Not 'just' books

<p>Music festivals are increasingly being flaunted as a new, laidback venue for literary events: intellectual cachet and cheap acts for the organisers, brainfood for the punters, and a big audience (and generous sales source) for the authors = win win situation.</p>
<p>Having just returned from Latitude, which bills itself as &ldquo;not just a music festival&rdquo; I would say points one and two, are true, the third, as ever, more complicated.</p>
<p>The line-up this year included Bret Easton Ellis, Jon Ronson and &nbsp;Scarlett Thomas in the &ldquo;Love Literature&rdquo; tent, plus Wendy Cope, Laura Dockrill and &ldquo;Porky the Poet&rdquo; aka Phill Jupitus in the Poetry Arena. There were also more eclectic events at the Literary Salon and Ebury&rsquo;s own-brand Library and Bookshop in the woods, including tea, deckchairs and yoga as well as authors.</p>
<p>Perhaps unlike any other literary event, the authors seemed to be guaranteed an audience. Whether it was revellers hiding gratefully from showers or sun, or proper fans (like the ones who greeted Sebastian Faulks&rsquo; passing mention of <i>Birdsong </i>with applause and called out for a reading of it like musicos demanding Paul McCartney play Hey Jude), the tents were never empty. Although, as ever, the big names attracted most &ndash; and seemed to attract the most potential sales &ndash; the queue for Easton Ellis&rsquo; book signings stretched halfway round the literary tent, Faulks&rsquo; even longer. And comedy also seemed a good shot. Jupitus&rsquo; tent was packed, as was writer and comedian Richard Herring&rsquo;s, while novelist and stand-up Mark Watson&rsquo;s drunken reading had an enormous crowd. Jojo Moyes, who introduced her reading from <i>The Last Letter from Your Lover </i>by saying &lsquo;it won&rsquo;t be very funny&rsquo; (compared to fellow speaker Mike Gayle) had a patchier attendance at first-although that could be because Tom Jones was on the main stage.</p>
<p>Unfortunately, as well as being able to attract a different kind of audience, authors also have to put up with that audience being easily distracted. Comparable to doubts about reading on an iPad or similar device, music festivals do throw up the question of why would anyone read when they could be watching films/listening to music/drinking cider.</p>
<p>On the other hand, the festival format allows for very different sorts of speakers. While Hanif Kureishi et al are regulars on the readings circuit, Kristen Hirsh (from Throwing Muses, reading her forthcoming autobiography) is a punky new addition. The format allows for debut authors and poets to perform for open-minded readers looking for a nice sit down and a think, and also for&nbsp; a younger crowd; I was particularly warmed to see a mother and young daughter listening rapt to Natasha Walters discussing her feminist tome <i>Living Dolls</i>- while Faulks drew both conventional types as well as teenagers taking a break from tent arson.</p>
<p>Experimenting with lit events at Glastonbury or perhaps Bestival, Green Man or the Big Chill could really work, although Download perhaps not so much. Latitude is small enough and, dubbed &ldquo;Latte-tude&rdquo; by Jo Brand, likely to attract enough of the sort of people who tend to buy books.</p>
<p>Having been to quite a few lit events over the weekend (and being geekily pleased to spot one festivalgoer carrying a <i>Bookseller </i>tote bag, I&rsquo;m sure she was from Ebury) the key to which authors were most successful seemed to be those who write about music, those who have some outrageous stories to tell, big names and youngish off-the-wall types, and please, please, those who can be funny.<br />
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