On Kovalam shores, a lit-fest to usher in sea change

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May 16: Come November, leading writers and thinkers from across India and beyond will gather in the city for the inaugural edition of ‘Books on the Beach’, a literature festival that celebrates and contemplates both the written word and its expression.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor MP addressing media on Books on the Beach Literary Festival

 The lit-fest, which is organised by non-profit India Book Foundation under the guidance and active patronage of Dr Shashi Tharoor MP, and supported by Kerala Tourism, will make its debut at Kovalam from November 10-12.

Dr Tharoor together with Dr Venu V., Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, and festival director Sabin Iqbal announced the festival at a press conference in the Press Club here today.

 Over the three-day event, writers of prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, essayists and environmentalists, artists and academics, reporters and editors will conduct readings and recitals besides participating in meaningful debates and dialogues on a multitude of topics.

 “Literature has real value. It appeals to a more discerning audience. The Hay Festival here a few years ago was a huge success and led to increased awareness of Kerala thanks to word of mouth. It is time we established a durable institution that showcases Thiruvananthapuram and Kerala as a place of ideas and culture. But a lit-fest is not for visitors alone; it will also further energise the already vibrant reading culture in the state,” Dr Tharoor said.

 Besides serving as an annual platform for the best in Indian and world literature, ‘Books on the Beach’ will over successive editions tap into the city’s youthful energy and distinctive charm to promote it as a leading destination for culture and tourism.

 “Cultural festivals play an important role in branding and promoting destinations. Kerala Tourism is presently positioning the state as an arts and culture hub. A literature festival with an international perspective will fit in nicely alongside the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, IFFK and International Theatre festival as powerful brand ambassadors. It will provide a fillip to tourism in the state, and in particular renew interest in Kovalam. The lit-fest will enjoy Kerala Tourism’s full support,” Dr Venu said

The festival will reflect on historical and contemporary concerns, the environment, scientific progress and civilisational discourse, among others. As well, there will be soulful music, engaging storytelling sessions and amusing word games for children on offer.

 “We want to create three days of festivity at Kovalam centred around the literary festival. It’s a cultural festival, and we want families to come out and enjoy literature, music, food and lots of fun and cultural programmes,” Iqbal said.

Noting that the initial response to Books on the Beach has been very positive, he added, “We expect to field a strong line-up of about 30 international and Indian writers, many of whom have already expressed their willingness to attend.”

The festival is envisioned not as an isolated activity, but as a permanent fixture on the city’s culturescape with an eye to grow into a state institution and international cultural brand.

“For starters, we are planning a Books on the Beach Book Club, which will organise frequent reading sessions and writing workshops in schools and colleges across the city,” Iqbal said.