At a press conference held in Delhi, Rob Lynes, Director British Council India, and Tridib Chatterjee, General Secretary of The Publishers & Booksellers Guild spoke about the UK’s participation in what is the world’s most visited book fair. Sujata Sen, Director British Council, East India was also present.
Rob Lynes said: “We are delighted that the UK is the focal theme at this year’s Kolkata Book Fair. The UK continues to have a special relationship with India and education, English language and the arts are among the areas which are important to the strengthening our bonds. As the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, the British Council’s wants to showcase what the United Kingdom has to offer India and the rest of the world.”
The fair will take place from 28 January to 8 February 2015 at the Milan Mela grounds in Kolkata. The Kolkata Literature Festival, which is a part of the fair, has been scheduled from 6-8 February 2015.
The UK will be showcasing the best of its offer in arts and culture, education, and research through the UK government’s GREAT campaign, which includes information on the huge range of scholarships available for studying in the UK.
William Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary and Dylan Thomas’ birth centenary will be marked at the Fair with a hall dedicated to each writer.
The British Council and Wales Arts International will host ‘Walking Cities’, which pairs-up British and Indian writers enabling them to tour each other’s respective cities, providing an opportunity for the visiting poet to encounter the foreign city through the eyes of their local host. Welsh poets Joe Dunthorne and Jonathan Edwards will ‘walk the city’ with Indian poets Jeet Thayil and Tishani Doshi and share their experiences at the Kolkata Book Fair.
Some well-known writers who will be present at the Kolkata Book Fair include British author of Bangladeshi origin Zia Haider Rahman whose debut novel In The Light of What We Know (2014) was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, radio and television journalist Anita Anand whose book Sophia, a biography of Sophia Duleep Singh, a princess-in-exile whose causes were the struggle for Indian independence, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War and the fight for female suffrage. Other UK authors at the Kolkata Book Fair will be Shereen El Feki (author ofSex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World) Naomi Alderman (named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013), Qaisra Shahraz (author of The Holy Woman), novelist Will Buckingham, Scottish poet Bill Herbert and Ned Thomas, whose memoir Bydoedd / Worlds (Wales Book of the Year 2011) will be launched in Bengali translation at the fair. Professional storyteller Sarah Rundell will also perform at the Fair and Tracy Irish, the RSC’s Education Programme Developer for the World Shakespeare Festival will be present too.
The Book Fair will begin on a musical note with Ghazalaw, which celebrates the affinity between Indian Ghazal and the Welsh folk tradition. Mumbai singer Tauseef Akhtar and Welsh singer-songwriter Gwyneth Glyn weave the love poetry of their two ancient traditions together to the accompaniment of harp, tabla, guitar and harmonium. In November 2012 Gwyneth invited Welsh harpist Georgia Ruth to join her and Tauseef in Mumbai to develop the songs further with musicians Ashish Jha, Manas Kumar and Sanjoy Das. Ghazalaw performed in Mumbai, at the Desert Festival, Delhi and featured at the Indiearth Exchange in Chennai. In January 2013 they recorded their eponymously-titled debut album ‘Ghazalaw’.
Education will be in focus at the UK theme pavilion around the Knowledge is GREAT campaign with speakers from the UK’s Higher Education sector and English language experts at the fair. Workshops, seminars and panel discussions will be held around English and higher education.
Books and online resources from the UK will be displayed at the British Council pavilion. The collection will help visitors access content to open up new professional opportunities through English teaching and learning, enrich professional life in the Arts, develop new understanding and partnerships related to UK Education, and engage with contemporary UK.
A large number of UK publishers will also be present at the Kolkata Book Fair. It is estimated that nearly 80 per cent of books in the higher education category is shipped out from the UK.
The Kolkata Book Fair, recognised by International Publishers Association, Geneva, is also the largest Book Fair of the world in terms of visitors. The 38th edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair was visited by 1.8 million booklovers over 12 days and books worth Rs 200 million were sold.
In 1998, UK was the Focal Theme Country of the Fair while Scotland was the Focal Theme in 2009.
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. The British Council was established in India in 1948. The British Council is recognised across India for its network of 9 libraries and cultural centres. We offer a range of specialised projects in arts, education, exams, English language and society to audiences across India and more than 100,000 members. We also provide access to English language training and learning for both students and teachers, offer UK qualifications in India and enable opportunities to study in the UK. www.britishcouncil.in