great things already.

5. Make the speaker feel valued.
I have put these beautiful flowers on my kitchen table, and they've given me much pleasure to see them every time I pass.

It was not just my event that was a sell-out, but also Jean Baggott's event before (about her memoir, The Girl On The Wall, which is on my reading list).

Thank you very much Heather (on the right) and the rest of the members of staff at Oswestry. I had a thoroughly great time.


Blogger Sue Guiney said...

This is great. I'm so glad it went well. I'm now thinking about helping stage a similar event next year in Phnom Penh, so these thoughts will come in handy!

Sun Mar 20, 03:12:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ooh, Phnom Penh! Best of luck with that, Sue. I do think Heather and the rest of the team at Oswestry got everything right here, but I think one of the most important aspects was to include the audience.

Sun Mar 20, 09:55:00 am  
Anonymous Mary said...

Great ideas, here, Clare. I was named Artist of the Month for February by a local arts group and told I could have a reading. As I'm horrible at self-promotion, I thought I'd teach a class on self-publishing and throw a reading in for good measure. (When I'm teaching, I don't feel like I'm self-promoting. I'm offering a service.)

I had a lovely crowd and brought candy to serve. As I'm very used to introducing myself, I launched right in and taught the class. It was only later that people from the class told me they thought it strange that someone from the arts organization hadn't bothered to introduce me or say anything about the award. One was even appalled that I'd brought the candy myself. I chalked it up to inexperience on the part of the staff, but it's very interesting how my audience perceived the situation.

Mon Mar 21, 05:06:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

That class sounds a really good idea, Mary! And yes, I'd agree, just a few words of introduction makes a lot of difference. There's been a couple of instances when no one has introduced me, and it's given the event a completely different feel. It doesn't seem right that it should make such a difference, but somehow it does.

Tue Mar 22, 07:46:00 am  

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