I've been working on literature events, and in particular genre events, for a number of years now and over this time I've become more and more inquisitive about what it is that makes a great writing and literature event. So over this short series, I'm going to be wandering through my hazy recollections of all my organising and co-ordination down the years and considering just what goes into making an event indifferent, good or great.
It might sound a bit obvious, but if you don't have a good idea for an event, then you can't have a good event. The thing is, you could judge the merit of an idea in many different ways. First off, it might be something with great artistic value that stretches the horizons of its audience. Second of all, it could be something that has great appeal and draws a great crowd, but may not necessarily achieve the same artistic quality. Do you judge an idea by its originality, and its willingness to try something different, or is an idea even better for following something that is tried and true, something with a history of success?
To be honest, I've tried all of the above types of event, all to varying degrees of success. The main difficulty is that, very often, the idea looks and feels great when you come up with it. The first buzz of excitement when the event concept pops into your head is hard to beat, for me only topped by seeing an event actually take place. However these fantasies have to be tempered with reality, and it's only in developing the idea that you can start to get a true sense of its quality. I always consider this the phase where an idea becomes a vision, and it goes from a rather nebulous concept to something that you can first picture in your mind's eye.
I think the key thing behind the success of any idea is how much the person with the concept is willing to put behind it. Anything can be a success, in its own relative terms, if the co-ordinator is happy to put in the hours, has a level of skill and expertise befitting the event, has the passion and belief to communicate the event clearly to an audience and can retain that enthusiasm even when they are answering emails at 1am just to make this thing happen.
If you don't believe in your idea, then why would anyone else buy into it and come along? That's a hard question to ask at the start, but if you don't utterly believe in what you are doing, then maybe that's one idea that should be left alone.
Part 2 will be looking at the budget for an event – not the most glamorous part of running an event, but one that has to underpin everything to do with the activity.