Sunday Times, 3 August 2015
GLF back with a bang: Festival Director Amrita Pieris steps up to the podium and with that the press conference announcing the Fairway Galle Literary Festival (FGLF) of 2016 is underway. Her speech is full of good news. Not only will FGLF be returning on January 13, 2016, after a hiatus that has lasted three years, but Shyam Selvadurai is also back as one of a team of international curators, counted among whom are founder Geoffrey Dobbs and well-known author Sebastian Faulks.
Two new “mini-festivals” have been added in Kandy (January 9) and Jaffna (January 23), which will span two days each. An exciting collaboration with the Electric Peacock Festival will bring a series of live musical performances for festival-goers, while the announcement of the winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature will make headlines around the world. Most exciting though for Amrita is perhaps the chance to celebrate Sri Lankan literature with the newly minted Fairway National Literary Award which will recognize the Best Novel in Sinhala, Tamil and English in conjunction with the Fairway Galle Literary Festival.
In a press release, Fairway Holdings Managing Director Hemaka de Alwis said: “The Galle Literary Festival has developed into a highly acclaimed and internationally recognised event over the years and we are pleased to be associated with the revival of this unique event as the title sponsor this year. Our involvement stretches beyond the mere financial support as a sponsor of the event. In addition, we intend to promote, recognize and reward literary excellence in Sri Lanka.”
Consequently, there’s prize money to be had – Rs.500,000 each for the three winners of the best novel in Tamil, Sinhala and English and Rs.100,000 for the four others on each shortlist.
The prize for the Best Novel in Sinhala will be announced in Kandy, we will hear who won for the Best Novel in Tamil in Jaffna, while the award for the Best Novel in English will be announced in Galle. “Having both the Fairway Prize and the DSC Prize is a huge honour,” Amrita tells the Sunday Times, adding that “it’s exciting to bring something new to the country.”
For dedicated festival-goers, perhaps the best news of all is that Fairways has committed to backing FGLF as a title sponsor for the next three years. Now, if everything goes according to plan, we can expect to see a full list of authors in October, followed by the release of the programme in November, in anticipation of the festival kicking off in January 2016.
Selvadurai is looking forward to curating the festival in Jaffna himself. He is currently in Toronto but responding to questions over email, he expressed his intention to have programmes that featured Tamil writers and artists from the North, as well as from the East and Upcountry Tamils too if possible alongside international guests. “Having talked to various people I know that the population here, after being isolated for such a long time, are keen to experience the world. So I would like to bring as much of the world to them as possible,” he says. Selvadurai also says he welcomes the idea of curatorial team. “The division of labour is an enormous relief to me and is the reason I have been able to get involved with the festival again,” he says. To him it’s a simple equation: “I think the festival is important. It is good for Sri Lanka and so I am happy to be part of it again.” Meanwhile, Amrita says we can anticipate a much more ambitious festival that is growing beyond its traditional “literature-based roots.” There are a range of activities planned over the five days including plays, concerts, art installations, fashion shows, garden and architectural tours, gastronomical journeys community initiatives, photographic exhibitions and other fringe events.
As in previous years, FGLF also has plans to give back to the communities they work in. Three outreach programmes have been planned for students and teachers. Around 2500 participants are expected at the Children’s Festival at Dharmapala Children’s Park in Galle, while another 250 will benefit from FGLF ‘school days’ in Kandy and Jaffna. Eighty teachers are being included in the programmes which will feature teacher training that the organisers hope these initial recruits will share with their colleagues.
Even as they finalise participants and programmes in the months to come, FGLF organisers need to raise more funds. The public are invited to participate – you can volunteer your time, money or even your spare air miles. For more information you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fairway National Literary Award is currently accepting submissions up to the deadline of September 1, 2015. Entry forms can be downloaded from http://www.fairwaysholdings.com. More information is available on +94117586586.
SCENES from the Galle Literary Festival in 2008