Monday, March 03, 2014

Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2014 announces programme

The final programme of the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2014, to be held in Asia House, London, from 6th - 21st May 2014, was announced in a press release today. The theme of this year's festival is Changing Values Across Asia.

Hanif Kureishi

Literary superstar (as the programme describes him) Hanif Kureishi launches the Festival on 6 May with a discussion on his new novel, The Last Word.

The Festival also features prize winning novelists Kamila Shamsie, Tash Aw and Romesh Gunesekera, award-winning BBC journalist John Sweeney, and debates on North Korea, Tiananmen 25 years on and changing sexual mores across Asia. Other highlights include an evening of British Asian humour, Vietnamese cookery at lunchtime and interactive events for families.

Now in its eighth year and with a new title sponsor, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival is the only UK festival dedicated to pan-Asian writing.  It presents a mix of literary talks, performance, topical debate, humour, cookery, tai chi and interactive family events from renowned authors, performers and thinkers- home-grown and from across Asia. 

With a range of events covering more than 17 countries, the Festival this year includes authors writing about China, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, India, as well as Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Nepal, the Middle East, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Britain.

Warming up with three pre-festival events in April, Asia House will feature a session on China's changing values with Booker Prize long-listed author Tash Aw and Yiyun Li, author of Kinder than Solitude; Man Asia Prize winner Kyung-sook Shin, who joins fellow South Korean novelist Krys Lee and British Pakistani Qaisra Shahraz to debate the effect of political separations on their countries and their writing, at an event in partnership with the British Council/London Book Fair Korea Market Focus and Why do Indians Vote?, a wide-ranging discussion on the world's largest democracy and its upcoming election.

Continuing the 'Changing Values' theme into the main festival in May, acclaimed journalists and China experts Jonathan Mirsky, Michael Bristow and Jonathan Fenby explore China 25 years after Tiananmen; foreign correspondent Peter Popham, examines Burma two years after its milestone election, while Shereen el Feki (Sex and the Citadel) and Sally Howard (The Kama Sutra Diaries) take a serious but entertaining look at changing sexual mores in the Middle East, India and Pakistan.

On the fiction side, award-winning Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie introduces her hotly anticipated novel of friendship, injustice and love, A God in Every Stone. The best of Asian literature is further celebrated as new works by acclaimed Sri Lankan novelist Romesh Gunesekera, one of Granta's Best of Young British novelists Xiaolu Guo and Pakistani-born Roopa Farooki are previewed in a special showcase event ahead of publication. A new series, Extra Words will introduce debut authors from Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.

Award-winning BBC reporter John Sweeney (North Korea Undercover) joins author of North Korea: State of Paranoia, Paul French to analyse the threat posed by that country, while historian John Keay introduces the first comprehensive history of South Asia as a whole with his new book Midnight's Descendants. Digital freedom in East Asia will be analysed with Thai blogger Giles Ji Ungpakorn and Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi and others, in an event in partnership with English PEN.
Shazia Mirza

But not all events will focus on 'Changing Asian Values': some will be just for fun. Look out for lunchtime cookery with The Vietnamese Market Cookbook authors and Tai chi, Origami, Ninja Meerkats and poetry workshops for children. Joining forces with Penned in the Margins at Rich Mix in East London, the festival programme includes The Shroud, a two-man, miniature epic about loss, time and the things that connect us, with Siddhartha Bose and Avaes Mohammed. British Asian humour will be hotly debated by a panel including journalist Sathnam Sanghera, BBC head of comedy Saurabh Kakkar, comedian Shazia Mirza and writer producer of hit TV shows Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at Number 42, The Office and Citizen Khan, Anil Gupta. The author of Packing Up: Further Adventures of a Trailing Spouse, Brigid Keenan takes us on a wildly funny tour through her life in Kazakstan, Azerbaijan and Palestine.

In addition to events at Asia House, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival this year extends its youth engagement programmes with two-day writing workshops and author visits in 6 London area schools and 6 others across Newham, Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham aiming to reach 300+ students. There is a student writing competition with the top five students winning a day of mentoring with writing, publishing and communications professionals.

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