My favourite TV interviewer Graham Norton is not the only one with a red chair. Over the past few months I’ve been sitting in my red chair a lot. In my office writing, reading, recording audio and filming videos, holding meetings, seeing friends, family and colleagues, drinking wine and eating crisps – from my red chair. I’ve travelled to Ukraine, Lithuania, Italy, Romania, Israel, Hungary, Switzerland, the USA and the Netherlands. Not by flying carpet or private jet – but by Zoom, from my red chair. Nothing can replace the joy and energy of face-to-face meetings, festivals and events but I am flabbergasted at how quickly and successfully the majority of us have adapted to our new digital existence – and come up with creative solutions to lockdown. Hay Festival Digital in May, for example, attracted an audience of half a million – what a thrill it was to have Hilary Mantel, Stephen Fry, Gloria Steinem and David Mitchell in my home – although it got a bit crowded. And when Charleston Literature Festival decided to reconfigure virtually I was still able to conduct my planned interview with author Leila Slimani. She was in France and I was in my red chair in Wiltshire. The same to launch Oksana Zabuzhko’s short stories in Kiev and to conduct an international panel on Lithuanian ‘Litvak’ Jewish culture in Vilnius and Jerusalem. And this month, amongst many other delightful events (do check our calendar and do send us all your dates and gigs), David Nicholls and I are off to the Istanbul International Literature Festival, the ITEF. (I wonder what colour David’s chair is.)
We can all travel in this way – it’s free and democratic, can take you anywhere and ease the isolation of the pandemic. All you need are basic technology skills (we can help with those*) and a great imagination. The European Literature Network has travelled far under lockdown to bring you our Riveting Reviews, the Italianist and to support international literary events and initiatives. We are currently planning a virtual French Book Week from 13th-17th July, with Pro Helvetia and several French-minded colleagues, as a curtain-raiser to the French translation workshop during BCLT Summer School 20th-24thJuly. Which means no Riveting Reviews for June but a bumper crop of French literary reviews for mid-July. Contact our editor West Camel email@example.com if you wish to review or suggest publications. We’re also working hard on The Romanian Riveter, to be launched in September, and The Dutch Riveter for early 2021. Thanks as ever to my tiny team West Camel, Anna Blasiak and Alyson Coombes who’ve all been working for free for months to make sure we can all continue our European literary travels. The bad news is that Alyson is leaving us; the good news is that it’s for a terrific reason: she’s training to be a French and German teacher. Alyson is one of the most gifted and dedicated young people I’ve ever worked with. Our loss; teaching’s gain. Our Country Needs her!
*Our donation drive continues. Thank you to those of you who have already donated and if you haven’t yet, ELNet needs you! Stop, think: what do we mean to you? Can you imagine your literary lives without us? How have we helped you over the past ten years? Let me count the ways. We’re asking only what you can afford and we are offering you a fully professional one-stop practical guide called Home Filming on how to film/record/stream/Zoom from your own red chairs. If you or your organisation can afford it we suggest £50.00, more if you can, less if you can’t. We will then email you our guide. Please do not share it with others. It is copyrighted and others can support us by buying their own. You can transfer money/donate by credit card via our ELNet PayPal account. Some of you choose to remain anonymous but we would like to thank publicly: Fiona Graham, Lydia Harris, Geraldine Brodie, Jonathan Davidson, Valeria Vescina, Bitter Lemon Press, Karen Leeder, Ian Giles, Jonathan Davidson, Ursula Phillips, Aneesa Abbas Higgins, Rain Raud, Jozef van der Voort, Fiona Harris, Susannah Stevenson, Jeremy Osborne, Olivia Hellewell and Maria Balińska.
Do get in touch with news of your events, ideas, blogs, requests and photos of YOUR office chairs on firstname.lastname@example.org
Love, Rosie the Riveter (from my red chair)