Yorkshire business blossoms in lockdown

Beth Hocking and Sibh Megson

Gliterary Lunches, the literary events company founded by two sisters in 2006, grew out of a love for good books, good food and good company.

Successfully run from Harrogate by Sibh Megson and Beth Hocking in Edinburgh, they hosted well known and award winning authors talking about their books while guests enjoyed lunch.

Throughout the year,  the team took their unique blend of food, fizz and fiction to regional cities across the UK, working with authors such as Joanne Harris, Damian Barr, Lionel Shriver, Jodi Picoult, Tony Parsons, Kirsty Wark and Louise Candlish.

The business was born out of a fusion between book clubs, which were mostly female oriented, and corporate entertainment, which the sisters noted wasn’t.  Gliterary Lunches regularly hosted 200 or so women guests, although men were always welcome, in stylish venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and London.  The split was usually 80% corporate customers, 20 per cent social lunchgoers.

With the business about to go into its fifteenth year, Covid-19 struck and all events had to be cancelled. Undaunted, the duo launched a programme of four virtual events as a way of staying connected with customers and authors, and to lift everyone’s spirits.

Initially free to attend with £3,600 donated to the charity MIND, thanks to an appetite for more from their customers, the Gliterary Lunch Hour was born.  Customers, and even authors, are now streamed from around the world, including participants from New York, Sydney, Singapore and Stockholm.

Sibh said: “Having to cancel our spring programme of events meant we needed to find new ways to keep the business buoyant and our customer base close.

“We also recognised that our corporate clients needed to stay in touch with their clients so we developed VIP Gift Packs (includes online access to the live event, bottle of Prosecco, chocolates and a signed copy of the book). They proved popular with private customers too.”

Sibh added: “Our first paid-for event in September was for 100 people, and we are now hosting over 300 which is a rapid growth in numbers.  Authors are delighted with the opportunity to talk to readers as they can’t attend the usual round of promotional events to launch their books so we are inundated with offers from publishers.”

Beth said: “We have been pushed to be more creative and think outside the box, and get to grips with the technology, including using the platform Crowdcast, introduce an online payment system and adapt our website to suit.  We are no longer limited by geography or capacity, and our corporates are now able to entertain their clients from all over Europe.”

Sibh and Beth have also noted an uptake for their virtual events in other cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, so when in-venue events can restart, they will be expanding their programme to add these locations.

Damian Barr, author of ‘Maggie and Me’ said: “Thanks for pushing on with your brilliant events. ‘You Will Be Safe Here’ was published during the first lockdown so I have really missed doing events for it. Thanks for all you do for readers and writers.”

Beth added: “We’re very aware how the situation is hitting businesses hard and we’re mindful just how lucky we are to have an agile business that can work within the current situation.

“As with everything else, Gliterary has not had the year we thought it would. But we have found a much wider audience, who have appreciated the offer of escapism, literary stimulation and company we have been able to offer in these strange times. We hope to continue both streams of Gliterary events in the future.”

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