Lessons from the Bangalore Literature Festival 2014

I had the opportunity to attend the Bangalore Literature Festival held this past weekend between September 26th and 28th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Electronics City, Bangalore. This post draws on some experiences, observations and lessons gathered from 3 days of very interesting discussions and conference panels.



What was the 2014 edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival about?

The Bangalore Literature Festival “focuses on rekindling the romance with literature and fostering fine reading and writing, especially amongst the young population of the city.” 2014 marked the third edition of the Festival.

BlrLitFestOrganized at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Electronics City, the festival’s grounds were divided into three stages – Samskara, Suragi and Bharathipura. The organisers, in collaboration with the Oxford Book Store also opened a book store where festival attendees could pick up the works of all the writers (and a few select others) featured in the festival.

Keen on making the festival interesting and inclusive, the organisers also included a set of stalls (like the Goethe Institute stall that allowed you to learn some basic German for free and the ‘Voice of Stray Dogs’ stall that informed interested individuals of a service that helps injured stray dogs) in the book store area.

Natya and STEM Dance Kampni

Programming also included a number of quizzes, a book barter event and theopportunity to witness some beautiful, original artwork and sculpture. Day 2 of the festival made a special effort to appeal to younger attendees by including a range of talks and story telling sessions designed to entertain and educate children (of all ages). Day 1 and Day 2 of the festival closed with performances by Bombay Jayshree and Shubha Mudgal, respectively (accompanied by some wonderful musicians).

You can find out more about the festival’s schedule here.

And some sessions you found interesting were?

(L-R) Sharath Komarraju, Arnab Ray, Satyarth Nayak, Raghav Chandra & Venita Coelho

The organisers at the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2014 ensured that there was something  for everyone, by making sure that the talks and programming were both interesting and inclusive. The  session titled Books that go bump in the night!- On horror and suspense writing featured a panel consisting of Arnab Ray, Satyarth Nayak, Venita Coelho and Raghav Chandra, moderated by Sharath Komarraju. A good addition to the festival experience with the writers sharing their experiences of the supernatural and their opinions on monsters, ghosts and horror in literature.

(L-R) Dhruba Hazarika, Binalakshmi Nepram

During the session, ‘Does India Neglect its Eight Sisters?’  Binalakshmi Nepram educated the audience on the unfortunate implications of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the fact that more contemporary literature and spaces in India need to embrace contributions from the North Eastern states. She closed the session with a poetry reading.

Sita-Shadow and Substance”, a session featuring Namita Gokhale, Samhita Arni, Arshia Sattar, Yatindra Mishra and moderated by Madhavi Mahadevan was a beautiful analysis of mythology, history and of course, the character of Sita. The session drew on the writer’s experiences of understanding and re-visualising ancient texts to suit contemporary readers.

(L-R) Leila Seth, Lijia Zhang, Nupur Basu, Shobhaa De, Asma Jehangir

Another crowd favourite had to be “Women’s Narratives- from the personal to the political” that featured discussions by a panel consisting of Leila Seth, Asma Jahangir, Lijia Zhang and Shobhaa De. Whether it was listening to Leila Seth’s experiences as a judge, congratulating Asthma Jahangir on her achievements in the legal world, being amazed by Lijia Zhang’s story of overcoming hardship or acknowledging the lessons shared by Shobhaa De, this was a session that was full of anecdotes, lessons and above all, stories of some very hard-working women who have been attempting to the change the world with the work they do.

Madhu Trehan and her talk during the session titled, The Business of News: Has the Media sold its soul?” earned a great deal of applause from the audience, while informing them of the insidious implications of paid news. The session on 377 Stories-The Queer Lives of the Law, featured valuable insights from Vasudhendhra who spoke of queer representations in contemporary Kannada literature.

What were some of the insights gained from the festival? What would you have liked to see more of?

BLF proved itself a wonderful platform for a multitude of voices, however there had been times when the festival seemed to stray from its emphasis on literature. While it was appreciated that the festival chose to delve into issues of politics and social reform,  there could have been more for those interested in learning about the publishing world. For instance, there were many aspiring writers who attended this festival – could the festival have done a bit more to have addressed their queries? A session that included some honest inputs from literary agents, media/entertainment lawyers and others working in the publishing field might have added an interesting dimension to the literature festival.

The Bangalore Literature Festival 2014 has undoubtedly been one of the year’s best organized festivals. The level of organization was astounding and a big round of praise is in order for all the organizers of the festival.  This writer eagerly awaits the 2015 edition and would love to hear more about your experiences at the #BlrLitFest 2014.

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