There have been a number of articles about the finances of literature festivals recently, so I would like to give Cheltenham Festival’s perspective.
Our main aim is to encourage a love of the written and spoken word by introducing audiences to a range of new and established writers. We could not exist without these writers and the inspiration they provide, so we want every author to have a great experience and feel welcome and celebrated. We work to create an environment where ideas flourish for readers and writers, where authors get to spend time with each other and meet their audiences.
We understand that it needs to be worthwhile for authors to come to Cheltenham, so we pay all speakers and ensure expenses are covered, and that frontlist and backlist books are in stock.
We see celebrating new writing as an essential part of our role. Last year, our Fiction at 6 series introduced 18 début authors and our new Must Read platform hosted notable emerging writers. Children from more than 90 schools attended the festival, some of which traditionally find it difficult to take part in these kinds of events. We cannot hope to cover the costs of these parts of our programme, but it is crucial we give a platform to new writing and introduce younger audiences to literature, so we subsidise the shortfall from those events that do contribute a surplus to the festival. We offer festival speakers the opportunity to support the future of this outreach work by waiving their appearance fee but always stress that this is a choice and that we are committed to paying their fee.
As a not-for-profit organisation, we are continually balancing these different elements to meet the goal I believe we are all working towards: enabling future generations to continue to discover the extraordinary power of the written and spoken word.
Jane Furze is director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature