Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival Strategic Plan (2019-2021)

Summary

The Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival is a not for profit community annual arts initiative staged in the magnificent environs of the Coffs Coast, Bellingen and Dorrigo since April, 2011. The festival is a celebration of Australian writing in all its forms and features many established and emerging Australian writers. The events include readings, panels, ‘In Conversation’ sessions, workshops, spoken word performances and public art. Located on the spectacular Waterfall Way between the ocean beaches of the NSW Mid North Coast and the ancient Gondwana rainforest, the Bellingen area has been the inspiration for many Australian writers.

The festival has experienced peaks and troughs in attendance as well as financial success over its eight-year history but continues to play an integral part in the festival round of the Bellingen region. Particularly noteworthy has been the success of the festivals held over the June long weekend in 2018 and 2019, which attracted many prominent writers and achieved overwhelmingly good reviews from audiences.

Feedback from both invited guests and from audiences highlight that significant factors in their enjoyment are the attractive location of the festival and its relatively small size, which enables a higher degree of interaction among participants.

This strategic plan is focused on building on the success of past festivals and broadening the festival’s offerings to better meet the festival’s goal of:

Produce/create an annual regional festival that:

  • Is intimate, fun, thought-provoking and sometimes challenging
  • Engages readers and writers of all ages and backgrounds
  • Is unique among other literary festivals in using the region’s rich environmental and cultural heritage and the passions of local writers and readers
  • Focusses on Australian talent

Aims

  • Celebrating Australian readers and writers
  • Inclusive of age, gender and background/nationality
  • Highlighting the regions environment, cultural heritage and cultural diversity
  • Fun and unique
  • Intimate and engaging

Strategic direction

Professional and excellent programming in a unique setting

  • Deliver a program featuring Australia’s best writers and thinkers, inclusive of cultural backgrounds and across a range of event formats
    • Panel sessions
    • In conversation
    • Readings
    • Performance
    • Displays
  • Enhance the festival’s sense of community and intimacy by using Bellingen’s unique town centre for interactions with writers and readers
    • Use of various public venues
    • Partnering with commercial outlets (e.g. cafes)
    • Utilising public spaces (e.g. parks)
    • Partnering with local library
  • Include readers and writers who highlight and increase knowledge of the local environmental and cultural landscape
    • Partner with regional Indigenous community
    • Partner with local government
    • Partner with NPWS
    • Seek out writers engaged in increased knowledge of local environmental/cultural landscape
  • Expose audiences to the written word in its many forms
    • Poetry (including lyrics), journalism, fiction, non-fiction, academic, policy
    • Include the different forms of presentation of writing (e.g. traditional published; self-published (Indie); Performance

Build a public arena for the promotion and presentation of local and regional writing

  • Create venues and events that enable regional writers can present and promote their writing
    • Venue for display/sale of regional written works
    • Enable events to launch regional written works
    • Provide opportunities for writers to perform/read their works to an audience
  • Include (as appropriate) promotion of local and regional writing in marketing activities

Take care of all participants

  • Ensure that participants needs are cared for
    • Adequate insurance cover for volunteers, guests and other participants
    • Proper induction of volunteers and acknowledgement of their contribution
    • The needs of guests (e.g. accommodation, travel, catering) are identified and provided for
  • Ensure venues are safe and fit for purpose
  • Ensure that production is of the highest standard possible
  • Festival members views, talents and needs are respected o Event planning is carried out respecting aims of members (within the ambit of Festival aims)
    • Events are planned within limits of what members can contribute
    • Coordinated approach to events

Integrating inclusivity

  • Develop events that welcome and engage the region’s diverse communities
    • Partner with regional Indigenous community
    • Identify the range of communities of the region and partner (e.g. refugees, gender, new migrants)
  • Strive to ensure that the festival’s free program offerings are of the highest calibre for the festival to be accessible to all
    • Seek to be professional in the provision and management of all festival events
  • Place our audience and guests at the heart of what we do by listening to and learning from them
    • Formally seek feedback from participants of the festival (e.g. surveys)
    • Take into account all feedback and seriously consider how it can be used to improve the program.

Maximise impact

  • Collaborate with a wide range of organisations on festival programs designed to have an ongoing impact
    • Collaborate with government organisations at all levels relevant to the region (e.g. Councils, Forestry, NPWS)
  • Market the festival in ways that demonstrate its aims
    • Build the festival’s subscriber list to include the diversity of the region’s community
    • Ensure the marketing strategy underpins the aims
  • Set ticket prices at levels to maximise accessibility
    • Actively seek sponsorships and grants to reduce pressure on ticket prices
    • Provide concessions for pensioners, students and children
  • Consider access to venues to maximise participation
    • Access to events for people with disabilities
  • Encourage return participation by ensuring the audience and artists have a quality and satisfying experience
  • Increase children’s love of the reading and writing
    • Schools program
    • Displays of children’s works throughout the festival weekend
    • Program events with children’s writers

Embed financial sustainability and good governance

  • Develop meaningful long-term festival partnerships
    • Various levels of government
    • Arts councils
    • Commercial sector
    • Philanthropists
  • Employ strategies to encourage early purchases of tickets
    • Provide early-bird concessions
  • Engage in best practice relationship management with partners and donors
    • Keep donors and partners up-to-date with festival management (as appropriate)
    • Acknowledge contributions before, during and after the festival
    • Professionally administer donor requirements
  • Explore opportunities for additional revenue streams to reduce pressure on success of one weekend event
    • Out of festival weekend events
  • Employ sound financial management
    • Financial records are up to date
    • Invoices appropriate acquitted
    • Contracts signed and appropriately filed
    • Communication appropriately acquitted and filed
  • Conduct debrief sessions
    • Consider whether events meet aims of the festival