Archive for August, 2014

Excuse me – is this seat free?

When I go to events at the Edinburgh Book Festival, I am nearly always on my own. This, believe it or not, is not because I lack friends, not even because I lack bookish friends. It’s because I can’t stand all the shilly-shallying about that’s involved in trying to co-ordinate with one or more other people. I like to book my book festival events on the first day of booking so that I have the best chance of getting a ticket for all the events I want to see. Sometimes, my bookings coincide with those of friends, but more often than not, I’m on my own.

Now when you attend an event on your own at a venue with no allocated seating, there are two basic options when choosing your seat – assuming that it’s not a sold out event and you’re last in the queue and there’s only one seat left. Easy! No choice required.

You can sit on your own, leaving empty seats on one or both sides. But then if nobody fills up the gaps, you risk looking like Billy-no-mates and spending the whole event wondering why nobody wanted to sit next to you.

So, why not choose a seat next to someone else? If the row fills up, then this is a good option if you don’t want to look like a loner. You might be able to strike up a friendly conversation with your neighbour and even rise to exchanging worthwhile literary insights as well as pleasantries. However, if the room doesn’t fill up, doesn’t it look weird if you’ve huddled up with complete strangers when empty seats abound? You could move, give everyone more room, but then your ex-neighbour might be offended.

The choices are made even more complicated when you factor in the fact that you know some seats are always going to give restricted viewing because of lecterns or speakers; other seats will be good or bad depending on where the author chooses to sit on stage. And of course, unless you risk the front row, you can never be sure if the tallest/longest-backed/biggest-haired person in the audience is going to come and sit right in front of you.

Phew! It’s a veritable minefield that those who only do their book festival attending in pairs or packs are largely unaware of. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong – but most of the time, when the event gets under way, it hardly matters. I am too engrossed in what is being read, and said, and discussed, to care.

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