Is literature more accessible now than ever?

With the rise of literature festivals, are we getting closer to, or further from accessible reading?

Is literature more accessible now than ever?

I am a big literature fan. I also wish everyone love to read as much as I do and my heart breaks a little bit whenever someone says 'I'll just watch the movie.' Often this is because literature isn't seen as being accessible. It's time consuming, it takes effort and in the uber-connected world we live in, it isn't very sociable.

However, in the past several years books and reading have become incredibly social due to an increasing number of festivals across the country; chances are there's one somewhere near where you live. These come in all shapes and forms celebrating all kinds of literature, so there really is something for everyone.

What's more even the big more 'highbrow' festivals are featuring popular writers and topics - take Sam Mendes, 007 director speaking at this year's Hay Festival. Surely this provides a new level of accessibility, and caters to a wider audience? Yet even for someone as keen as me ticket prices can be high, and depending on what kind of festival you want to go to there may still be a fair amount of travel involved.

So as far as literary 'events' go festivals are still at the higher end, which is why during two (fairly) recent anniversary celebrations, I have been pleased to see a bit more innovation on the museum front. Last year was the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and in celebration the British Library held an exhibition exploring how the story has been adapted since its first manuscript. As such a big fan I went to London primarily to see it, however was happy to discover that the exhibition was also touring to galleries elsewhere in the country. Equally, for Shakespeare400 the British Library is running an exhibition, alongside which it has produced online content 'Discovering Shakespeare' meaning that those who aren't London based can still partake.

Continuing with the Shakespeare theme the event that I have been most impressed with is the RSC's live show broadcast through the BBC. A compilation of various scenes, music and comedy sketches this event was the very definition of accessible, both in the way we can take part and in its content. It was interesting, moving, funny and generally very well-orchestrated. Alongside a whole host of material on the BBC's online 'Shakespeare Festival', both organisations have really managed to make this available to people, which is particularly important when Shakespeare is often judged as being too literary.

So where do we stand on literary events, are they really working? Yes and no, but I think some of these events will certainly set a precedent for how they could operate in the future.

Image: Hay Festival via Flickr


Ellen Orange

Ellen Orange Contributor

I am a 24 year old Marketing Officer from the North East with a passion for arts and writing. I did a BA in English Literature and an MA in Twentieth and Twenty First Century Literature at Durham University, because I love books and reading! I have experience in writing for a variety of student publications, as well as having contributed to Living North, a regional magazine and Culture magazine, a supplement to regional newspaper, The Journal. I have been part of a Young Journalists scheme writing for NewcastleGateshead's Juice Festival, a young people's arts and culture festival, and have since become a Team Juice member. As well as reading and writing, I love theatre, photography and crafts.

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