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"An act of bravery as well as creativity" - Celebrating the success of our pioneering hybrid Literature Festival

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Cheltenham Festivals announces Culture Recovery Fund support and celebrates the success of its pioneering hybrid Literature Festival for 2020

Cheltenham Festivals is delighted to have been awarded £783,939 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

This welcome news has come the day after we celebrate the success of our pioneering hybrid Literature Festival. It is a great vote of confidence in our ability to take bold steps to reach new audiences and serve our communities.

The Cheltenham Festivals Leadership Team

200,000 viewers logged on to watch The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival as it was live-streamed from Cheltenham for the first time in the history of the world’s first literature festival. The pioneering hybrid Festival combined digital and in-person events, as 290 authors and speakers including Elif Shafak, Raynor Winn, John Lanchester, Bolu Babalola, Hashi Mohamed, Naoise Dolan, the Kanneh-Mason family, internet doggy sensations Olive and Mabel with their sports commentator owner Andrew Cotter, Ian Hislop and Richard Osman made their way to Cheltenham to appear on stage in front of a live, socially-distanced audience.

180 schools downloaded the free digital pack to Create Your Own Festival at school, featuring draw-alongs, storytelling and author talks on fiction, facts and poetry. During a live poetry show streamed at the Festival, poet Zaro Weil was announced as the winner of the prestigious CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) award for published poetry for children.

This year’s programme is still available to view on demand via a subscription to the #CheltLitFest Player, with more than 120 events from The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival available on-demand until 31 December 2020.

Subscribe to the #CheltLitFest Player

Guest Curator Elif Shafak said: It’s very exciting and precious to be here. Literary festivals are among our last remaining democratic spaces and we need them for our sanity, we need culture and art to have nuanced conversations, nurture empathy, feed knowledge and turn good words into good action.”

Caitlin Moran said “Cheltenham is basically like Literary Christmas. It’s the first event this year that I’ve actually been able to go to. I love that – it’s so Cheltenham. They were the only ones who said “Yep, we’re still gonna do this.”

Author Andrew O’Hagan said “The Cheltenham Literature Festival has always been a celebration of creativity and this year in very difficult circumstances it has shown enormous creativity itself. It’s looked to protect its authors, protect its audiences, but give something back both in its live performances and to people online who have probably felt alone: separated from their favourite authors, from the Festival that they love to attend.

I think it’s been an act of bravery as well as creativity and it’s actually brought us forward this year and given us a little bit of hope.”

Nicola Tuxworth, Head of Programming for Cheltenham Literature Festival said: “The cultural phenomenon of Literature Festivals started in Cheltenham in 1949, and I am proud and delighted that we are still leading the way in delivering a pioneering Festival for these extraordinary times. We are so grateful to our speakers and chairs for helping us to make this happen and above all to our audiences who attended in person or watched in huge numbers – making this unique festival such a roaring success. We are delighted that 200,000 people have enjoyed the festival online so far with viewing figures set to rise as people make use of our CheltLitFest player on-demand, available until the end of the year.”

Cheltenham Festivals is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations receiving support as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery. These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”

Stats from the Festival:
  • 200,000 online views of the Festival
  • 7,088 people attended events in Cheltenham’s Town Hall and Everyman Theatre
  • Social media reach of 4 million
  • Media reach of 22 million