Literature festivals don’t have a point, right? Or at least not one that can get into the writing and move it around. The text is fixed on paper and pixel by the time we get to discussing it.
Perhaps for the literary establishment the text is fixed, but here where Bare Lit sits alongside the Jhalak Prize, BAME in Publishing, Breaking Ground, and countless other initiatives by and for writers of colour that isn’t the case. Our literary landscape is one which is in flux, and thereby so is our writing.
Independent publishers like Cassava Press and Jacaranda are winning book prizes by taking chances that the largest publishers couldn’t wouldn’t. A whole host of anthologies has unveiled an embarrassment of talent: from The Good Immigrant to The Things I Would Tell You to Love Across a Broken Map, and our own Bare Lit anthology, which will be released at this year’s festival.
Bare Lit 2017 is absolutely a celebration of achievements, of course, and at the same time infused with the kinetic energy that more will happen and soon. This is a stage for writing that feels expansive, and that opens trajectories none of us could have expected.
New routes to reaching audiences abound: from crowdfunding to self-publishing and the re-emergence of print magazines. We question whether some routes to audiences are better than others in Finding a Way to the Audience, and ask magazine creators the role of print in a world of digital in New Print Cultures.
Our literary world may be growing, but this doesn’t mean we can ignore the rest of the publishing industry and the wider creative complex. Women on Women scrutinises the presentation of writing by women as ‘chick lit’, and asks whether the label should be embraced or challenged. Meanwhile Writing to Be Seen looks at the collaborative process of taking a text to screen or stage, where interpretations and compromises are part and parcel of creation.
We also can’t ignore the social and economic difficulties of the time we’re living in. Hope in Times of Hopelessness explores how we can use our medium to challenge the rising right in Europe and find hope and inspiration for change in our work. Whilst In Experts We Trust cuts into the conversation surrounding the role of experts in society, are science writers obscuring or enlightening? And is there room for creativity in the technical?
Moving from macro to micro we see the broader issues that we touch on manifest in individual lives as writers discuss how they depict their own experiences of violence and trauma through fiction in When Bad Things Happen. Whilst in Sexy Times we examine erotica as a part of the fabric of wider social and political contexts: are there trends in appetites? And how do desires vary across society?
As people in diaspora many of the discourses we address at Bare Lit are suffused with community histories that traverse the globe. In Letters from Yesterday we ask how writers and creators are using new tools to connect with and preserve the context of the past: from stories of food to stories of grime music. How to Write a Cookbook delves further into the tension between heritage and innovation in the kitchen.
So what’s the point of a literature festival? The answer came to me I think, when we were planning From Unreal to Real and Back. This session will discuss how writers translate the real into the fantastical, and also how they envisage readers translating these elements into their own realities. What’s special is that the audience will be able to talk back and challenge those assertions; maybe they didn’t read it how the author intended it at all. What happens after we realise that is the exciting bit.
Bare Lit is a festival of literature celebrating the work of poets, journalists and storytellers writing in and from diaspora. It returns to London for its second year on 22-23 April 2017, you can buy tickets here.
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Henna is the former Editor of Media Diversified, but when she gets a minute to spare she writes about food, the arts and media. In a previous life she fed her addictions by running restaurants serving Levantine and North American-inspired menus for five years. You can find her recipes at hennazamurdbutt.com or watch her make them on IG @hennazb.
All images in this piece are by Wasi Daniju.