By Cassandra Mascarenhas
Being held for the sixth consecutive year, one of Colombo’s most-looked-forward to and biggest cultural events, the Galle Literary Festival 2012 kicks off today and this time around too will feature a myriad of writers, both local and international, spiced up by a series of fringe events.
Taking place from 18 to 22 January, the festival is set to commence with a Festival Welcome Party and book launch today, which will be held at the Governor’s Residence, at which the festival will celebrate its sixth year with an opening launch focused on three Sri Lankan authors – Roshi Fernando, Ashok Ferrey and Romesh Gunesekera.
Galle Literary Festival is an event of international grandeur, having being voted the ‘No.1 Literary Festival in the World’ by Harper’s Bazaar (UK), and this year will be no exception with the Festival playing host to award winning writers, historians, poets and biographers from Palestine, Ireland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, India, Canada, England, the United States, Germany and Sri Lanka.
This year’s festival guests include such literary luminaries as Joanna Trollope, DBC Pierre, Tom Stoppard and Shashi Tharoor.
Amongst the writers attending will be author and scientist Richard Dawkins, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish – a Palestinian medical doctor who lost three of his young daughters from Israeli shelling, and who has written his memoir ‘I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey (2010)’ – and will also shine a light on Indian authors with works by the likes of Nayantara Saghal, Githa Harihan, Manju Kapur, and Shashi Tharoor.
At a press conference held in Colombo yesterday, the organisers of the Festival were proud to welcome HSBC as the first-ever headline sponsor of the event.
“HSBC is delighted to play a key role in sponsoring the Galle Literary Festival as it sees the potential in bringing such internationally acclaimed authors to the wider local audience. By facilitating and hosting such a global event, it aids the development of tourism in Galle and its surroundings as well as giving due precedence to the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Sri Lanka,” said HSBC CEO Sri Lanka and Maldives Nick Nicolaou.
The children’s programme which is part of the Festival offers all age groups a wonderful blend of activities to do with reading, writing, storytelling, creativity and performance with festival authors and participants. Through its Children’s Outreach Programme, funded by Magic and One Trust Sri Lanka the philanthropic arm of Cargills (Ceylon) PLC this year, the festival extends its programming to school children and teachers from all regions and cultural communities in Sri Lanka. This year, for the first time, the festival goes to Jaffna, where some of the festival authors will be meeting with schools in the north of the country to do teacher training and children’s workshops.
The North-South University collaboration programme will bring together university students from around the island to engage in the festival, connecting students who reflect the linguistic, ethnic, social diversity of Sri Lanka by providing an atmosphere where as peers, they have an opportunity to gain a better sense of each other across their ethnic divides and build bridges for the future.
“The highway is also attracting a while new group of customers who will come down just for the day with accommodation no longer being a bottleneck. I hope this development continues and I can see in the future that sponsors like the Netherlands Embassy will step back as with the Festival becoming more professional, bigger private entities are now coming forward as sponsors,” noted Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands First Secretary Jaco Beerends at yesterday’s press conference.
SriLankan Airlines Senior Corporate Communications Ranjit De Silva added that festivals of this nature bring out the highlights of the region, especially when held in the unique setting of the world renowned cultural heritage site of the Galle Fort which also calls attention to Sri Lanka as an attractive tourist destination.