JBM – Festival Directors’ Round Table

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Alexandra Büchler, Cate Blake, Clare Azzopardi, Edwina Johnson, Laura Kroetsch, Lyndy Cooke, Mita Kapur, Neelesh Misra, Sanjoy K. Roy, Namita Gokhale, Roman Simić, Sanaz Fotouhi, Sheila Cremaschi, Shyam Parekh, Vikas Singh, Wendy Were, and William Dalrymple

 

By Harish Alagappa, Official ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogger

 

After hosting over two dozen sessions for professionals across the spectrum of the literature industry, from writers to agents to publishers, the final session of Jaipur BookMark saw a successful conclusion to the fourth instalment of the B2B initiative and sister event to the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. A final round table was held for the Directors of over 15 literary festivals, held across the world from Australia to Peru.

Speaking about the tendency for literature festivals to inadvertently attract controversy, Lyndy Cooke, Director of the prestigious Hay Festival in the UK, believes that ‘the great thing about literature fests is that we don’t go out there to be contentious. We are all trying to be apolitical, but it just sort of happens,’ adding that the tendency of writers is to speak their mind.

Roman Simić, of the Festival of the European Short Story held in Croatia, described what it takes to draw crowds, particularly young people. ‘Since we are kind of a smaller, boutique festival, it gives you an opportunity to be nimble and swift,’ he explained, ‘so we were forced to be smart.’ He credited Sanjoy Roy, one of the Festival Directors of the Jaipur Literature Festival, with the suggestion of making these literature festivals ‘sexy’, by focusing on the kind of literature that attracts young people. ‘In my opinion’, Simić said, ‘the festival has to bring something really intriguing and nice, to attract people away from the old concept of literature as boring and academic.’

Another focus of literature festivals is providing a platform for emerging writers, and the Adelaide Writers’ Week festival has been doing just that for the last 56 years. Director Laura Kroetsch described their approach, saying ‘we have historically been known for big names, but increasingly we are realigning our priorities to supporting emerging writers and writers who aren’t established in Australia.’

Finally, the Directors of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival described how their contrasting personalities have helped shape the world’s premier literary event. Co-Founder and Festival Director of JLF, William Dalrymple, highlighted that ‘we (Festival Directors Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy Roy) have very different interests and that’s what has helped make the festival so diverse,’ adding that it was ‘interesting to see how the Jaipur Literature Festival has inspired so many other festivals around South Asia.’

The session, and this year’s Jaipur BookMark, concluded with Sanjoy Roy heartily inviting all the Directors to the Jaipur Literature Festival’s satellite events in London, Boulder, and Melbourne.

 

Photo Credit: Chetan Singh Gill

 

 

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