Reading permeates every aspect of our lives. As an important skill that continually opens doors, it is without doubt, one of the most powerful and enjoyable recreational and educational tools known to man.
Throughout both my personal and professional life, I’ve taken every opportunity to ignite a love of reading in those around me. I consider myself fortunate to have inspired both colleagues and students in a number of schools to join with me in the celebration of literature and to help unveil the many and varied joys of reading.
So when the opportunity came along to share details of a program I’d instituted in one of the schools in which I’d worked, I didn’t hesitate. By writing an article about my experiences in staging a Literary Festival, I aimed to inspire yet more people to realize that it is well worth the effort and is not, in fact, all that complex.
Published in the latest edition of FYI, a publication of SLAV – School Library Association of Victoria – (Volume 16, Number 3, Winter 2012) my article appears alongside others which have focused on the theme of “Reading in 2012 and beyond” – a theme which no doubt emanates from the amazing celebration of literature which has been happening throughout Australia in this the National Year of Reading.
As the publication FYI is not currently available in full online, I have, with permission of the FYI editor, reproduced my article both here and on BevsBookBlog, my other blog. Should you wish, I am available for either consultation or assistance to help make a Literary Festival a reality in your school.
A revised version of this article has subsequently been published in the online edition of IDIOM Volume 50 No 1 August 2014. Online access to this article if via VATE Membership. Contact me directly if you are not a member and would like a copy of this article.
Enjoy the article. I hope it leaves you feeling inspired to ‘give it a go!’
You can do it! Stage a successful Literary Festival.
2012 has been a bonanza year for literature. 2013 should be even bigger and better!
Take advantage of the excitement spun throughout 2012 and plan big for next year! Close your eyes and dream. Imagine the joy, the exhilaration and the euphoria that can be achieved by bringing literature to life. Think outside the square. Take the plunge and initiate a wide and varied range of literary events that will sweep your school off its feet! Create an even greater splash than you have this year by staging a Literary Festival – an event which will inspire and ignite a passion for literature within and among all members of your school community.
Too hard, you think? Too expensive? Too much work?
The simple response is – no ….. not at all. Staging a Literary Festival is actually not as hard as it sounds. How do I know? Because I’ve done it!
Back in 2006, when the school in which I was working relocated its Year 9-12 students to a new, dedicated senior campus, I was faced with the challenge of re-designing our literature programs so they would more fully reflect the nature of the campus and its students. Conscious of wanting to excite and inspire a love of literature, I also aimed to create an event which would encapsulate the interests of students in our new senior campus. So was born the Literary Festival, an event which was more sophisticated and appealing to our senior school students than the traditional well-worn ‘Book Week’ activities so regularly promoted by Teacher Librarians across the country. Swept up with the euphoria pumped out during the planning stages, the entire senior school staff joined with students in celebrating literature across the curriculum. With 18 presenters and nearly 50 concurrent sessions in its first year and 26 presenters and more than 80 concurrent sessions in its second year, the two Literary Festivals held in 2007 and 2008 ran over three and four consecutive days respectively. With the usual timetable put on hold, students, staff as well as many members of the extended school community joined hands in the celebration of literature. The joy reflected on the faces of participants as well as the pleasure derived from both written and verbal feedback was enormous. So too was the immediate demand for book loans!
So where and how do you start planning an event such as a Literary Festival? How on earth do you fund it? How do you get people on board to assist with planning? And how do you timetable it so that it all runs like clockwork? Questions, questions, questions! One thing you can be sure of is that questions such as these will continually pop up throughout the planning stages. From the outset, you will need three key ingredients: Enthusiasm, determination and perseverance. Alongside this you need to attend very carefully to fine details! Be sure to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. When you most doubt it, you will find that problems and issues that present themselves will either get resolved or resolve themselves. Retain a calmness and sureness while keeping a grasp on the ‘big picture’ that you are trying to create.
Write a rationale:
Figure out what it is you want to do, how you see it being put into action and who it is you want to involve.
Convincing others of the value of implementing a new idea is hard. You therefore need to be very clear from the outset that you are keen to take on a leadership role in the planning, staging and implementation of the Literary Festival. Write and present your rationale to the Principal, to Heads of Campus and to key school leaders. Request to present the idea at a Curriculum Committee meeting where various Heads of Faculties are present. Sell the concept with enthusiasm and you will find that your excitement will ignite an enthusiasm in others.
State in clear terms what the Literary Festival is to entail including its length, specific dates and how you anticipate it being run. Outline the reasons for wanting to stage the Literary Festival including benefits to be derived. Describe the intended audience: all students of a specific campus, a year level and/or parents and members of the extended school community. Explain who will be involved in staging the event – Library staff, Library and English staff or representatives of a number of school departments.
Determining these kinds of details will allow you to refine specifics needed to actually stage the Literary Festival. Once the number of days and the size of the audience are decided it will then be possible to determine the number of presentations needed and the likely costs.
Having a small dedicated team who are willing to put in the hours and the thinking necessary for staging the Literary Festival is a key to its success. You may find that members of the Library staff are the most reliable, available and committed. There may also be an eager member of the English staff who is ready to team with you. Then again, it may turn out that you are the only one who is really enthusiastic and committed to the idea! Don’t despair – you can do it alone!
In addition to a planning committee, have key members of staff who can act as a sounding board. And don’t forget to ask for student involvement. After all, the event is being staged for students so they will have an idea of what they think is great and what they think will be boring!
Deciding on the presenters to be included in your Literary Festival will depend on what it is you are trying to achieve. It can be a staid affair involving author talks and workshops or it can be a dynamic event incorporating a wide range of presenters. In addition to authors and illustrators, consider including song writers, poets, hip hop artists, clay animators, puppeteers, scientists, journalists, musicians, actors and motivation speakers all of whom are united in their passionate desire to engage, stimulate and challenge us with their love of the written and spoken word.
As teachers across the school become inspired to participate in the Literary Festival, more and more ideas of suitable presenters will be generated. As these ideas are incorporated into program planning, you will find teachers eagerly embracing proposals you suggest of suitable presenters. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm! Continuous lateral thinking will generate some amazingly exciting ideas.
Involving many presenters in a Literary Festival is without doubt exciting! Unfortunately it can also be very costly. Don’t let this put you off though. Think outside the box!
The Literary Festival does not have to be funded solely from the Library budget. By incorporating events focused on a range of curriculum areas, it is reasonable to request that those faculties contribute to the costs. Not all presenters need to be hired. Look at the school community – parents, board members, friends and most especially friends of friends! Don’t be surprised when they are thrilled to be invited to present. Accept all volunteers gratefully. And don’t forget to call for teachers to volunteer their skills – you will be amazed at what they have to offer!
Explore the availability of school administration funds to cover the cost of publicity material such as posters and programs. Write a brief describing your Literary Festival and approach local book shops to run a book fair. If your event is to include a lunch or morning/afternoon tea, approach local food shops to donate food in return for a mention on the program. If planning of your event commences well in advance, consider local funding grants that are available.
A range of publicity material will be needed to not only inform, but to excite your school community about the impending Literary Festival. Posters, liberally displayed around the school will inform and excite. Articles in both the school newsletter and local press can be staged so as to slowly build up both an interest and an expectation of a very special event. Blog posts with engaging ‘sneak peek’ details on the school and school library blogs should be well publicized via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Promotional videos could also be made and uploaded to YouTube to ensure interest and intrigue.
As the event draws closer, program outlines incorporating biographical details of presenters and event outlines will be needed. Some events may need to be ‘ticketed’. Bulletin board displays will need to be created and tended. Overhead projections as a background to presentations, while not essential, certainly make a powerful addition.
The creation of publicity materials can be very time consuming. Tap into support services available to the school administration. Request the involvement of students or work with art teachers to enlist the interest of students. Take care though to retain an involvement and control over the content and design of publicity material being generated to ensure that it accurately represents the nature of the Literary Festival being planned.
Planning what, why, when, where and how a Literary Festival is to be staged is a big undertaking. Dealing with the never ending details can be exhausting. Being clear headed about what it is you want to achieve is essential. Calling on the expertise of others for both ideas and support is advantageous.
Like building a house, it is the planning and design that is most important. Begin planning well in advance. A year ahead is not unreasonable.
Soon into the planning though, you will find that your Literary Festival develops a life of its own. Take time to reflect on what it is you are creating, but most of all, enjoy the ride!