I support this campaign which launched back in December, to keep festivals and other literary and book events hybrid, i.e. with online and real life options.

During the COVID-19 Lockdowns, online events made it possible for all of us to continue meeting up and participating in bookshop events and Zoom gigs of all kinds, including critic David Collard’s A Leap in the Dark and Carthorse Orchestra events. These weekly, online salons, Zoom gatherings, were a lifeline. Online events dissolved geographical hurdles, and meant that it was just as simple for me to attend author and bookshop events at City Lights in San Francisco as it was the London Review Bookshop or Burley Fisher in London. Or Tariq Shah’s booklaunch (left), which I attended because I happened to be on Instagram when publisher Dead Ink (whom I follow) started the livestream. Anyone who works in books or is into books will have had similar experiences.

But crucially, online events also opened up events to disabled authors and readers, and to those who might not be able or afford to travel and buy tickets. These kinds of access have been real and unexpected benefits of the COVID-19 emergency, so it would be a great shame to lose them now.

Here’s more info from author Penny Batchelor and Red Door Books:

#KeepFestivalsHybrid is a campaign to encourage event organisers in the publishing world to prioritise accessibility by running events both in-person and online . . . In 2020, the pandemic saw the publishing world embrace online events. This had an immediate and profound effect on the way that disabled people and those with chronic illnesses could engage with literary festivals and other events for writers and readers. Suddenly it became possible for people in this group to participate in and enjoy literary activities in a way that they had been precluded from until now. This level playing field is now under threat as pandemic restrictions loosen and literary festivals begin to return to their pre-Covid business model.

#KeepFestivalsHybrid, at Red Door Press

Red Door have written an open letter to literary festival organisers, asking them to (where possible) offer both in-person and online tickets for literary events. Add your signature here: https://bit.ly/3bU4bso


Buy The Fountain in the Forest via publisher Faber and Faber

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