SELTA Spring Panel on Live Literary Events

SELTA Chair Ruth Urbom welcomed three guest speakers to our Spring Meeting 2018.

Friday the 13th of April turned out to be an auspicious date for SELTA members as we met for our regular spring meeting at the Embassy of Sweden in central London. After the conclusion of our official business we welcomed three guest speakers who told us about their approaches to programming live literary events.

First to speak was Anna Błasiak, who serves as the International Literature Coordinator for the European Literature Network. In that role Anna works with journalist and broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith to produce numerous events and publications focusing on literature in translation for readers in the UK. Of particular relevance for us in SELTA were the day-long seminar on Nordic Noir crime and thrillers held last year and the Nordic-themed issue of The Riveter journal, to which several of our members contributed book reviews and extracts. Based on experience from previous projects, Anna said that it helps to include a well-known UK-based person in a programme to attract larger audiences who may be unfamiliar with authors from abroad.

Next we heard from Ted Hodgkinson, Senior Programmer for Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre in London. Ted gave us an overview of Nordic Matters, a year-long programme of cultural events staged throughout 2017 at Southbank Centre. After a series of ‘think-in’ brainstorming sessions with UK-based stakeholders from embassies and cultural organisations (including SELTA) and numerous visits by Southbank Centre staff to the Nordic countries – a tough job, no doubt! – programmers clustered the events around three themes: children and young people; sustainability; and gender equality. The full programme encompassed music, dance, visual arts, installations, fashion and design in addition to literature. Ted also told us about his experience co-editing (with the Icelandic author Sjón) The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, the first pan-Nordic anthology published in English.

Our third panellist was Crystal Mahey-Morgan, who founded OWN IT! London to bring great storytelling to readers in many forms, including multimedia projects and even T-shirts in addition to traditional print books. The authors published by OWN IT! have international and diverse cultural backgrounds which are reflected in Crystal’s programming choices in putting together exciting, eclectic launch events for their titles. She recognises that people have a huge range of entertainment options available these days, so it’s important to design book-related events that can compete in a crowded field. The next title forthcoming from OWN IT! is by an author with Māori heritage, and Crystal told us she is considering including a live haka as part of that book launch.

On behalf of SELTA, I would like to thank all three panellists for sharing some insights into their efforts to bring stimulating literature to readers through innovative events.

By Ruth Urbom