Jaipur Lit Fest goes to Belfast — the land of WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney

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Published: June 9, 2019 1:33:45 AM

“Seamus Heaney wanted to come to JLF and we were talking to him. Then sadly he passed away. So we are going to him,” says JLF co-director and Scottish writer William Dalrymple.

Jaipur Literature Festival, WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney, William Dalrymple, British Council in New Delhi, Rabindranath TagoreOne of the two venues of the festival will be the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, an arts centre in his native village dedicated to the poet.

Seven years ago, Irish poet Seamus Heaney told the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) he wanted to come to the Pink City to participate in the famous literary event. Sadly for literature lovers around the world, Heaney passed away a few months later, unable to fulfil his wish. Now, the JLF is all set to go to the Nobel Prize-winning writer’s home town in Northern Ireland.

“Seamus Heaney wanted to come to JLF and we were talking to him. Then sadly he passed away. So we are going to him,” says JLF co-director and Scottish writer William Dalrymple. The inaugural edition of JLF Belfast will be held from June 21-23. One of the two venues of the festival will be the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, an arts centre in his native village dedicated to the poet.

Lyric Theatre, the venue of JLF Belfast in the Northern Ireland capital

“The highlight of the festival will be at his home,” says Dalrymple. The JLF Belfast couldn’t have chosen a better venue. The Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which celebrates the life and works of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, sits in the village of Bellaghy where he lived. “It is in the middle of nowhere,” says JLF producer Sanjoy K Roy. “The new arts centre there came up on the site of a former police station,” he adds.

The Lyric Theatre, the other venue of JLF Belfast, is located within the Northern Ireland capital and is 45minutes by road from Bellaghy. With India and Northern Ireland sharing their own stories of partition (Ireland was divided in 1921 following years of violence), the new JLF Belfast promises a programme focusing on borders. “We will be discussing the scars of different partitions,” says Dalrymple.

“The keynote address of JLF Belfast is on Gandhi and non-violence and will be delivered by Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee,” says Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces JLF. “The JLF is a platform where people come together to debate and disagree peacefully.”

“A democratic programming and rigorous spirit is the hallmark of JLF,” adds festival co-director and author Namita Gokhale. The programming will have sessions dedicated to the works of WB Yeats, the Irish poet called the greatest poet of 20th century, Seamus Heaney and Rabindranath Tagore. “Yeats translated 10 Upanishads into English with Shree Purohit Swami,” said Harish Trivedi, who teaches comparative literature in Delhi University, while participating in a session on ‘Kalidasa and Shakespeare’ at the British Council in New Delhi earlier this week as part of the JLF Belfast curtain raiser.

“Literature is one of the mainstays of the ‘Living Bridge’ between the United Kingdom and India,” says Jan Thompson, the British deputy high commissioner in New Delhi. “It connects communities in our two nations and reflects our shared values and experiences,” adds Thompson. The JLF Belfast, which is supported by British Council Northern Ireland, is one of the seven international events of JLF, which will also open a new edition in Toronto, Canada in September this year.

The author is a freelancer

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