Friday, 9 September 2011

Event fatigue? I hope not.

As someone involved in helping to make "live literature " events happen, from time to time I take an interest in audience numbers at book and reading events. Perhaps its because I work within local government which is currently having to justify every penny of expenditure more than ever before, but am I alone in detecting a worrying trend? Are fewer people attending literature events? Perhaps fewer people are attending events in general? Is everyone so concerned about their security & their finances that they aren't going out as much. Or is it just that we have had a wet and disappointing summer?

Last week I was in Fife, not too far from Edinburgh and managed to squeeze in a visit to the Edinburgh Book Festival on its last day. The site was looking a bit bedraggled and muddy, but there seemed to be a healthy number of people there and the bookshop was busy. But I read in the press that 10,000 fewer people had attended in total this year (n.b. total was a healthy sounding 190,000) when compared with last, even though record numbers attended the Fringe. Was this all to do with rain?

Closer to home, a reading this week in a large and busy town centre library with a good track record of hosting successful activity, only attracted 5 people. And a forthcoming event which I would have expected to be almost sold out by now, has only attracted a quarter of its target audience so far.

Is this all coincidence, or is it a trend? It would be good to hear some other recent experiences.

Manchester Literature Festival is only a month way. I really hope people locally will be excited enough by the programme to come along to as many events as possible. View the programme here. For those who are part of a reading group or want to arrange a night out with a group of book-loving friends, there is a special Reading Group Ticket Offer.

The Offer: Book for 4 or more people and get all your tickets at the concessionary rate. The offer is available on the following events and can be booked via the website or by phoning our Box Office on 0843 208 0500 and quoting MLF Reading Group offer at the time of booking.

Manchester Sermon – Manchester Cathedral, Tuesday 11th October, 7pm
Michael Frayn – Manchester Town Hall, Thursday 13th October, 5pm
Roma Tearne – International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Friday 14th October, 6pm
Emma Jane Unsworth & John Niven – Waterstone’s Deansgate, Saturday 15th October, 6pm
Sacred Hearts – Manchester Cathedral, Sunday 16th October, 7.30pm
Navtej Sarna & Shrabani Basu – Waterstone’s Deansgate, Monday 17th October, 6pm
Mimi Khalvati & Carola Luther – International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Thursday 20th October, 6pm
David Lodge – Whitworth Art Gallery, Friday 21st October, 7.30pm
The Devil’s Garden – Manchester Museum, Saturday 22nd October, 1pm
Catherine O’Flynn – Waterstone’s Deasngate, Saturday 22nd October, 6pm


  1. Very interesting... I do hope we are not seeing a downturn in around live events. I do think a lot of people are watching every penny in these difficult times and are having to make hard choices on what they spend their money on.

    Sometimes even if the event is free the cost of public transport/parking can have a impact on deciding whether to attend on event or not.

    I recently attended an event in Liverpool that was free but the cost of tunnel fees and parking cost £13....

  2. It's worrying, especially for someone like me, who is an author providing such events as well as attending them. I have tried and tried to get things going in my home town but really struggle for audiences. I fear in these difficult times people are apathetic because of depression. It's hard to motivate oneself to go out in the evening after a tough day at work, or feeling worthless because you cant get work. Also many middle-aged people are tied up looking after elderly relatives.
    Teenagers are often sucked in by TV and shopping for their leisure time, and burdened with homework. There's no easy answer. It can also be difficult getting information to people in the right way in these days of information overload. I think the biggest problem is TV, DVD etc. Society is changing and people live in a bubble of virtual reality instead of getting into the community and doing things. And yet when people do manage to get out they really enjoy it. We mustn't give up.