A couple of years back I had attended the Jaipur Literature Festival. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. This year I attended a smaller version of it at Hyderabad, my current hometown. And as it should, the Hyderabad Literary Festival left me thinking about what is the purpose of these festivals. If I can use the business language, the major stakeholders in these festivals would be writers, readers, publishers, literary journals and their critics followed by the general public. In general, everyone wants to be a part of the festivity that celebrates literary works and people associated with it. It may also be a networking event for those who are in the business of books.
Hyderabad Literary Festival 2012
Writers would come looking for an audience. Hopefully, people who have read them for the responses to their work. And for the people whom they can influence through a personal interaction to read them. An unstated objective can be the sale of the book at the bookstall outside. If the timing is perfect, they can come to launch their books at these festivals, with a public that would be more interested in reading. Whatever be the prime motive, they would want to meet as many readers as they can.
Readers come looking for the writers they have read. They would like to interact with them preferably informally. And be able to ask them questions, share their thoughts with them. They may enjoy a one-way communication from the author. But having made an effort to attend the festival, they would rather have a cozy informal setting with free-flowing conversation. Large numbers would pose a challenge but in a smaller gathering, this can definitely be done. Publishers obviously associate to market their books and authors, by timing launches, by putting bookstalls and by sponsoring the events. Literary magazines and critics should be able to widen their horizons. And go back knowing more than they came knowing.
Purpose of Literary Festivals
Now if the participation is low and a couple of authors tend to monopolize the whole event or they come as a group and keep to themselves and not interact freely, publishers shy away, unheard authors not given a chance, bookstall with only participating author’s books, I think the whole purpose is lost. If local authors are left out, if media is ignored, and only certain writers get the welcome treatment, I guess it would be more appropriate for it to be a closed event. Rather than an open event. Maybe the purpose that organizers had in mind is met. As they seem quite content with what they achieved. But I think there is a huge gap between what they are thinking and what the potential of such an event is.
In my limited understanding, the world is rightly moving towards being open… So when you create an opportunity that is open to all, it has to be completely Open and not selectively open, as the world is also getting transparent. Having said that, is it easy to let go of the controls, I guess not. Is it easy to not let your biases creep in, I guess not!