The Future of Festivals

After ending 2019 buoyed by the FWF community’s enthusiastic responses to our survey about the topics and speakers you were most excited by, and just as we’d finished developing a kickarse program in response, COVID-19 arrived. And with it, the huge uncertainty of gatherings and the kick to our community of writers’ income streams. It also made activating our fundraising strategy nigh on impossible.

A couple of months on, we can feel positive about the potential of an easing of restrictions, and yet planning for a November festival is rife with uncertainties: what size gatherings will be allowed? Will purchasing tickets be realistic for everyone based on loss of incomes? Can we really expect our volunteers (on whom we rely) to come out in force when they’ll likely have other really pressing concerns?

And of course we’re concerned about the effect on women generally, with many everyday issues now amplified. Women at home, taking on even more domestic burden, and worse, potentially in unsafe environments. The fact that so many in the frontline caring industries are women. Financial security for women; access to safe healthcare; and further disenfranchisement of those living with a disability, for trans and non-binary people, for refugees, and for First Australians. And in the arts: how to support some of our lowest paid creatives and improve their lot. Especially heading into a time where the arts looks to be even less funded and de-prioritised. 

We haven’t jumped into staging virtual events (although we have been enjoying them!). Instead we’ve been turning our attention to other ways we can help: promoting books and authors that won’t get to enjoy the regular book launch environment, and trying to get income to writers by publishing more here on the FWF website.

So we’ve been supporting the community by promoting virtual book events and new releases through Instagram reviews and our ‘Quarantine Q&As‘ with authors, doing a weekly wrap on the best feminist writing around on Facebook. We’ve launched a fundraising campaign #PayTheWriters through which we’ll commission more fresh feminist writing to continue pushing the feminist agenda, providing great reading, and paying some writers.

As to the festival in November, we’re thinking about what we’ll need at the tail end of all this. What will be the major topics and themes to talk about? How can we stage a socially distanced festival? How can we make it equitable and accessible? However it works out, we’ll be working with you, our community of feminist writers, readers and thinkers, to create, consume and care.

This piece was written for Gender Equity Victoria‘s newsletter.

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