West Port Book Festival – A Very Social Festival

by Dave Coates

Edinburgh’s West Port is an odd combination of second-hand book shops and – to put it politely – gentlemen’s clubs, and while the latter needs no particular promotion, the former has been blessed with a team of industrious acolytes.

The West Port Book Festival will soon be entering its fourth year, a four-day programme of literary events featuring top writing talents both from Scotland and further afield; last year’s festival included, among others, comic book artist Frank Quitely and Jamaican-born poet Kei Miller.

Directors Hannah Adcock and Peggy Hughes have spearheaded the festival on little more than volunteer man-hours and generous donations; all tickets for the festival’s events are free. This year they want to prove a literary festival can be executed for less than £2000, with around three-quarters of their funds raised through social media.

The festival is already well over half-way to its fundraising target using “I’d been impressed by the success of the Atlantis Books Indiegogo campaign,” says Adcock. “I also liked the fact that people could donate using a credit/debit card (we don’t have that facility on our site) and that people from all over the world could potentially be involved.

“We are a local festival, but we’ve always been keen on social media, podcasts, MP3 downloads (this year) etc. so we do have something to offer people who can’t make it to the festival.”

West Port has already pioneered the world’s first literary festival conducted over twitter (through @wpbookfestival), and advocates the idea that similar events and organisations should exploit the free resources available.

“Promoting ourselves online is only one part of the process,” says Hughes, “it’s just as much about listening to people. Using twitter, facebook and indiegogo is just a way of reaching a lot of interested folks who want to engage with us.

“We’re planning on distributing our programme as a cross-platform mobile app made by our web developer Andrew Neil, and making a virtual tour of the festival available for download. Social media is one way we raise funds and promote events, but it couldn’t happen without that community – we see them as shareholders in the festival.

“You can also make donations in the West Port bookshops. We get a lot of cake and whisky donated as presents for authors – today someone left us a bottle of Tallisker.”

West Port has a range of incentives for potential donors, from limited edition West Port badges for donations of $20 or more, up to rare books and invites to the launch party for over $250, all available on their indiegogo page. The festival runs from Thursday 13 – Sunday 16 October, and the full festival programme will be launched online this Thursday 22 September.

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