So you want to run a children’s literature festival?

9 Aug

Perhaps you’re an aspiring children’s writer, or maybe you have kids of your own and think there should be more readings and literary events in your area. Whatever the reason, you want to put on a kids lit fest. But there are a few pitfalls to avoid…

1) Aaargh! I don’t know what I’m doing!

Be organised. Very organised. Before you do anything else, draw up a schedule of tasks. It might be helpful to start with the date of your festival and work backwards. What deadlines do you have? Once you’ve got your schedule, try to stick to it.

2) Anyone got a time machine?

Be realistic. You can only do so much. It might be your dream to run a week long children’s programme, but if there’s only you to organise it and you’re only free one evening a week to do the work, then it’s not going to happen! Why not start small and build up your programme year on year?

3) Where are the children?

If you want to engage children and young people, get schools and libraries in your local area onside. If you can arrange some school visits, that will give your festival a big boost. If you can’t, a mailout of your printed programme of events would certainly help.

Libraries are a good place to promote your festival, so try to have a presence there in the weeks leading up to your events, either physically or via a plethora of leaflets.

4) What do you mean you’re in a field?

Make sure everyone knows where your events are. Authors will appreciate a map of the venue, and so will any parents / carers trying to get their children to it. Include maps and directions in your programme, and put up plenty of signage around your venue to point the way for anyone who’s unfamiliar with the area.

5) Is this venue 26?

Having one central location for your festival may be the best bet, as keeping everything in the same building allows parents to easily move from one event to another. You may want to use one room for on-going activities like dressing up or face painting, which children and parents can take part in between the main events.

6) I’m not very good with blood…

If you’ve got under 18s attending your events, you’ll need to think about child protection. Your stewards will require some basic training, and there should be a children protection representative and a first aider on site at all times. Think about photography too – some parents/carers may need to keep their children out of photographs.

7) It’s all over – what now?

Without the generosity of volunteers and the brilliance of authors, there would be no literature festivals, so don’t forget to say thank you to everyone involved. That way, they might agree to work with you again next year!

 

In the run up to the 2014 Leeds Big Bookend literature festival, I was on the team of volunteers who organised the events. I worked closely with the lovely Fiona Gell and Dan Ingram-Brown to put together a programme of activities specifically for children and young adults. The events we organised – which ran across the 7th and 8th of June – went pretty well, even if we say so ourselves. There was, of course, room for improvement in how we’d done things, but I learnt a huge amount from the experience, which I thought it might be helpful to share.

These are a few of the fabulous authors I worked with:

Children’s poet David Harmer reads from ‘It Came From Outer Space!’

Emma Barnes tells an entertaining tale about ‘Wild Thing’.

Martyn Bedford fills us in on ‘Flip’, the first of his two young adult novels.

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This post was also published on the Leeds Big Bookend literature festival website here.

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