Yorkshire digital Festival attracts worldwide audiences 

Hudd Lit Fest online events prove a hit with local and global participants

The transformation of this year’s Huddersfield Literature Festival (HLF) into a digital event has proved a huge success, with performers and audiences joining from around the globe.

Due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, almost all activities were held online. Sylvia Plath expert Heather Clark joined as a speaker from the US, The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency creator Alexander McCall Smith dialled in from Edinburgh and DI Banks series creator Peter Robinson from Canada.

Audiences logged on from as far afield as Texas and Florida in the USA to Nairobi in Kenya to take part in workshops, discussions and author talks. 

Projected ticket income was surpassed by 25% and post-event surveys showed that most audience members will continue to attend online events even after venue-based events resume. Those who are usually unable to access venue-based events for reasons such as health appreciated the opportunity to engage with the Festival from their homes.

Two outdoor projects – a Lockdown Lantern Installation in the courtyard of the LBT and a Book Trail across the town in partnership with Woven Festival – will remain on view for those taking socially distanced walks until Easter Monday.

Recordings of some of this year’s Festival events can be accessed on the HLF YouTube channel, including #OutBreakOut: a series of three short films specially commissioned from Dark Horse Theatre.

The Festival is also planning some venue-based and outdoor events for later in the year, including a talk from Queen of Crime Val McDermid and an outdoor Stafflex Treasure Hunt with singing puppet birds. Events postponed from 2020 with the Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen and the author Gentleman Jack Anne Choma, will also be rescheduled for the autumn.

Festival Director Michelle Hodgson said: “We’re delighted with the response to our digital Festival and would like to thank our regular audiences for sticking with us in this less familiar format. We were also excited to see new audiences joining us from across the globe.

She continued: “Online events allow those who cannot normally access venue-based events to participate in the Festival and also reduce the environmental impact of performer and audience travel. At the same time, we are very much looking forward to presenting a short programme of venue-based and outdoor events later in the year, once it becomes safe to do so.”

Notes for editors

The Festival began in 2006, and takes place annually in March, offering a diverse programme of events at venues across the town. Recent guests include Alexander McCall Smith, Ann Cleeves, Joanne Harris, Alan Johnson, Dame Jenni Murray, Ian Rankin, Sir Patrick Stewart, Lemn Sissay and Irvine Welsh. There are also children’s events, library events, creative writing workshops, LGBTQ+ events and more.

Indoor events are held in accessible venues with Access Guides on the Festival website, many are free or low cost, and some have live subtitling by Stagetext to make them accessible to audiences who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. 

The 2016, 2017 and 2020 Festivals were all finalists in the prestigious Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards, and the Festival won a 2017 Huddersfield Examiner Community Award (Arts).

Press contact: Michelle Hodgson: Director@huddlitfest.org.uk; 07771 530 450.