The Asia House Bagri Foundation Festival ran from Wednesday 4 May until Wednesday 18 May, 2016. with the majority of events taking place at Asia House’s central London headquarters. A number of pre and post-Festival events occurred throughout April and May.
We were delighted to welcome Nadiya Hussain to open this year’s Festival with a discussion about integration and identity in the UK. Hussain was 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 tapped into wider discussions around gender and identity with an evening of performance art from writer, performer and storyteller Shane Solanki, who told the story of a teenage hijra. We had a full house for a panel on gender, featuring three leading thinkers from Asia who looked at what the emergence of new lifestyles and family dynamics is meaning for women across the continent. There was an exploration of Pakistan’s dynamic contemporary art scene at which a panel, headed by Kamila Shamsie, addressed how socio-political issues are being identified and expressed through art. We had three authors Preti Taneja, Mahesh Rao and Jonathan Tel discuss their short stories set in Asia and a fascinating discussion by The Economist’s Richard Cockett talk about a chapter in his book Blood, Dreams and Gold: The Changing Face of Burma which focuses on the drugs problem in Myanmar.
We had 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 introduced her new book on her mother’s experience in war-torn Shanghai. Travel writer Caroline Eden launched her first book, cowritten by Eleanor Ford, Samarkand: A Culinary Journey through Central Asia, and food writer and cookery teacher Sumayya Usmani took 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 were a warm and funny duo as they spoke about Middle Eastern food in the UK.
We took a handful of children and their parents on a passage to India with a number of South Asian events, including a family day themed around The Jungle Book. The festival then closed with a night featuring book talk with author-to-watch Mahesh Rao, dance and food all themed around India’s rich and varied states.
As with past years, we covered a variety of countries, including Myanmar, South Korea and Japan.
A number of events took place outside of the main Festival dates including three talks to mark the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Georgia’s independence. It kicked off with a talk from bestselling crime writer Boris Akunin, who was in conversation with Boyd Tonkin.
In the lead-up to the Festival, 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 vernacular 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.
Read the stories by the winners of our 2016 Student Writing competition
Read about our programmes specifically designed to reach out to youth
Find out who sponsored this year’s Festival
Get tickets for our upcoming literature events here