We are, undoubtedly, in a digital age. We have, for the first time in history, a world of information at our fingertips. The digital age has revolutionised the way we communicate, the way we consume news, the way we understand the world around us. But what has it done to literature?
In many ways, literature has stayed the same. Bookshops still stock physical books and we still visit libraries. It may seem that literature has remained largely unchanged. In reality, the literary industry is far from exempt from the impact of the digital age. The introduction of e-books and audiobooks has made literature more accessible to people, and has opened up the world of books, poetry and plays to audiences that may otherwise have been excluded.
When the UK went into lockdown at the end of March, literary festivals across the country were forced to cancel. Whilst some literary festivals chose to simply postpone their events, many chose to move their content online. Festivals such as Hay Festival and Lockdown Lit Fest put on exclusively online festivals, with all their events conducted online. Lockdown Lit Fest was created as a response to the pandemic, offering masterclasses and interviews, all designed to be consumed from the comfort of your home, for free. It redefines what we perceive literary festivals to be, and ushers in a new era of environmentally friendly, financially unrestricted festivals.
One of the positives of conducting a literary festival online is that the events are suddenly available to far more people, regardless of their location. Whilst in-person literary festivals are wonderful in so many ways, they are limited by the fact that if you are not within travelling distance of the venue, you have no way to attend. If the festival is moved online? That problem of accessibility is automatically solved. All you need is an internet connection and you can attend. That issue of accessibility is an important one, as the literary industry has a history of being elitist, a product of the white middle-classes. In moving literary festivals online, the opportunity to lessen that divide is offered. With content being easier to access, the literature becomes more relatable, appealing to people that would perhaps be discouraged from attending a festival in person. Moving festivals online allows for literature to become something everyone can enjoy, from the comfort of your sofa.