Principal Investigators

Claire Squires is Professor of Publishing Studies and Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling. Her publications include Marketing Literature: the Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain (2007) and Philip Pullman: Master Storyteller (2007). She is co-Volume editor of the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Volume 7: The Twentieth Century and Beyond (forthcoming). She previously worked at Hodder Headline publishers.

David Finkelstein (FEA, FRSA) is incoming Dean of the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee. His research interests include print culture, media history and journalism studies. He was co-founder of the SAPPHIRE initiative (www.sapphire.ac.uk), dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the history of the Scottish print and publishing trade, and has published extensively on book culture issues, including The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era (2002) and the co-authored An Introduction to Book History (2005). He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, as well as a board member of several international print culture journals and professional organizations.

Research Assistant

Douglas McNaughton is a PhD student at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Following a publishing career at Churchill Livingstone and Edinburgh University Press, he now focuses his research on uses of space and place in television drama and has published on fan cultures and audience studies. Please direct comments about this website or general queries about the Book Cultures, Book Events project to him at book.cultures@stir.ac.uk.

Book Cultures, Book Events

A significant development in the environment of literature and the book in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been the growth of literary festivals. In 2011, the British Council listed over 160 literary and literature-related festivals (http://www.britishcouncil.org/arts-literature-literary-festivals.htm). The co-ordinating group Bookfestival Scotland has 36 constituent members (and rising), and has calculated that Scottish literature festivals attract 400,000 visitors per year. In the same period, the concept of the ‘book town’ (Wigtown, Hay-on-Wye, Sedbergh) has arisen. Edinburgh, as well as hosting one of the world’s largest book festivals, is UNESCO’s first City of Literature, and was the location for the International Writers’ Conferences of the 1960s, in which the publisher John Calder staged literary events to supplement the city’s burgeoning festival scene.


As part of the literary marketing mix, book festivals/towns offer publishers the opportunity to promote their authors and sell their products. Such locations also provide physical and sociological spaces in which readers encounter writers and literature, and become book consumers. Book festivals/towns have clear links to regional economies, and are heavily used in the promotion of tourist destinations, as testified by the strategic partnerships and sponsorship arrangements with a variety of agencies. As part of this process, concepts of cultural identity are forged and commodified, conjoining literature to cultural heritage, the creative industries and political ideology.


In the era of new media and digital delivery, the opportunity to meet authors and fellow readers face-to-face, to buy books and other merchandise, and to align a liking for literature with travel and tourism, is being taken up by hundreds of thousands of readers every year. Literary festivals/towns, while heavily promoted by digital marketing activities, afford physical meeting spaces for authors, books, readers and ideas. An event- and location-based literary culture, like the re-emergence of the concert tour in the music business, suggests the development of a new cultural business model based on traditional modes.


Nonetheless, there are various concerns voiced from stakeholders about the growth of book festivals/towns. Recent trade and general media coverage has interrogated the sheer number of festivals, and whether their value to publishers, authors, readers and communities can be sustained. Such concerns also focus on the nature of individual events and their role in frontlist book promotion, and the extent to which such literary events are inclusive of all literary culture in face of pressures to feature ‘festival-worthy’, mediatised authors. Also under scrutiny is the extent to which literary festivals’ marketing and outreach strategies engage non-traditional book-buying audiences. Such efforts require effective, strategic partnerships between festivals, publishers, booksellers, sponsors, councils, and government in the form of arts councils and regional and national development agencies.


The specific issues relating to the growth and development of book festivals/towns sit alongside a broader festival and events-based culture, and the wider concerns of contemporary literary culture and publishing economics. What underpins successful examples of literary events, and how these offer insight into strategies for the promotion of general Scottish literary and book culture, are specific questions to be reflected on in this Project.


To address these issues, the Project will bring together leading academics, early career researchers and postgraduate students from the disciplines of literature, publishing, communications, cultural events management, tourism, heritage, politics, marketing and retail. Practitioners from book festivals/towns, publishing and publishing-related industries, book-related agencies and organisations, and arts-oriented government and public policy bodies will join them. The Project will be timed shortly after the inception of Creative Scotland, and so has the potential to make a significant contribution to public-policy making in the area of literature and festivals.


At the heart of the Project will be a specific engagement of major stakeholders from both international and Scottish creative industry circles with debating the political and economic circumstances that underpin and influence the production, circulation and reception of contemporary literary culture. How might creative industries’ policies shape the actual making and meaning of culture within a devolved political framework? What can we learn from international events management structures and interventions? How might cultural events be defined and framed within globalised contexts? What is the place of the author and reader in such frameworks, and what links can mutually benefit book events and allied sites of book promotion and consumption (libraries, bookshops, online retailers)? And finally, what might those who run literary events and environments in Scotland be able to learn from a collaborative examination of past, current and future trends in cultural consumption?


In conclusion, the Project will seek to:

  • situate book festivals/towns within their historical contexts, and within the post-war growth and development of festival culture with a particular Scottish focus;
  • analyse the physical and sociological spaces in which audiences and consumers encounter literature, books and authors;
  • assess the contribution and impact of book festivals/towns to/on regional and national economies, specifically in terms of tourism and retail;
  • interrogate the commodification of literature and narratives of cultural and political identity enacted by book festivals/towns;
  • facilitate knowledge exchange between academics and academic disciplines, practitioners, professional and public stakeholders, and active participation and involvement of early career researchers and students;
  • develop appropriate and productive interdisciplinary methodologies to analyse book festivals/towns, in order to formulate further research grant proposals.