- By Dr Tin Aung Shwe (Researcher)
The fifth Irrawaddy Literary Festival will be held from 9 to 11 November, 2019, at Mercure Hotel near the foot of Mandalay Hill.
A press conference related to the event was held at Royal Garden Hotel on 30 October where the patron of the organizing committee Gone Htoo U Thein Naing, chairman U Nay Oak (St. Paul), media head Dr Tin Aung Shwe, and writer Kyaw Kyaw Hlaing answered to questions from journalists.
Just like the Irrawaddy Festivals of previous years, this year’s event will be attended by famous writers from home and abroad. There will still be roundtable discussions on different topics, paper reading sessions, seminars, poem recitals and workshops. Each day of the event will begin from 9 a.m. and close at 7 pm. In addition, the event will display the works of several cartoonists and have bookstalls too. As always, there will be no entry fee and everyone is invited into all discussions.
To give a brief description of the event came to be, it was founded by Jane Heyn, wife of the former British Ambassador to Myanmar, in 2013. The couple are avid lovers of literature and maintain close relations with the international literary community.
They were also quite close with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since before she became State Counsellor. They would meet up with her frequently and it was in one of those meetings that while conversing on literature did the idea to invite authors from around the world emerge. They urged her to follow through with the idea and it manifested into the Irrawaddy Literary Festival.
There are three main motives for organizing the festival; to create a ladder for Myanmar literature to climb onto the global stage, to open up communications between Myanmar’s writers and their fellow authors worldwide, and to foster a culture of reading among the students and citizens of Myanmar.
The first festival in 2013 was supported by the British Government, their universities and colleges and its Patron Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It was held in Yangon’s Inya Lake Hotel and the Patron participated in the discussion under the topic ‘The Benefits of Reading’.
The State Counsellor also attended the second iteration of the festival at Mercure Hotel, Mandalay, where she engaged in a discussion on a piece of international aesthetic literature with Chinese author Jung Chang and British author Sergan Keane.
The third and fourth festivals were also in Mandalay where the State Counsellor send a handwritten message of greetings to the opening ceremony of the fourth Irrawaddy Literary Festival in 2017, during the incumbent government’s administration. It was also supported by the attendance of Union Minister for Information Dr Pe Myint and Mandalay Region Chief Minister Dr Zaw Myint Maung.
The upcoming 5th Irrawaddy Literary Festival has invited 30 international authors and over a hundred Myanmar writers to exchange all sorts of literary and cultural topics.
Students from domestic universities and colleges will also be joining the festival as they promote their literary appreciation. There will also be programmes for students from the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, and the Ministry of Education to join in on the discussions. Interpreters for both English and Myanmar languages will be assisting comprehension for all attendees as well.
Unlike other festivals, all board members, organisers, staff and speakers are volunteers and receive no form of payment for their participation. Furthermore, photographers and cultural artists are invited to the event to expand all fields of humanities in Myanmar.
Translated by Zaw Htet Oo