The Festival of Words is nearly upon us and I’m humbled, as Chair of the studio, by the voluntary work that members have put in as well as that by our partner organisations at the city council, LeftLion, Writing East Midlands and our two universities, with various other organisations offering invaluable support.
The festival has been led by two separate committees; a steering group and a marketing and communications group. There’s roughly eight people on each, all of whom have sat through endless meetings for the past six or so months as well as the never-ending email conversations that have left me fondly dreaming of the pre-internet days of my youth. Then there are the numerous volunteers actioning each point. We have a small army behind us.
There is a saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee and having worked on numerous committees in my time there’s a degree of truth in this, but this has not been the case here. We’ve produced a thoroughbred stallion. It’s been a pleasure to be involved in a project where everyone has the same objective and motivation: to give Nottingham something to shout about and end the ashamedly barren run of forty odd years without a literature festival in the city centre. The fact that we’ve managed this without paying anyone is amazing as it’s been done out of love, which also happens to be one of the themes of the festival.
Although our members would much prefer to be at home writing, I think the experiences generated from working on the festival have added valuable skillsets to their portfolio which will help them survive an increasingly brutal publishing industry that demands more rounded professionals who, in addition to writing, are able to promote their own work, understand social media and are able to organise and deliver public readings to help shift those copies taking up space in the warehouse.
There are many ways in which members have benefitted from being involved. Anne McDonald of Pewter Rose Press has learned how to add widgets to the festival wordpress site so that a tweet button appears next to articles (as have I), meaning she can now do the same with her own website and launch her publishing house into the 21st century. Ian Douglas, a writer and journalist, has made many local and national media contacts through promoting the festival, all of whom he can pitch articles to or request reviews for his forthcoming novel. Others have learned how to put together a brochure and the varying costs of the print industry. Then there are the members giving their first public performance or involvement with a festival. They’re learning the nuts and bolts of performance: selecting venues, overheads, audio-visual requirements, marketing, collaboration, creating themed events, and seeing their work in the context of a festival rather than the comfy confines of the page.
Now we need one thing: People to attend. It really is that simple, Nottingham. Let’s not wait another forty years…
By James Walker, NWS Chair
Join James Walker and Michael Eaton for their literary walk Streets of Stories on 17 Feb (3pm) and 20 February (6pm) starting outside Langtry’s. All enquiries to jamesleftlion (at) gmail.com