If you are someone who can stroll through bookstores for hours, someone who can spend hours reading in a library, someone who loves the smell of pages, or an ardent collector of hardbacks, then I’m sure you must have been to Literature festivals as well. Literature festivals or popularly known as “Litfest” hold a special place in the book-lovers community. It not only allows them to interact with their beloved authors but it also allows the writer to know it’s readers well, to interact with them, to launch new books, and to excite readership by pitching new ideas.
I know that for many of you attending a Litfest seems like the memory of yesteryear. Covid-19 has not only turned our lives upside down, but it has also taken a toll on Litfest event organizers and book publishers. Usually, the calendar for a year is dotted with hundreds of Literature festival but because of the pandemic, many of the fests have either been deferred or they stand canceled. While many of the organizers are still brainstorming on what to do during the time of such an unprecedented crisis, some of them have taken their literary festivals online.
While taking the Litfests online seems like a feasible option for now but we all know that nothing can replace the liveliness and fad of the physical event. Therefore, the organizers need to be prepared for the post-COVID reality because organizing a literature festival is going to get tougher, and even in the best-case scenario, it would take more than a year for the Litfests to get back to normalcy.
Here are a few key planning tips for you to plan Litfest post-COVID :
Opt for Bigger venues:-
“Smaller events in bigger venues” should be your mantra post COVID. Pre-COVID, it was a common sight to see overcrowded marquees during Litfest but you need to do away with this sight post-COVID. “Scattered seating” has to be the new norm. Block off rows or sections of seating to space people at least 6 feet apart. You must also try hosting the events outdoors rather than indoors. Indoor events run at a higher risk of contagion due to the circulation of the same air while outdoor venues have natural ventilation and it is easier to follow social distancing in the outdoor venue. Also, try finding a venue that has multiple entrances and exits to discourage crowding of people. Finding the right venue for you Litfest can be daunting, this is where Highspace steps in. Highspace can help you in finding your perfect space by connecting you with hosts willing to rent out their space for various creative and productive uses.
Maintaining a Sanitary Environment:-
This should be your foremost priority and must not be overlooked. Since most of the Litfests are spread over a week or two, you should ensure regular and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the venue at the end of each day. You must also ensure adequate availability of handwashing facilities with soap or hand rub dispensers. All the equipment to be used at the event should be sanitized regularly, especially mics. Mics are used by many speakers and they go from one hand to another all the time. There should be a designated staff to take care of disinfection at the fest.
Preemptive caveats to attendees:-
Regulating the flow and density of the people attending the fest is essential. For this, you must start online registration for the event months before the actual day. During the registration, all the interested attendees must be asked to provide their contact details and address and should be informed that their details could be used for contact tracing in case an attendee develops symptoms. Also, a few days before the event, send an email to all the registered attendees asking them to wear a mask, and maintain social distancing during the Litfest.
Go partially online:-
While nothing can replace the vigor of a physical event, taking some aspects of the fest online is highly recommended. Many of the International stalwarts might not attend the fest to minimize traveling post-COVID. Their absence can be made up for by organizing online sessions with the audience. Also, you can organize creative writing workshops and storytelling workshops online instead of organizing them at the venue. A perfect mix of Offline and online activities can do wonders for your Litfest.
Opt-out of food services:-
Although there is no evidence that COVID can spread through food, congregation around food services, and waiting in a long queue to make payments can poss a risk. In case, you don’t want to do away with the food services, make sure disposable cutlery is used. Also, instead of exchanging cash, touchless and digital payment methods should be encouraged. Ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart from each other when waiting in line to order or pick up.
These are a few recommendations you must not overlook. A mix of venue management, crowd control, responsible practices of social distancing, and sanitizing are going to be inevitable in post-COVID reality. I know, organizing Litfest post-COVID can feel like a big challenge but by being innovative and patient, you can overcome it. As the world deals with this unprecedented crisis, keeping your head and staying optimistic is the best you can do right now.
About the Author
Sagrika Chauhan is an Arts Graduate from University of Delhi. She is an aspiring polyglot, a Quentin Tarantino fanatic, an avid reader and a passionate writer. She loves whiling away her hours in Bookstores. You can connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org