Hay festival aims to promote new Indian voices

November 4th, 2010 - 4:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Shashi Tharoor New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) India’s romance with contemporary world literature, its rich vernacular literary legacy and the country’s cultural engagement with Britain scripted a new chapter with the formal launching of the “Week Hay Festival” in the capital.

The three-day festival will draw more than 50 international and vernacular writers and literary performers from across the world. It will be held at the Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram Nov 12-14.

The festival, aimed to push people-to-writer’s contact to a new frontier, will be open to public free of cost. It will feature readings, literary sessions, discussions, exchanges, seminars and literature-related performances.

The participants include Vikram Seth, Hannah Rothschild, Simon Schama, Sebastian Faulks, Nik Gowing, Gillian Clarke, William Darlymple, Shashi Tharoor and other big names from the world of literature and allied arts.

An offshoot of the famous Hay-on-Wye festival in Wales, the festival will be brought to India by the UK Hay Festival and Teamworks Production — co-host of the Jaipur Literature Festival, in association with the British Council.

It will be supported by the The Week, Malayalam Manorama and DC Books.

Announcing the festival at the star-studded launch at the British High Commissioner’s residence late Wednesday evening, festival director Lyndy Cooke said: “It was a thrilling opportunity to celebrate great writing from Kerala, India and around the world in the most sumptuous surroundings.”

“Indian literature is amazing and special. It is a privilege to bring the festival to India and discover new people, new ideas and attract an international audience to the rich treasure of Indian language (vernacular) writing,” Cooke told IANS.

According to Cooke, Hay has a tradition of promoting young language writers.

“In 2009, the Hay festival created a project Beirut 39 that compiled profiles and writings by 39 upcoming Arab writers in both Arabic and English under the age of 39 and took them to the world. In Italy too, Hay has a similar project, Scritture Giovani 2010, themed on the sea to promote new European writers. We will look at possibilities to pool young talent for an India project,” Cooke said.

Hay has several international editions in countries like Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Nairobi, Maldives and Beirut.

She said the festival would act as a trigger for “literary tourism in Kerala”.

Writer Shashi Tharoor, a Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, said the festival was in the spirit of his campaign to open his constituency’s window to the world.

“The festival will get a literate audience and the local readers of Thiruvananthapuram will enjoy world class literature. The travelling public can enjoy a holistic experience because you have the beaches, backwaters and the ayurvedic massages,” Tharoor, a driving force behind bringing the festival to Kerala, told IANS.

Festival partner British Council believes that “books and literature are at the heart of Britain’s cultural relationship with India”, Ruth Gee, regional director of The British Council, said.

“The quality of literature produced in India is very high. Last year, we put together 59 Indian writers at the London Book Fair to highlight Indian literature. The collaboration with Hay festival is another platform to promote good literature,” Gee told IANS.

One of the highlights of the festival is a poetic exchange between Welsh poets Menna Elfyn and Paul Henry and Indian poets O.N.V. Kurup and K. Satchidanandan, Gee said.

According to Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Production, the co-organiser of the festival, the Kerala edition of the festival will grow into a brand and spur more visitors to the state.

“When you have beaches, the whole experience of literature becomes laid-back. The festival, to suit its location, was initially named Hay-on-the-Beach, but it had to renamed later,” Roy told IANS.

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