Plans for 2021 and beyond
At the Book Festival, we are committed to making our events as accessible as possible. Read on for an update about our new location, and our plans to keep accessibility at the heart of everything we do, now and in the future.
It’s already mid-February and the Book Festival team is fully into planning mode for our 2021 activity, both in our year-round Communities Programme and in developing the August Festival.
Recently, we announced our plans to relocate to a new site, Edinburgh College of Art on Lauriston Place. Whether or not we can have in-person events in August this year, we are excited about what a long-term partnership with The University of Edinburgh can bring.
We’re also looking forward to embedding our Communities Programme into our new local area and are reaching out to groups in Tollcross and the Grassmarket, through our Citizen project.
One of the key conversations as we move to a new location has been retaining the accessibility that the Charlotte Square Gardens site had achieved over the years. We were the winners of the Euan’s Guide Award for Most Accessible Pop-up Venue in 2016-2019, and we want to take all the lessons learned from previous years and embed them into all our future events, in person and online.
We are delighted that Euan’s Guide recently published a report about our accessibility journey on their website, which you can read here. The article shows that partnership working is at the heart of everything we do, and explains how collaborations with PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Scotland), ARC Scotland and the National Involvement Network have resulted in bespoke sensory sessions, easy-read printed guides and physical changes, such as including a Changing Places toilet on site. In the past, we created short films about what to expect on entering the Festival site, and hope to replicate this for our new venue at Edinburgh College of Art.
For our online events, we plan to expand our provision of live captioning and continue to offer a selection of BSL interpreted events. Our Pay What You Can initiative, which began in 2019, will continue allow people to access many of our events, whatever their personal circumstances. In 2021, we are planning to broadcast events to community partners across Scotland, as well as expanding our provision to prison and hospital radio and streaming services.
The Book Festival’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group meets every month to set the agenda for the accessibility standards we want to achieve. This includes advocating for inclusivity in all our events and resources, arranging staff training on topics from anti-racism to dementia awareness, and making sure diverse audiences and authors are represented in our programme.
As we look ahead to 2021, there’s still much uncertainty around what our Festival will look like, and what society will look like in seven months’ time. We know that last year, our online offer opened up the Festival, making it accessible to people on a scale we’d never achieved before. We’ll be maintaining many of those features as key parts of our future vision, as well as working to tackle issues of digital exclusion, through our Communities Programme. No matter what form the Festival takes, our commitment to being a welcoming, accessible, open event for anyone to take part in, is permanent.
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