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Galle Literary Festival

Words by Natasha Thompson


‘The Galle Literary Festival is far, far too special an experience, too entertaining, informative, welcoming, relaxed, inspiring, geographically idyllic, and entirely enjoyable to begin to sum up in a single sentence of less than Proustian length.’

Lalla Ward



On that note Sri Lanka’s premier literary event returns as a five-day festival, kicking off on 13 January 2016 as the Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016, where a highly anticipated roster of internationally and locally renowned headliners, including writers, authors, historians, poets, and biographers, will once again take centre stage. The Galle Literary Festival is a diverse literary festival offering a wide array of not just literature, but the arts as well. Literature, photography, art, architecture, culinary delights, conservation, theatre, music, community initiatives, and plenty more fringe events are all key features of this festival. With its inception in 2007 by founder Geoffrey Dobbs, it has grown from strength to strength. After a small hiatus following 2012’s festival, upon its return in 2016, the Galle Literary Festival is on course to be a festival like no other.


The beautiful Galle Fort is the main venue for this celebrated literary festival. Situated on the southern coast of Sri Lanka – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Galle serves as an ideal setting for writers, musicians, architects, and other artists to gather for five days of lively conversation and debate. In its very first year, the festival was voted ‘No.1 Literary Festival in the World’ by Harper’s Bazaar (UK) and in 2009, The Guardian recommended the festival as one of its top ten winter breaks. ‘The Galle Literary Festival is a remarkable experience. It’s not just in a marvellous place, but also manages to be both distinguished and intimate. Its focus is, quite properly, on reading and writing rather than celebrity, and the audiences are a treat – warm, highly literate, and curious.’ Joanna Trollope

To touch on the programme, worthy mentions are the introduction of two literary awards: the Fairway National Literary Award for a published novel in Sinhala, Tamil, and English, and the DSC Prize, held at the Jaipur Literature Festival for the last five years, which the GLF has been given the honour of hosting at the 2016 festival. The Fairway Award is a great introduction to the Sri Lankan literary world, with representation in all three languages being key. The DSC Prize, an already established literary award, adds acclaim and prestige to the GLF’s already prolific programme.


DBC Pierre, Tom Stoppard, Richard Dawkins, Germaine Greer, Joanna Trollope, and Gore Vidal have all featured in previous years, adding depth and vitality to the festival. The festival prides itself on being able to attract big-name authors, as well as feature up-and-coming ones, and showcase the literary talent that Sri Lanka itself has to offer. With a literacy rate of 92% nationwide, Sri Lanka has a higher rate than that expected for a developing country; it has the highest literacy rate in South Asia and overall, one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. With this statistic, one can imagine what the locals would bring to this illustrious literary festival. To further showcase local talent, the GLF, as a new addition, is hosting mini festivals in Kandy and Jaffna. These festivals will be held over two days each, with similar themes to the main Galle one, but done on a smaller scale. International and local authors will feature at both these satellite festivals, with the aim to open up the audience to the rest of the island as well and highlight these cities rich in Sri Lankan culture and tradition.


Keep up to date on the official website www.galleliteraryfestival.com where information will be uploaded regularly. The Galle Literary Festival organizers would be pleased to hear from any benefactors, corporate sponsors, or individuals/groups who would like to sponsor a writer to attend the festival. This could be done either by donating your air miles, or by funding their ticket. Please contact info@galleliteraryfestival.com for any queries.


We will conclude on the note that if you are looking for something to do in January 2016, your search is now over, and we will see you at the Galle Literary Festival in 2016!


This article was originally published at:

Tripin Publication 2016 - www.tripinsl.com