An Exploration into a phenomenon called literary festivals with the case of Passa Porta

Popular with writers and intellectuals as well as readers and fans of texts, from coffee houses of the 18th and 19th centuries to big gatherings with tents in summer in the 20th century to online festivals under the pandemic last year, literary events have long been thought to be the heartbeat of culture. But what is exactly meant by it when we talk about a literary event? What can they bring in? What do they require? With them or without them, how would reading and writing evolve? What kind of communities can they form? How do they vary from a society to another one?

Researching into these questions and a lot more was what our team got to do not only for ourselves, but also for one of the biggest literary events in Europe: the Passa Porta festival. As a research team, our project was carried out in a three-phase trajectory:

  • Pre-event: literary events these days are crisscrossing the world. Everywhere, from Latin America to Asia and to Europe, they are held and attract many people. But how do they differ in different countries? Our team with members from different parts of the world was well-equipped to delve into these differences. What are literary festivals typically expected to feature in Iran, in China, in Korea and here in Europe? We, later in this phase, tried to see how those ideas can be integrated into Passa Porta’s experience at the request of the director of the festival, Ilke Froyen.
  • The event: in the second phase, the researchers of our team were given a VIP pass to attend the festival expanding over a week. It was a great opportunity to follow the first phase, as we could study so many contributors we had already researched in practice. We had also been asked to maintain a list of issues we, this time as end-users of the event, faced while attending the festival. Passa Porta is a well-established organization that knows well that a strong development infrastructure needs a constant defect tracking system in particular when they have a new release, which was in 2021, their switch to a fully-online festival.
  • Post-event: how it went through the new online format it experienced for the first time can be considered to be the input for the future road map of the festival with the new experience of online events and the SWOT analysis following it.

It was a challenge to find a way to create the 8th edition of the Passa Porta Festival in a new format within the time of the pandemic. However, the struggle rather became the driving force to re-create this festival as a sophisticated digital programme. Unthinkable a year ago: a digital festival full of encounters, workshops, debates, readings, performances, etc. with over 80 international authors and artists and more than 10,000 views in 21 countries, from Nigeria to Germany. This was the Passa Porta festival!

Books are complete when they are talked about. Somebody must have said such a thing in history as it sounds really brilliant. If you enjoy socializing with bookish people, we have a lot to say about this socialization. Join us on May 1st to let us have a chat. We are eager to discuss what we found out and learn about what you think about them. Would you like to learn more about the most known festivals in Asia and what has made them so known? Would you like to hear about Passa Porta and what they did? Do you want to know how we feel after participating in this literary festival? Whether it is the happiness brought by literature or the little regret brought by the first online format? Come and visit us or the Passa Porta website! You can even write down the name Passa Porta somewhere to remember it. It is coming back in the future.

Time: Saturday afternoon 1st of May 2021

Address: Thermotechnisch Instituut, kasteelpark arenberg 41, 3001 heverlee

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