Karachi Literature Festival comes to London

The Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) comes to the UK for the very first time this Spring.

Featuring as part of the Southbank Centre’s annual Alchemy festival this May, KLF will celebrate contemporary Pakistan, its rich history and culture in the context of the 70th anniversary of the country’s foundation.  A day of events (May 20th) including debates, talks, recitals and performances will showcase the talent and diversity of Pakistan’s literary scene, both at home and abroad. Speakers scheduled to make an appearance include Aamer Hussein, Ali Zaidi, Deeyah Khan, Farjad Nabi, Imtiaz Dharker, Kamila Shamsie, Mehreen Jabbar,  Mohammed Hanif, Moni Mohsin, Nimra Bucha,  Taimur Rahman and Zehra Nigah.

Alongside Karachi Literature festival, further debates and talks across the programme include a discussion on the role of art and activism in creating social change in South Asia presented by Amnesty International (24 May), stand-up comedian Tez Ilyas leading a debate on diversity in the arts (20 May) and the return of Southbank Centre’s monthly series I AM… with a special Alchemy edition and special guest artist, workshop and Q&A session (25 May).

The largest festival of South Asian culture outside the subcontinent, Alchemy showcases contemporary work from seven countries, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the UK. Championing innovative British and international artists, the eleven day festival presents exciting collaborations and new work from both emerging and legendary artists across dance, music, theatre, visual art, comedy and literature. Over fifty per cent of the programme is free and there is an array of engaging workshops, talks, debates and culinary delights taking place across the site. This year’s programme focuses on the contribution of diaspora communities to British society, with an increase in British Asian work including the East Midlands Mela, a day of music, dance and art celebrating Leicester.

Rachel Harris, Creative Producer, Festival Development, Southbank Centre said: “Alchemy continues to grow and evolve each year and this exciting line-up encompasses a mixture of emerging and established talent. Alchemy is a vital platform for new international global partnerships and we are proud to collaborate with both new and long standing partners from across the globe including Rafi Peer Mystic Music Sufi Festival and Karachi Literature Festival, bringing these festivals to the UK for the first time. ”

Further highlights of the 2017 programme include:

  • London premiere of Sukanya, the only opera by world famous musician Ravi Shankar, inspired by his wife and stories from the Indian epics and written just before his passing. Directed by Leicester Curve Associate Director Suba Das, the innovative production fuses Indian music with dance choreographed by the Aakash Odedra Company and production by The Royal Opera, Southbank Centre’s Resident Orchestra London Philharmonic Orchestra and Curve, Leicester (19 May).

  • Stand-up comedian Tez Ilyas returns to Alchemy, for his first residency, leading a debate on diversity in the arts (20 May) and a workshop on the craft of writing and performing comedy in Tez Ilyas Comedy School (21 May).

  • A multitude of free events spanning music, performance and dance includes an afternoon of singing, dancing and film with Bollywood Shakedown (27 May); acoustic sessions with Pakistani soap opera star and Coke Studio favourite Bilal Khan (28 May) and Beats Without Boundaries, a night of rap and hip hop, featuring artists from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and the UK (26 May). Audiences can learn Bhangra at this year’s Alchemy Social dance (23 May), join a mass public sitar workshop and performance in celebration of master of the sitar Ravi Shankar (20 May) and take part in a puppetry workshop followed by performance by Rafi Peer Theatre (28 May).

  • The Eastern Eye Arts, Culture & Theatre Awards returns to Royal Festival Hall for its second year to celebrate and recognise British South Asian talent across all art forms, including literature, film, television, theatre, poetry, music, photography, dance and visual arts (21 May).

  • Video and sound installation Five Rivers: A Portrait of Partition, explores the partition of India through interviews, landscapes and historical documentation projected into a traditional Indian wedding tent (19 – 29 May).

  • Paracosm, by London-based artist Faiza Butt, an installation of four large-scale light walls arranged in a cube-like formation alluding to the architecture and decoration of the Holy Kaaba immersed in poems by Aga Shahid Ali and Faiz Ahmed Faiz (19 – 29 May).

  • This year’s programme also showcases a host of performance poets and spoken artists including Desi Girl Creatives, a group of desi women poets who pushback against the stifling codes enforced on them (21 May) and spoken word artist Ronak Patani explores the epic duality between being British and Indian in the modern day with #BritishIndian (23 May).

  • Alongside the return of KERB, BBC Asian Network’s Ashanti Omkar presents a culinary and musical journey through South India and Sri Lanka in special event From Kerala to Kayts through Food and Music (27 May) and a short film about the much-cooked and much-loved dish Biryani will be screened throughout the festival including stories, recipes and techniques from voices across London’s kitchen’s, brought together over the last few months by Southbank Centre (19 – 29 May).

Alchemy takes place at the Southbank Centre between 19-29 May 2017.


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