by Adrienne Loftus Parkins
If there is such a thing as a literature festival season, it’s now. Lit fests seem to be coming at us from all angles, in all parts of the country. When the weather improves, readers and writers come out in masses to talk about what they’ve been reading over the winter.
The website literaryfestivals.co.uk says that there are 500+ worldwide, over 350 of which are in the UK. If those figures are accurate, and we have the lion’s share of the festivals, we in the UK are the most lit-fested people in the world.
This is the first time in 9 years that I have not been immersed in producing the Asia House festival, so with my new found freedom, I’m looking forward to checking out some of the Asian events other springtime festivals have to offer.
On my recent reading list have been novels by Elif Shafak, Amitav Ghosh, Kasuo Ishiguro, so I’m delighted to see that a trip to Hay-on-Wye will give me the opportunity to hear them in person. Founded in 1988, the Hay Festival is a classic of the big British lit fests. More than just a collection of events, Hay is an all encompassing experience of talks, music, family activities and film, set in a tiny Welsh town full of bookshops. This year, from 21-31 May, the Telegraph Hay Festival will feature several events for readers of Asian lit, along with an unbeatable line up of other British and international writers. With a diverse collection of topics ranging from activism to war, from the Magna Carta to the UK elections, as well as health, economics, gardening and gender issues, Hay again presents a broad selection with something for all ages and interests. You will find the Asian Reader there on the penultimate day, checking out talks by Everyday Sexism founder, Laura Bates, Sonia Faleiro and Shashi Tharoor discussing politics and women’s rights in India and Meera Syal on her witty, new novel The House of Hidden Mothers. The same afternoon Iranian author Kamin Mohammadi will take part in a BBC radio broadcast, presenting her thoughts on the trends and questions we need to address as a society and in the evening, two different panels have strong appeal; one discusses recyclable fashion while the other confronts how women can achieve equality. A quick look at the programme will show that each festival day is just as jam packed as this one. www.hayfestival.com
The wealth of literary festival choices will continue through the summer and into the Autumn. These are some of my unmissable choices for the rest of the Spring:
Bristol Festival of Ideas (throughout May) is known for its record of debates about difficult issues. This year it tackles such tough topics as racism, “otherness”, artificial intelligence and free will. If you missed Amitav Ghosh in London, or can’t get to Hay, Bristol will provide another opportunity to hear him on 29 May. www.ideasfestival.co.uk
Edinburgh (August), Soho (Sept) and Cheltenham (October) all traditionally feature strong Pan Asian programmes. It’s a bit early to know what they have planned for 2015, but I look forward to seeing their programmes and adding them to my year of literary festivals.
If you are looking for more information about these or any of the other UK literature festivals, the British Council has a good list at: http://literature.britishcouncil.org/festivals?p=2&
Happy festival going!