Asia House

Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2016

The full programme of the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2016 is now online here. Now in its tenth year, the Festival will run from Wednesday 4 May until Wednesday 18 May, with the majority of events taking place at Asia House’s central London headquarters. A number of pre and post-Festival events will take place throughout April and May.

We’re delighted to be welcoming Nadiya Hussain to open this year’s Festival with a discussion about integration and identity in the UK. Hussain will be in conversation with journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown about her experience of growing up Asian in the UK and what it was really like to win the BBC’s Great British Bake Off.

We’ll tap into wider discussions around gender and identity with an evening of performance art from writer, performer and storyteller Shane Solanki, who will address the topical subject of transgender within Asian communities. A panel of three leading thinkers from Asia will look at what the emergence of new lifestyles and family dynamics is meaning for women across the continent. There will also be an exploration of Pakistan’s dynamic contemporary art scene at which a panel, headed by Kamila Shamsie, will address how socio-political issues are being identified and expressed through art.

We have a number of book launches at this year’s Festival, starting with The Cultural Revolution, the final volume in Frank Dikötter’s prize-winning and highly acclaimed The People’s Trilogy. Staying with China, but going back in time a bit, Keiko Itoh will introduce her new book on her mother’s experience in war-torn Shanghai. Travel writer Caroline Eden will launch her first book, cowritten by Eleanor Ford, Samarkand: A Culinary Journey through Central Asia, and food writer and cookery teacher Sumayya Usmani will take us further east with the launch of her new book Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan, which celebrates the heritage and traditions of her home country. And on the note of food, Honey & Co. chefs Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich will discuss how Middle Eastern food has evolved in the UK.

We’ll take you on a passage to India with a number of South Asian events, including a family day themed around The Jungle Book. The festival will formally close with a night featuring book talk with author-to-watch Mahesh Rao, dance and food all themed around India’s rich and varied states.

We’ve got an event for those who like crime, an event for budding writers who want to learn the tricks of the trade and an event for those who simply want to sit back and enjoy wonderful short stories. As for countries, we’ve got loads covered. In addition to the ones listed above, those who are interested in Japan will enjoy our discussion on Nagasaki now and then. Fans of Gangnam Style will be entertained by our night spotlighting South Korea. We’ll take a slightly different approach to Myanmar through looking at the nation’s consumption of drugs.

We are also delighted to announce a partnership event with China Exchange, a talk that will take place in their Chinatown home. Titled Hong Kong State of Mind, this talk will gather together some of the most interesting thinkers on or from Hong Kong to discuss what can be made of two different protests – those in the 1960s and the more recent ones.

A number of events will take place outside of the main Festival dates including three talks to mark the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Georgia’s independence. It will kick off with a talk from bestselling crime writer Boris Akunin, who will be in conversation with Boyd Tonkin.

Finally, at the end of May, we are thrilled that Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and writer Mei Fong will be joining us to introduce her new book One Child, which looks at the ramifications of China’s One Child Policy.

Jemimah Steinfeld, Literature Programme Manager, said of this year’s line-up: “Literature has always been one of the best vehicles through which to see the world, to confront stereotypes and to challenge assumptions. At a time when Asia is changing immeasurably, I wanted this year’s Festival to reflect that. Starting off with the notion of the alternative voice – who is being listened to and dominating discourse versus who is not – a really exciting and dynamic programme has emerged.”

The Festival, now in its tenth year, remains the only festival in the UK dedicated exclusively to pan-Asian literature. It is sponsored by the Bagri Foundation for the third year running. Thanks to their generous support, we continue to reach schools across the UK. Find out more on our Youth Outreach Programme here. We are also thankful for the generous support of Arts Council England.

After nine hugely successful years, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival has earned a reputation as the festival for people with an interest in Asia and its rich literary heritage. We host remarkable, witty, sensitive and inspiring guest speakers, from Nobel laureates and Man Booker prize winners to local language writers and debut novelists. Man Booker prize winner Miguel Syjuco calls the Festival “a celebration”, which “brings writers (like myself) from a quiet corner into the centre of the room,”  while Ziauddin Sardar, named by Prospect magazine as one of Britain’s top intellectuals, has named it “an indisputable gem amongst literary festivals.”  Sir Mark Tully KBE, who opened the Festival in 2007, describes it as “a very important Festival.”

For book lovers and Asia aficionados, there was simply no better place to be than at the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2016.



About the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival

Every May, Asia House opens its doors to the greatest authors, performers and thinkers from across the globe to celebrate literature about Asia and Asians in a pan-Asian context. We bring together remarkable, witty, sensitive and inspiring guest speakers, from Nobel laureates and Man Booker prize winners to local language writers and debut novelists. Through a series of readings, discussions, debates, performance and interactive events, our annual Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival provides a space to dare, dream and imagine.

We’ve made it our mission to cover the most topical themes and issues affecting the countries of Central, South and East Asia. These countries have long captured the imagination of reader and writer alike and their dynamic, rich and varied cultures produce literature of great depth, colour and complexity. China, North Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Palestine – these are just some of the 17 countries that we have featured to date.


Student Writing Competition

Read the stories by the winners of our 2015 Student Writing competition

Youth Engagement

Read about our programmes specifically designed to reach out to youth

Partners and Sponsors

Find out who sponsored this year’s Festival

Buy tickets 

Snap up tickets for this year’s Literature Festival