What is an inclusive event? An event with an inclusive or diverse programme is of course a good starting point, but it’s not the whole story. Here are six golden tips for making your literary event or programme as inclusive as possible.
1 Start with inclusive content
You’ve probably come across it elsewhere, but the metaphor of books as mirrors and as windows on the world remains relevant. An inclusive event begins with a diverse and high-quality programme, meaning your audience can recognize itself in the staged event, discussion or festival that you’re planning to organize. Are you in search of inspiring titles to make your programme more diverse? Reading lists are often a good place to start.
2 Invite guest curators
Try inviting a guest curator. Their expertise and view of the world is bound to enrich your event. Furthermore, it might be the key to lasting collaboration and to developments that both your organization and your audience will learn from and enjoy. Give the guest curator sufficient freedom and resources to develop a project or event.
3 Pay heed to intersectionality
Identity is made up of several layers. That’s what makes intersectionality – the idea that any individual can be privileged or discriminated against on various grounds – so important when it comes to inclusion and diversity. There are many ways of paying attention to different aspects of inclusion and diversity that are all at play simultaneously. One good example is a British organization called quiplash, which offers workshops and counselling to people who have both a queer identity and a disability. Try to apply this principle in practice when you organize events. For example, if you’re planning a reading during Pride Month, look at how you could make the event attractive to LGBTQIA+ people who have a disability or a minority ethnic background.
4 Give equal standing to authors with diverse profiles
It’s important to give diversity a central place in your events calendar from time to time, but you might also consider anchoring that broader view in your programming in a lasting and structural way. Don’t look at authors with a different background, sexuality, gender expression or ability (or their work) as belonging in a separate or exceptional category. Reward them and others equally, and give them the freedom to write and speak about subjects they choose for themselves. Don’t reduce every aspect of their work and artistic personality to their background, and don’t expect them to bear all the responsibility for the polyphony and diversification of your event.
5 Don’t assume you need only produce books in typical formats
People with a reading disability have access to no more than 10 per cent of annual book production, according to research by EDRLab, which aims to encourage publishers to put more accessible books onto the market. Break the mould and give accessible e-books a place in your organization and publishing programme. When you organize an event connected to a book that’s also published in Daisy format or braille, you can make an effort to attract readers who are blind or partially sighted. Then every reader will feel seen and represented.
6 Inclusive also means accessible
As an organizer you want as many booklovers as possible to be able to attend your event. So ensure it’s a safe and hospitable space. For more tips and examples surrounding the organization of accessible events you can consult the Inclusive Events Toolbox created by European Heritage Days. Both your authors and your audience should feel welcome and safe.
Avoid stereotyping when it comes to your external communications and invest in adaptations for people with physical disabilities. If possible, try to provide a sign-language interpreter for your literary event or programme. Make the information known beforehand to your target audience, so that you reach as many lovers of literature as you can. A little effort goes a long way!