The bookseller – Comment – Are you planning a book event for 2023? Go for the hybrid

Hybrid festivals are here to stay – that’s what authors with disabilities and chronic illnesses want, after gaining access to online literary festivals and events during the pandemic. Increasingly, the entire writing community supports this call. That’s why the #KeepFestivalsHybrid team and the Inklusion team have joined forces to create an online guide to hybrid literary festivals in 2023 – and we need festival organizers to tell us their plans.

As co-founder of the #KeepFestivalsHybrid campaign with publisher Clare Christian, I’ve spoken to so many DCI authors for whom online access has transformed their lives and careers, giving them the opportunity to network with other authors, to speak and to attend events. One of these writers, Chloe Timms, author of women of the sea, commented, “I love in-person events as much as anyone, but virtual events throughout the pandemic have made the literary world more accessible. There’s no reason not to have the best of both worlds for readers and writers.”

This year has seen a clarion call for hybrid events across the publishing profession. Cryptic Arts published To be hybrid, a guide to what hybrid events are, their benefits, and the basic technology to run them. Director Jamie Hale describes the guide as explaining “the cheapest and fastest way to provide online and offline access to events”.

In January #KeepFestivalsHybrid published their own Guide to putting your festival online. August saw the launch of the much needed and long awaited Inclusion Guide, led by writers Ever Dundas and Julie Farrell, which summarizes accessibility best practices for hybrid, online and in-person events. Launching the guide at the Edinburgh Festival, Ever Dundas said “there is no more excuse” for the profession to now ignore disabled access, with the ripple effect that those who live away, cannot afford to travel, have family responsibilities or feel socially excluded from the publishing world will also benefit.

It’s not easy for a potential festival-goer to know if their local literary festival has a hybrid element, or to discover others that do. The #KeepFestivalsHybrid team and the Inklusion team have joined forces to solve this problem.

Dundas and Farrell added: “Access should be an integrated, organic framework – the skeleton around which event delivery is built, rather than a peripheral facet or last-minute addition. We want to see organizers of events use the guide, take responsibility for authors with disabilities and members of the public We hope the Inklusion guide will help make good access the norm.

A report by The Audience Agency in September 2021, titled Focus on disability, concluded that when it comes to arts pursuits, “people with disabilities have been more digitally engaged and seem likely to be in the future, but much of this is due to barriers faced with in-person attendance. “. The agency says the report “highlights the importance of maintaining digital channels, as their removal would compound injustice.” But how can literary festivals market their hybrid events to their target audiences?

It’s not easy for a potential festival-goer to know if their local literary festival has a hybrid element, or to discover others that do. The #KeepFestivalsHybrid team and the Inklusion team have joined forces to solve this problem. We’ve created a simple survey for literary festival organizers to fill out and tell us about their 2023 dates and hybrid events. Those who meet our criteria (remember that a hybrid event is a live-streamed event, not an in-person event that is recorded and put on a website later) will receive our hybrid badge of honor to display on their website, demonstrating their accessibility and adherence to best practices. Later this year, once we have received entries, we will create a web guide to UK Hybrid Literary Festivals 2023, allowing festival-goers to find the festivals they want to attend online – and quickly!

Personally, I hope the 2023 Hybrid Festivals Guide will help further increase the accessibility of literary festivals to readers and authors, raise awareness across the industry, and make hybrid the norm, not the norm. ‘exception. So please shout, tweet, share and encourage all festival organizers in your network, from local events to national big names, to complete the short survey.

The final word goes to Joanne Harris, Chair of the Society of Authors’ Management Committee, who emphasized the universal inclusiveness of hybrid: “Hybrid festivals allow people who, for reasons of accessibility, funding, of geography or health, cannot normally attend.”

Together we can #KeepFestivalsHybrid.

Angela C. Hale