"Asian thought and culture has long wielded influence on the literary landscape of Britain."
The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival welcomes the only UK literature festival celebrating the best of cultural writing talent from Pan Asia.
As a festival, it aims to bridge the gap between writers and their British readers. Essentially honouring the best that Asian culture has to offer, the festival will see speakers and guests from the world of literature, politics, cooking and entertainment.
The festival itself will span authors, writers, journalists and historians across 17 countries including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka as well as China, Japan and Britain.
Running between May 6 and 21, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival will see a number of key events take place at Asia House, Rich Mix and London’s Southbank Centre.
From notable discussions and talks, audiences and avid literary fans will have the opportunity to learn more about the vibrant and colourful world of pan-Asian Literature and its specific cultural significances.
The theme for 2014 is ‘Changing Values across Asia.’ A key and very current issue, it will open up topical debates on the traditions and values of the continent as it progresses into the modern day.
Prized writer, Hanif Kureishi will open the show. He will discuss his latest novel, The Last Word, as well as offer exclusive readings to guests. Another evening has been set aside for Kamila Shamsie, an award-winning Pakistani novelist who will unveil her latest work of fiction, A God in Every Stone.
A new segment called ‘Extra Words’ will also feature fresh and current authors from Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.
Part of the ‘New Pan Asian Fiction’ evening, other key South Asian authors will present their latest works including, Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekera with Noontide Toll; Granta’s Xiaolu Guo with I Am China; and Pakistani Roopa Farooki’s novel, The Good Children.
Adding comedy and light-hearted entertainment to the festival will be a panel discussion with Sathnam Sanghera, Saurabh Kakkar, Shazia Mirza and Anil Gupta who will together debate ‘British Asian Humour’, its past, present and future.
To coincide with the festival theme of ‘Changing Values Across Asia’, a number of key discussions will also feature in the coming weeks. In particular, Shereen el Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel, and Sally Howard author of The Kama Sutra Diaries, will explore the changing sexual mores across the Middle East, India and Pakistan.
John Keay will also be present to showcase Midnight’s Descendants, the first book to delve into the history of South Asia as a whole.
Another hot topic is writing in the digital age, and blogger Giles Ji Ungpakorn (Thailand) will join Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi to openly investigate digital freedom in East Asia.
In its eighth year of celebrating Pan Asian literature, Asia House has also partnered with the prestigious Bagri Foundation that supports and aids the development of ‘literacy, education and the arts’.
To coincide with this, Asia House has offered schools across the UK to take part in the festival initiative throughout April and May; aimed at young students who have an eye for creative writing, they will receive the unique chance to meet their literary idols. Alka Bagri of the Bagri Foundation says:
“Literacy and cultural understanding are becoming increasingly important in our globalised world. The frantic pace of modern life leaves little time for reflection and contemplation, especially of the written word.”
“We therefore hope that our support will allow Asia House to continue its work broadening young minds and inspiring new audiences with the best emerging writing from Asia.”
The newly initiated Youth Engagement programme will see workshops held at numerous schools and libraries across London, the Midlands and Manchester where there are higher proportions of Asian students.
Over 300 students will have a chance to learn more about the creative writing process through specialised workshops and classes and author visits from some established Asian writers and literary experts in the UK.
Those cultural books specially selected for this programme include: Tash Aw’s, Five Star Billionaire; Prajwal Parajuly’s Land Where I Flee; Sathnam Sanghera’s Marriage Material; Qaisra Shahraz’s Revolt; and Kyung-Sook Shin’s Please Look After Mother.
There is also a Young Reporters programme for those between 13 and 16 who want to know more about the world of news, media and journalism. Programme Director for the Literature Festival, Adrienne Loftus Parkins says:
“Our youth engagement programme helps to promote literacy, broaden geographical and cultural knowledge of the Asian diaspora and has been a popular strand to Asia House’s Literature, Learning and Outreach programmes.”
Alka Bagri adds: “From Rudyard Kipling to T. S. Eliot, Asian thought and culture has long wielded influence on the literary landscape of Britain. Through this series of youth engagement programmes, we hope to continue this tradition by engaging young minds with new and exciting writing from across the region. Such intercultural understanding is of greater importance in the century ahead than ever before.”
With the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival celebrating all cultures of Pan Asia together, its essential aim and hope is that those of the British Asian diaspora can have enough access to the cultural literature of their homelands.
Bringing together authors, journalists and pioneers from the region, they can truly acknowledge the vast Pan Asian contribution to both British and World literature and discussion. To find out more about the variety of events to be held at the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival, please visit the Asia House website.