The mystery of Oxford Literary Festival

The Oxford Literary Festival has the strangest press accreditation system ever. The system is that there is no system. At least it very much seems so.

Usually literary festivals (just like any other festivals) have a press page on their website. This is where one usually finds an accreditation form, like this one on the Hay Festival website.

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival doesn’t seem to want any press attention as it only gives an email address for general enquiries and another one for ‘marketing & publicity’. Neither one has replied to my enquiries about press accreditation.

Last year I tried this as well, but having got no reply I just went to the information desk at the festival site – an enormous tent on land belonging to Christ Church College.

I showed the people at the info desk my press card. They didn’t know what to do, but, very helpfully, came up with an unconventional solution.

They gave me a blank ticket and wrote “free access to all events” on it. In biro.

I couldn’t believe it. Anyone with an imagination – and a biro – could write that. And still, it actually worked at the doors, at least if the event wasn’t sold out.

After a few days of using my ‘press pass’ I found out that there was an actual press office hidden inside the College. In there I was told that I should take care of accreditation in good time before the festival. Well, I did try, as I have done this year – with no results.

How ever did other journalists find out about this secret accreditation system, I will perhaps never know. After all, I am a literary editor, not an investigative journalist.


About Johanna Vehkoo

Journo, speaker, fact-checker. Formerly Visiting Scholar at Wilson Center, Washington DC, and Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University. Wrote a book about the future of quality journalism. Founder of award-winning startup Long Play. Blogs in both Finnish and English.
This entry was posted in Blimey, Journalism, Literature, Oxford Oddities. Bookmark the permalink.

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