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JLF Belfast, a spectacular weekend celebrating literature, Indian culture and creativity

Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 7am 0 Comments Literature

Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival Image: Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival

The inaugural JLF Belfast, an international celebration of literature, creativity and music, brought together a wealth of distinguished speakers and cultural thinkers from across the world to packed audiences at the Lyric Theatre and Seamus Heaney HomePlace on 21-23 June.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast brought a true spirit of the original Jaipur Literature Festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth, to Northern Ireland. Across the weekend audiences enjoyed 16 events including readings, fascinating  panel discussions and stimulating debates with acclaimed writers discussing themes of Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Artificial Intelligence.

Throughout the weekend audiences heard from some of the most inspiring, trailblazing authors and cultural commentators of our time from the UK, Ireland, India and beyond. 

Highlights included; special guest, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, distinguished granddaughter of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, who gave an emotive and uplifting speech at Seamus Heaney Homeplace on Sunday where she spoke of her pilgrimage to “ the soil of south Derry which nourished Seamus Heaney”.  Tara emphasized the importance of non-violence and friendship on her visit to Northern Ireland urging young people here to look into their minds and “not to be nourished by hate”.

At the Lyric Theatre on Saturday, writer and historian, William Dalrymple, together with Navtej Sarna, discussed the intriguing story of the Kohinoor, the world’s most infamous diamond.  Mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy, explored creativity alongside advances in artificial intelligence and what this means for the future whilst celebrity chef and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Asma Khan discussed her experiences of cooking, community and life.

The iconic and charismatic, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, joined Bee Rowlatt in discussing her life as a transgender rights activist and Brian Keenan talked about his experience of the trauma of incarceration and the will to survive. 

Cameroon-born writer, Eric Ngalle Charles joined Sudeep Sen, Francis Jones  and Ruth Padel to read their own work and also their most-loved poem by Seamus Heaney and Namita Gokhale joined Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu to discuss, myth, memory and culture.

Irish-American author, Michael Patrick MacDonald, discussed writing about conflict with fellow authors Malachi O’Doherty, Navdeep Suri and Glenn Patterson whilst Lucy Caldwell, discussed foremothers: women and freedom with Bee Rowlatt , Namita Gokhale and Vayu Naidu.      

Throughout the weekend, Indian and Irish musical traditions came together with musical performances from local Irish traditional musicians Jason O’Rourke and young people from the Glengormley School of Traditional Music, and Indian musicians, Harpreet and Vidya Shah, accompanied by Polish sitar player, Daniel Pers.  

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland,

“The Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest festival of its kind and focuses firmly on topics that are both contemporary and also reflect the concerns that our society has.  We were thrilled to present the inaugural JLF Belfast with our partners, British Council and Teamwork Arts, an enriching manifestation of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in Northern Ireland.  The weekend brought together unbelievably brilliant speakers and people that are eminent in their field to be enjoyed by audiences from here and beyond.  We very much look ahead with anticipation to next year’s JLF Belfast.”

Sanjoy Roy, Director, TeamWork Arts, added,

“JLF Belfast is all about looking at shared experiences between different cultures, celebrating our common factors but also understanding the differences, and actually examining them both from a local, national and international perspective.  This weekend has been a tremendous success we very much look forward to presenting JLF Belfast in 2020.” 

Asma Khan, chef and restauranteur, commented,

“There is a place in India where two rivers meet and JLF Belfast reminds me of that; of cultures meeting and merging together.  All cultures have turned up this weekend to enjoy JLF Belfast and there’s a real sense of joy and of a new beginning of an exciting journey.”

JLF Belfast will return in 2020, keep up to date at and


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