Subscribe to feed Viewing entries tagged Wasafiri

Feature And Interview: The Fourth South Asian Literature Festival 2013

Posted by Steve_Barfield
Steve_Barfield has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Friday, 18 October 2013

Runs at various sites from  23 Oct – 01 Nov2013 see for a downloadable programme or call the Festival Box Office on 01865 798797

Now in its fourth year this unique literary festival continues to expand and go from strength to strength. ‘In 2010, SALF had 35 events and more than 70 speakers across 2-weeks, visiting performing arts venues in London, Leicester and Brighton, and building links with local communities through schools and libraries.  In 2011, the Festival expanded with more than 80 speakers and artists in 50 events across the capital and in selected UK cities.’ Since then each year has seen a development of the breadth and range of SALF’s programme of events and themes. 

Founded by two visionary young men, Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack – helped by a raft of dedicated volunteers  - with the first festival in 2010; this has always been unusual among the throng of literary festivals  because it focuses on explores work connected with South Asia, but in the widest possible sense – not just by authors of Indian descent or based in South Asia but those whose themes are related to South Asia– and in this sense it leverages not only the current closeness of Britain to its former colonies in South Asia, but the long standing relationship between communities in Britain and South Asia. It is a work at once of history as it has been lived, of the present rethinking of these histories and the imagination of the future.  The focus is on the ‘themes and literary heritage of the subcontinent, reaching out to new audiences across the UK with established and emerging talent. South Asian countries within the festival’s remit include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’.
Amit Chaudhuril Web 300x300

Fig 1. Amit Chaudhuri

Within this there has been great variety over the years and the festival has included music, dance, theatre and art alongside literature and history – indeed at one point it was closely associated with the long-listing for the DSC South Asian literature prize in Jaipaur. There have also been many and varied partners from stalwarts like the British Council and London boroughs with large South Asian communities Universities like Birkbeck or institutions like the British Library to commercial sponsors both here and in the UK. Here’s the list for 2013: AGI Magazine; Asian Art in London; British Centre for Literary Translation; City Hindu Network; Comica; East Side Educational Trust; Kogan Page; New VIc; Saadhak Books; Tamasha; The Asian Writer; The Literary Consultancy; The Royal Commonwealth Society; Vaani; Writers' Centre Norwich; Bookswarm; Council of Asian People; Heritage Lottery Fund; British Library; Conway Hall; Dishoom; Free Word Centre; London Metropolitan Archives; University of Westminster; Wiener Library.

Partly this long list is because the festival’s aims are - once again – unusually broad and varied compared to most British literary festivals: ‘support and inspire new writing talent;  better the engagement with readers from South Asian communities from the publishing industry; Increase reading and writing standards in schools, particularly among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children;  lead and join with initiatives across education, arts and culture, working with local government and community organisations; collaborate with other festivals across the UK and internationally.’

Major themes explored this year, 2013, include Indo-Caribbean literature, the ‘Other’ in Asian Britain, Partition and Mythology.The Festival opens with a look at Asian Britain through the lens of photographic history, to delineate the journey of Asian migrants from the subcontinent, the Caribbean and East Africa to settle in the UK. BBC Broadcaster Razia Iqbal and Editor of Wasafiri magazine, Susheila Nasta will lead the discussion. 

Sixty six years after the Partition of British India, Karachi correspondent for the New York Times, Declan Walsh (who was forced to leave Pakistan earlier this year) will be joined by Rahul Kansal of The Times of India, to discuss the current tension between Pakistan and India, and the media’s role in reporting across borders.

The Festival will also explore the influence of South Asia on Caribbean Literature, seen most notably in the work of V.S. Naipaul. New York author Gaiutra Bahadur will launch her new book Coolie Woman, the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended.

Bengali literature, be it from Bengal or from Bangladesh, is one of oldest and richest literatures in South Asia. Acclaimed authors Kunal Basu and Kaiser Haq will exchange thoughts on how ‘Bangla Sahityo’ has influenced the South Asian literary canon, followed by a musical treat by Indo-Jazz artist Arun Ghosh.

Waterstones 2013 debut author of the year, Sathnam Sanghera will discuss being ‘the other’ in contemporary Britain, with Maggie and Me author Damian Barr.

Man Booker Prize-shortlisted writer Jeet Thayil and author of The Immortals and Calcutta, Amit Chaudhuri, will close the Festival by addressing the addictive nature of South Asian cities from Mumbai to Calcutta. 

Amit Chaudhuri and Gaiutra Bahadur will also participate in one of the Festival’s UK wide events in partnership with BBC Radio 3 at Sage Gateshead. The authors will look at the India’s influence on Caribbean literature. 

Festival Directors Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack explain: “This is our fourth year and we’ve explored deeper and wider to find the stories and debates that are defining the region. These can range from the thriving metropolises in prize-winning fiction to the media’s role in reporting on tensions across borders, not to mention the continued musings on Asians in today’s Britain. What we have is a programme that draws on viewpoints from a wide-range of writings and includes important critical voices which we hope offers something for everyone.”


Fig 2. Daljit Nagra

Interview: The History of Britain’s South Asian Literature Festival

Interviewer Steve Barfield

Interviewees Jon Slack and Bhavit

SB: 1. How did the festival come about? Whose idea was it and what did you feel you were trying to achieve?

Jon and Bhavit: We wanted to create not just a festival but a hub for anyone interested in south Asian literature and the language, culture and literary heritage of the region. We also wanted to make sure we didn’t focus purely on India so the festival's remit has always included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. South Asia has always made such a rich contribution to global literature and it’s only been growing and diversifying in recent years, with many publishing houses having pretty sizeable operations in India, so we wanted SALF to reflect this. We want the festival to try and push the boundaries and conventions of not just what south Asian literature is thought to be, but what we consider to be ‘normal’ about storytelling as a whole.

SB: 2. Can you say something about the various ways in which the festival has grown and developed over the years?

Jon and Bhavit: It’s really grown over the years. We’ve had more than 200 writers appear at the festival, taken SALF to venues in London, Brighton, Leicester, Edinburgh and Norwich, and we are also really committed to the reading programs we do in schools. So the 2012 festival for example included 16 school events and reached a total audience of more than 6,000 people. We’ve also expanded the focus and span of the festival - it might sound idealistic, but we attracted such a mix of people last year, we would love to think that they realized that they have more in common with each other than they previously considered. We like the idea of creating connections to South Asia that many won’t be aware of, so we had events like ‘The Origin of Fairytales’ where we looked at how the Grimm’s fairy tales were inspired by Indian folk tales. It’s about making those important connections in ways people might not easily realise.

SB: 3.  Do you feel it is a mainstream event like other literary festivals in Britain or is it mostly for a specialist audience, such as UK people of South Asian descent?

Jon and Bhavit: It’s always attracted a really diverse crowd. Although there have been events all across the UK in different cities, the festival’s base is really in London. And London is great if you want to be surprised at how diverse an audience can be for events that might seem incredibly specialist. The SALF audience can’t really be generalised all that easily. So I think we are in a unique position where we can be both specialist and mainstream – writers from the south Asian diaspora have always appealed to readers both from and beyond their background, so it’s not surprising that our audience comes from across the board too!

Gaiutra Bahadur Web 300x300

Fig. 3. Gaiutra Bahadur 

SB: 4. Female authors figure prominently in the festival. Do you feel that the festival helps us understand how the role of women in South Asia is changing?

Jon and Bhavit; It’s been really exciting to see the debates around gender in south Asia and consider how this is influencing the writing. We have always featured female authors simply because south Asian literature has always been home to great women writers, whether it’s Arundhati Roy or younger names such as Kamila Shamsie or Anjali Joseph. One of our early events featured Fatima Bhutto and Nayantara Sahgal and this year the female presence is just as strong, whether it’s Manisha Jolie Amin, Gaiutra Bahadur - who will be launching Coolie Woman, her book about her great grandmother who can be seen as a symbol for so many Indo-Caribbean women, or our Speaking Out! event which will be shining a light on the writing of gay women.

SB: 5. Could you pick out a few highlights of this year’s festival which you think would interest our readers at the Lady?

* Wed 23rd Oct *

Asian Britain: A Photographic History (OPENING NIGHT)
Susheila Nasta, Razia Iqbal and Florian Stadtler
University of Westminster
 | 6.30pm

* Fri 25th Oct *

Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture
Gaiutra Bahadur and Neel Mukherjee
University of Westminster
 | 6.30pm

* Sat 26th Oct *  

Dancing to the Flute
Manisha Jolie Amin
University of Westminster | 3.00pm

Partition Tales
University of Westminster | 4.30pm

* Mon 28th Oct *

Ramayana: Re-imagined
Daljit Nagra, Vayu Naidu and Ranjana Ghatak
British Library | 6.30pm

* Thurs 31st Oct *

Ugandan Asian Exodus: Press from 1972
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Sunny Hundal and others
London Metropolitan Archives | 6.30pm

Forgot your password?
Click to read our digital edition

Boarders Dormitory Master-Mistress
We are looking to appoint a Dormitory Mistress/Master for 5 nights per week, weekday evenings and nights only, term time. (35 weeks). [...]


Housekeeper to Headmaster
We have an opportunity for an experienced live-out housekeeper. You will provide a cleaning and hospitality service for the Headmaster and his guests and help to ensure the household runs efficiently. [...]


Full Time Housekeeper, Nanny
We are looking for a full time, live-out housekeeper/nanny. We are a relaxed young couple living in a large country house, and will have one newborn baby. [...]


Experienced Carer, Companion, Housekeeper needed
Our elderly mother needs a live in carer/companion on a part time basis. Must be warm hearted, calm & compassionate, with a good sense of humour. [...]


Live-in Housekeeper
Our client is looking for a very capable, experienced individual to become the new housekeeper at their 6 bedroom, rural home. [...]




What the stars have in store for you this week.2017

Capricorn Aquarius Pisces Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter