The British Council has been a partner to the Dhaka Lit Festival (DLF) since its inception in 2011, as part of Hay Festival International. This year was no different, and the British Council continued its collaboration with Dhaka Lit Festival through an outreach programme by sponsoring British author Richard James Beard, fiction writer Jaishree Misra and a pioneering storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton.

The shared vision of DLF is to connect Bangladeshi writing and writers to the broader audience, and we have been pleased to watch it grow into a self-sufficient festival hosted on the historic Bangla Academy grounds, bringing together Bangladeshi and international literary influencers to an audience of 29,000 annually. Over 200 speakers, performers and social thinkers from 15 countries contributed to the tradition of diverse topics and vibrant discussions. This year, Asaduzzaman Noor, Minister of Cultural Affairs of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh inaugurated Dhaka Lit Fest 2018, which was held from 8 -10 November.

Before the commencement of Dhaka Lit Fest, the British Council arranged a breakfast session with the sponsored authors, followed by an outreach event series, with the aim to promote the main programme to local writers and audiences. This was also an opportunity to introduce authors Richard James Beard, Jaishree Misra and Sally Pomme Clayton from the UK beyond the vicinities of Dhaka Lit Fest.

Richard Beard: A workshop on report writing with Active Citizens

Richard Beard took a workshop on “Report writing with Active Citizens” for young participants of the British Council’s Active Citizens programme in Chittagong. Active Citizens programme aims to bring about sustainable social change within communities by establishing a global network of leaders. The sessions took place in Bistaar, Chattogram Art Complex. The workshop focused on reporting of events in a succinct yet engaging style that best communicates the basics of what happened and why. He also looked at creative ways in which writing can help to promote social action projects. He also held a session with the teachers of Southern University on creative writing. He looked at an overview of techniques and approaches for introducing students to the basic principles of writing a fictional story. In the course of the workshop, he demonstrated materials and exercises that teachers can use or adapt for their own classes.

Richard Beard is famous for his novels Lazarus is Dead, Dry Bones and Damascus, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His most recent novel Acts of the Assassins was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, and he is the author of four books of narrative non-fiction, including his memoir The Day That Went Missing. It won the 2018 PEN Ackerley Award for literary autobiography.

Jaishree Misra: Workshop on Creative writing with literature enthusiasts

Jaishree Misra offered a workshop on creative writing for literature enthusiasts such as young poets, journalists, scriptwriters, magazine contributors etc. of Chattogram. The workshop took place at Bistaar, Chittagong Arts Complex. She shared her experience by saying, " I was touched by this space and by the fact that so many excellent projects, such as Dhaka Art Summit and Folk Festival, are privately funded by people who feel so invested in the development of their country.” Later she offered another workshop on creative writing for the school teachers of Chattogram which took place in British Council Chattogram.

Jaishree Misra has written eight books of fiction, published by Penguin & Harper Collins in the UK. She has worked in special needs, broadcasting and as a film classifier at the British Board of Film Classification.

You can also read up on her interview here.

Performances and workshops by Sally Pomme Clayton

On 12 November 2018, a live performance by famous British author and storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton was held at British Council auditorium.

The evening was invigorated with her fascinating presentation on one of her most famous tales, 'Ashland'. Around 150 children, aged between 11 and 16 years, participated in the hour-long performance. They were invited from different academic and cultural institutions of Dhaka city, such as Jaago and Leaping Boundaries, who work mostly with underprivileged and marginalised children. This event was arranged to bring children together from different social backgrounds in a single gallery and to make them realise how the magic of stories can touch hearts across all barriers.

During her performance, she used unusual musical instruments to create an enchanting environment. The spellbound audience also enjoyed the chance to participate in the interactive storytelling parts. One of the children said, “We usually see these sorts of performances on TV. I never thought I could see one myself. It was magical! From her performance, we learnt how important it is to share a story and pass it on to our friends and families. It helps to keep it alive.”

She also conducted a storytelling workshop with British Council colleagues along with a storytelling performance for child members of the British Council library.

Sally Pomme co-founded The Company of Storytellers with Ben Haggarty and Hugh Lupton (1985). They created ground-breaking performances, spearheading storytelling across the UK.

By working with Dhaka Lit Fest, we aim to enrich the next generation of Bangladeshi leaders and strengthen their link with the UK while making Bangladeshi literature accessible in the UK. By bringing authors and discussions to our premises, we hope that our sites will be safe spaces for dialogue, critical thinking and freedom of expression. Our programme with the Dhaka Lit Festival will continue throughout the year through collaborations with British Council libraries, cultural events with the aim of making the work and opportunities open to a broader network.