After a three-year hiatus, the Galle Literary Festival, now known as the Fairway Galle Literary Festival (thanks to it’s title sponsor – Fairway Holdings), made a spectacular comeback this year, adding two additional mini Festivals in Kandy and Jaffna to its agenda. Beginning on the 13th of January 2016, the Galle leg of the Festival spanned 5 days, featuring a myriad of authors, poets, performers, chefs and artists.
Day one kicked off with a Festival Welcome and a Cultural Show by the Sri Lankan Army, a rather relaxed programme compared to the three days that followed. Day two, three and four were everything you’d expect from a literary convention. With over twenty-six events a day, participants had a wide array of activities to choose from. There were panels, workshops, talks, excursions, performances, screenings, private affairs, literary dinners and lunches, and a smattering of others.
Galle Literary Festival (GLF) Panels consisted of three or more authors discussing a topic with a moderator. For example, Day two began with the GLF Panel Out on Main Street. This was a LGBTQ+ panel featuring Visakesa Chandrasekaram, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Shani Mootoo and Ovidia Yu. Being a volunteer at the Festival, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting in on the Panel The Art of the Thriller and Mystery Novel where Anthony McGowan, Andrea Maria Schenkel and Ovidia Yu divulged the tips and tricks of writing a mystery novel amongst quick-witted jokes and hilarious anecdotes. All Panels ended with a round of audience Q&A where participants were given the opportunity to interact with the authors.
Workshops were more intimate; each one having 12-15 participants at most. These entailed one on one time with an author, poet etc. In her Workshop How to Write a Love Poem, Tishani Doshi discussed the dynamics of writing poems about love, giving her group the opportunity to write (and read out) their own love poems at the end of the session. Sebastian Faulks, in his Workshop The Joy of Fiction and Historical Fiction shared some stories behind the writing of his famous French Trilogy as well as some of his more recent works. His session too culminated in his group having to read out a paragraph they had written, which was followed by a group discussion and constructive criticism by Faulks himself.
Talks were titled Thinking Out Loud or In Conversation and here an author would sit down with a moderator and answer a series of questions about their book(s). Once again, I had the opportunity of seeing the sessions of two authors, the first being Anuradha Roy who discussed her newest and wildly popular book Sleeping on Jupiter (2015). She talked about the struggle she had with herself while writing this book as it explored a lot of dark themes such as violence and abuse that is not overt, but rather, hidden beneath the surface. Her book not only became popular worldwide, but also boldly broke a lot of cultural barriers in the Indian Community.
The Second was Matt Haig, the author of Reasons to Stay Alive (2015). Haig spoke freely about his struggle with both Clinical Depression and Anxiety and his battle to recovery. He explained that he wrote his book for himself as much as he did for others, as writing was a form of therapy; it gave his thoughts a place to be let out, and to just, be. Being a survivor himself, his book is the story of why he didn’t commit suicide, how he coped, and the things he learned along the way. Both Anuradha Roy and Matt Haig read excerpts from their novels, and I’d say both books have made it to the top of my list of books to read. As with the Panels, a round of audience Q&A followed these sessions.
Excursions, Performances and Screenings added a rather interesting twist to the conventional meaning of literature. If you were a bit of a history enthusiast (like myself) you would have enjoyed the excursion titled Memories of the Fort where a resident of the fort, Mrs. Cader took participants on a tour of the fort, talking about its historical importance, and telling stories that have been passed down through the ages. As for screenings, I couldn’t catch any as I was working elsewhere, but I was told the Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s Frangipani was pretty good. Performances mainly took place in the evenings, and were of vast variety. They ranged from the vocals of Sonam Kaira and The Sufi Gospel Project to Dance Adventures by Sea Legs to a Play on Cyber Exploitation by the Grassrooted Trust titled From the Cloud.
Private Affairs, Literary Lunches and Dinners had a touch of elegance and grandeur to them. Here, a small group of participants would get to enjoy a meal with an author of their choice, along with a discussion and readings from their works. For example, you could have a dinner with Tom Holland at the beautiful boutique hotel Tamarind Hill, or a lunch with Meera Syal at the Fort Printers.
Day 5 rounded off the absolutely packed programme with another relaxing day, with only four events (including the Finale Lunch), all of which were held at the Jetwing Lighthouse. After a hectic but incredibly rewarding three days, winding down on the final day seemed like the perfect end to the Festival.
With an enormous number tickets sold each day, and people flooding in from all parts of the world, the Festival has indeed made a great comeback this year. Festival Director Amrita Pieris and her team need to be commended for the hard work and dedication that went into pulling of an event of this quality on such a large scale I also think that it’s safe to say that everyone who attended the Festival this year is definitely looking forward to an even bigger and better one in 2017.
Hats off, GLF 2016, You’ve been amazing!
Our Editor-in-Chief found an article on Groundviews providing a very interesting and rather critical view of the impact of GLF on Galle. Read it here for an well rounded view on the event;
Featured image courtesy Amalini de Sayrah Last week saw the usually sleepy town of Galle come to life with the Galle Literary Festival. In a celebration of all things literary, Colombars descended upon the town for a dose of culture. And there were, indeed, some high points.