The 17th Ullapool Book Festival in 2021 (7-9 May) will be different in several ways. Firstly, all its guest writers will live in Scotland getting round the problem of possible flight cancellations, border closures etc.
Secondly, it will be held in one of the following two ways-
a) If social distancing is permitted at 1m and small events are permitted then we will have a live event.
b) If distancing is at 2 metres or gatherings are banned or if there are travel restrictions within Scotland that would prevent writers, chairs, audiences coming to Ullapool we will have a virtual festival instead (with the same guest writers) spread over a number of weeks on a set day and time.
We do hope to able to run it live. But there will be very strict protocols in place. And here they are –
1) Venue. We are not planning having the whole audience in the village hall as we usually do. We will have small socially distanced audiences in 3 places – the hall and 2 marquees in the grounds. There will be a live camera feed from the hall to large screens in the marquees. We will also sell a limited number tickets for the live feed to people’s homes if they don’t want to travel or leave their homes.
2) Cleaning. We will have intensive cleaning protocols in place. We are spacing out the sessions so there will be at least an hour in between to allow for cleaning. We will have the use of a electrostatic disinfecting machine and will use it on all the seating between sessions. All doors and hard surfaces will be disinfected between sessions.
3) Queuing. Queues to get in to all 3 venues will be socially distanced and there will be a one way system. You will be called forward a row at a time and then led to your row/seats. And at the end you will be led out of the hall row by row.
Similarly queues for toilets will be stewarded and toilets will be kept rigorously cleaned and disinfected.
4) Ticketing. All our tickets will only be sold online (or by phone to our tickets agents). Tickets will be printed out by the customers or sent to their phones. We will then scan them at entrance to sessions. There will be no door sales. This is to avoid any physical handling of tickets.
5) Test and Protect. All the distanced seats will be numbered and all data for Test and Protect will be gathered by our ticket agents. So there should be no moving of chairs or swapping of seats as that would distort the data collected.
6) Roving mic. There will be no roving microphone being passed round for Q&A at sessions. Attendees can email us with questions beforehand. These will be forwarded to the session chair.
7) Masks. Masks must be worn at all times when queuing or moving round the hall or marquees. We will take advice from Public Health Highland nearer the time as to whether they will be required while seated.
8) Tea and cakes! There will be no catering this year. But there will be time between sessions to go to one of Ullapool’s several cafes. (Yes, you can go and drink tea and eat cakes while we clean!)
9) Hand sanitising. There will be hand sanitisers in the three venues.
All these protocols are designed to ensure the safety of our audiences, writers, chairs and volunteers. They will be strictly adhered to. There will be no exceptions – unless under mask-wearing exemptions.