Jaipur Literature Festival to kick off in new avatar from March 5 to 14

After having missed two editions, Jaipur Literature Festival would be back from Saturday in new avatar. The world’s biggest free festival will be ten-day affair and would be carried in hybrid format

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Prakash Bhandari

After having missed two editions due to the pandemic, world-renowned Jaipur Literature Festival would be back from Saturday in a new avatar. The world’s biggest free festival will be a ten-day affair and would be carried in a hybrid format from March 5 to 14. While the digital format would begin from Saturday, the offline programme will be hosted in Jaipur in a new venue after being held in heritage haveli Diggi Palace for 14 years.

The decision of a new venue was forced on the host because Diggi Palace could not accommodate a large number of people and with the Covid protocol, the literary show had to be moved to a spacious five star hotel premises with large lawns to hold the event, which would be ticketed for the first time.

Notably, while the on-ground version of this glorious celebration of literature, discourse, and camaraderie was scheduled to take place between January 28 to February 1, 2022, its online version was supposed to continue till February 6 earlier.

However, in view of rising COVID cases, the fest was postponed to the current schedule, that is, March 5 to March 14.

Described as the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the Jaipur Literature Festival is a sumptuous feast of ideas.

Every year, the Festival brings together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, and entertainers on one stage to champion the freedom to express and engage in thoughtful debate and dialogue.

Writers and Festival Directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, alongside producer Teamwork Arts, invite speakers to take part in the festival.

Past speakers have ranged from Nobel Laureates J. M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Malala Yousafzai, Muhammad Yunus, and Joseph Stiglitz; Man Booker Prize winners Ben Okri, Douglas Stuart,Margaret Atwood and Paul Beatty; Sahitya Akademi winners Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, M. T.Vasudevan Nair, as well as the late Girish Karnad, Mahasweta Devi and U. R. Ananthamurthy; along with literary superstars such as Amish Tripathi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Vikram Seth.

An annual event that goes beyond literature, the Festival has also hosted Amartya Sen, Amitabh Bachchan, the late A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Bill Gates, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Stephen Fry, Thomas Piketty, and former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

The past decade has seen it transform into a global literary phenomenon, having hosted over 2,000 speakers and welcoming over a million book lovers from across India and the globe.

“We will have both a physical and digital festival, we will have five-plus venues on the ground. So, during the five-day physical event, we will have unique sessions on the ground, some of which we will also broadcast online in real-time. After the physical events, we will have a series of unique digital sessions. So, not everything you see physically will be broadcast live, and not everything you can watch digitally will be a physical event on the ground. We are trying to create a unique opportunity for both sets of audiences” said Sanjoy Roy, Director of the Festival.

The festival attracted as many as 25,000 visitors on a single day, making it the world’s biggest festival. But that was when there were no charges on registration. This time, entry at the new venue would be by tickets and it remains to be seen if the festival attracts paying customers or not.

“The audiences for the physical events will certainly be smaller, since Covid protocols won’t allow us to have as many people as we used to. The effort for the physical events will be to get as many speakers in as possible. When we used to have only on-ground events, we used to pack the panels, with the result that sometimes participants had very little time to speak. The digital format does not allow for so many panelists – it works best with one-on-one or maybe two with one conversation. Where necessary and possible, we will beam in participants from other countries who do not – or cannot – travel and add them to on-ground panels. The effort for the physical events will be to get as many speakers in as possible.” said Roy.

The world of communication has changed in the past two years and the pandemic has given a boom to the digital culture. Last year, the average online viewership of JLF’s Brave New World events was about 30,000. This year. the digital series of the Jaipur Litfest gets an average viewership of 60,000.

The acceptability of the digital mode forced the host company, Teamwork to give the festival a new format -- digital as well as physical. The viewer's profile has also undergone a change. But the viewers of the festival on digital mode are mostly based in the English-speaking United Kingdom and the USA. Roy claims that the festival also has a sizeable following in China, Germany, Indonesia and even Japan and Uzbekistan.

The festival will have sessions on biographies and memories on Zohra Sehgal, Girish Karnad, and Farokh Dhondy.

There would be sessions on climate change and the environment. As climate change continues to be the center of multiple debates and policies, the Festival will host an array of diverse speakers covering different angles of the issue.

The rich programme will feature, among others, a session with Bruno Maçães, decorated author, international commentator, and advisor to some of the world's leading companies on geopolitics and technology, who will be exploring the study of an emerging world order that is competitive and driven by the need to adapt and survive in increasingly hostile natural environments. Clean energy is often considered as an investment into the future.

Simon Mundy, Financial Times journalist and author of Race for Tomorrow: Survival, Innovation, and Profit on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis will speak on the question of what impact a single person can have in the face of the global climate crisis. His talk will feature stories of inspiring individuals from every region of the world, as well as considering the role that each and every one of us can play.

Politician, economist, historian, and writer Jairam Ramesh’s Green Signals: Ecology, Growth, and Democracy in India present a fascinating debate between economic growth and ecological security and highlights the importance of the environment in a nation’s visions for the future.

Tourism Minister of Rajasthan Vishvendra Singh said, “I am delighted that the Jaipur Literature Festival is returning on-ground in the Pink City. I believe that the Festival truly provides an exceptional platform for both Indian and global authors and thought leaders to engage and strengthen Our literary heritage and culture. I look forward to warmly welcoming all authors, speakers, artists, musicians, and visitors to Jaipur.”

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