The SAMA Writers Festival

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Mohsin Hamid, Tahmima Anam, Preeta Samarasan and Kamila Shamsie, are some of the writers who took part in this year’s SAMA Writers Festival, held at The Sage Gateshead in Newcastle (10-12 October, 2008)

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The long weekend included readings, book launches and events as writers across the UK, India, France and Pakistan joined to share their work and celebrate the unique contribution that South Asian writers have made to the literature world.

The festival, the first of its kind, organised by the Northern Writers Centre, and the first ever to be held in the region, offered visitors a brilliant mix of emerging voices, such as Nikita Lalwani and Preeta Samarasan with prominent voices, such as Nadeem Aslam. More than just a meeting of minds, the festival offered a real insight into the milestones achieved in South Asian writing, and intelligent discussion into its future.

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Unsurprisingly, Mohsin Hamid’s reading was one of the most popular of the entire festival. He was joined in a panel discussion with Kamila Shamsie and Nadeem Aslam to discuss breakthroughs in Pakistani writing.

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The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, launched at the festival by its editor Jeet Thayil, a ground-breaking anthology of 70 poets from different countries including India. The British Council intercultural event offered a rare insight into changes in writing in India and how theatre has helped to bridge community relations.

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An anthology of poems Happiness is Something you Look Through was also launched at the festival, and paid tribute to the work of new writing by young people from the SAMA Young Writers Project, with assistance by poet Sundra Lawrence. It was one of the most enjoyable sessions in the festival, and it was delightful to see such talented young stars take to the stage. Other highlights of the festival included the distinguished Bengali novelist Amit Chaudhuri and Pankaj Mishra, novelist and regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, who as a former editor played a key role in helping to publish authors such as Arundhati Roy.