Patterns of Attendance and Experience

  • Millicent Weber
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


This chapter employs empirical data collected onsite at five literary festivals in Australia and the United Kingdom to develop and test the conceptual framework proposed in Chap.  2. In doing so, this chapter identifies and explores the ways in which literary festivals enable different forms of engagement with literary culture and communities, and audience members’ personal experiences and interpretations of this engagement. The data collected demonstrates that audience members at literary festivals are active and reflective. They are highly, often professionally, engaged with literary culture, and demonstrate critical thinking in the ways in which they select, attend, consider, discuss, and respond to the cultural and social opportunities that literary festivals offer. Festivals provide audience members with the space to negotiate diverse perspectives, and offer a starting point for exploration of broader issues and trends. Individuals use festivals to participate in social, connecting, and affirming practices which may be categorised as ‘middlebrow’ or vernacular. Equally, however, audience members demonstrate analytical engagement with content, which can be seen as a more scholarly and critical practice. Fundamentally, literary festivals operate as spaces in which attendees can individually and collectively negotiate and interpret different conceptions of ‘literary’ culture in a public and embodied fashion.


  1. Australia Council for the Arts. (2014). Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts. Australia Council for the Arts. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
  2. Bishop, S., Hayes, A., & Johnson S. (2015, October 30). As One in Rejecting the Label ‘Middlebrow’. Sydney Review of Books. Retrieved September 7, 2016, from
  3. Blanchard, B. (2013, May 17). Emerging Writers’ Festival 2013: An Interview with Director Sam Twyford-Moore. Crikey. Retrieved January 14, 2015, from
  4. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood. 241–258.Google Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. (1996). The Rules of Art. (S. Emanuel, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, J. (2014, March 22). Port Eliot Festival Reveals its Eclectic Line-Up. Western Morning News. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
  8. Clunes Booktown. (2015). About Clunes. Clunes Booktown. Retrieved January 13, 2015, from
  9. Clunes Booktown. (2016). Clunes Booktown Festival 2016. Clunes Booktown. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from
  10. Crompton, J. L. (1979). Motivations for Pleasure Vacations. Annals of Tourism Research 6(4), 408–424.Google Scholar
  11. Dawson, E., & Jensen, E. (2011). Towards a Contextual Turn in Visitor Studies: Evaluating Visitor Segmentation and Identity-Related Motivations. Visitor Studies 14(2), 127–140.Google Scholar
  12. Driscoll, B. (2014). The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Reading in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Driscoll, B. (2015). Sentiment Analysis and the Literary Festival Audience. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 29(6), 861–873.Google Scholar
  14. Edinburgh City of Literature. (n.d.). Our Story. Edinburgh City of Literature. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
  15. Edinburgh International Book Festival. (2013). Annual Review 2013. Edinburgh International Book Festival. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from Scholar
  16. Edinburgh International Book Festival. (2014). About Us. Edinburgh International Book Festival. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from
  17. Emerging Writers’ Festival. (n.d.). About. Emerging Writers’ Festival. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
  18. English, J. (2005). The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Falk, J. (2009). Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Federation Square. (n.d.). About Us. Federation Square. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
  21. Fuller, D. (2011). Listening to the Readers of “Canada Reads”. The History of Reading. Ed. S. Towheed, R. Crone & K. Halsey. London and New York: Routledge. 411–426.Google Scholar
  22. Gates, G. J. (2011). How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender? Los Angeles: The Williams Institute. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from
  23. Gnoth, J. (1997). Tourism Motivation and Expectation Formation. Annals of Tourism Research 24(2), 283–304.Google Scholar
  24. Johanson, K., & Freeman, R. (2012). The Reader as Audience: The Appeal of the Writers’ Festival to the Contemporary Audience. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 26(2), 303–314.Google Scholar
  25. Lurie, C. (2004). Festival, Inc. Australian Author 36(2), 8–12.Google Scholar
  26. Melbourne Writers Festival. (2013). Strategic Direction 2013–2016. Melbourne Writers Festival. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from
  27. Melbourne Writers Festival. [MelbWritersFest] (n.d.). About. Melbourne Writers Festival. Retrieved January 14, 2015, from Scholar
  28. Ommundsen, W. (2009). Literary Festivals and Cultural Consumption. Australian Literary Studies 24(1), 19–34.Google Scholar
  29. Orwell, G. (2014 [1946]). Why I Write. Collected Essays. Adelaide: The University of Adelaide Library. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from
  30. Over 14,000 Attend EWF 2014. (2014, June 12). Books+Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2016, from
  31. Port Eliot Festival. (n.d.). About the Festival. Port Eliot Festival. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
  32. Ross, K., & Nightingale, V. (2003). Media and Audiences: New Perspectives. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ruddock, A. (2006). Understanding Audiences: Theory and Method. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Ruddock, A. (2007). Investigating Audiences. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  35. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54–67.Google Scholar
  36. Schoenmakers, H. (2007). Festivals, Theatrical Events and Communicative Interactions. In T. Hauptfleisch, S. Lev-Aladgem, J. Martin, W. Sauter & H. Schoenmakers (Eds.), Festivalising! Theatrical Events, Politics and Culture. Amsterdam: Brill – Rodopi. 27–38.Google Scholar
  37. The Earl of St Germans, Founder of the Port Eliot Festival—Obituary. (2016, July 17). The Telegraph. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from
  38. Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2014, January 16). E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Millicent Weber
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations