Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival programme unveiled

Hanif Kureishi will discuss his controversial novel The Last Word at The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literary Festival

Hanif Kureishi discussed his controversial novel The Last Word at The 2014 Asia House Bagri Foundation Literary Festival

Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival programme unveiled

12 March 2014

Media Release

Prize-winning novelists Hanif Kureishi, Kamila Shamsie, Tash Aw and Romesh Gunesekera plus award-winning BBC journalist John Sweeney are some of the key speakers at this year’s Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival, which takes place from May 6 to May 21, 2014.

The glittering event will also include debates on North Korea and changing sexual mores across Asia, alongside an evening of British Asian humour, Vietnamese cookery at lunchtime and several interactive events for families.

Now in its eighth year and with a new title sponsor, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival is the only UK festival dedicated to pan-Asian writing and will take place at Asia House in May.

A stimulating mix of literary talks, performance, topical debate, humour, cookery, Tai Chi and family events from renowned authors, performers and thinkers – home-grown and from across Asia – come together in this truly unique festival.

With a range of events covering more than 17 countries, the Festival this year includes authors writing about China, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, India, as well as Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Nepal, the Middle East, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Britain.

This year’s theme is Changing Values across Asia.  Warming up with three exciting pre-Festival events in April, Asia House will feature a session on China’s changing values with Booker Prize long-listed Malaysian author Tash Aw and Yiyun Li, Chinese American author of Kinder than Solitude. Man Asian Literary Prize winner Kyung-sook Shin joins fellow South Korean novelist Krys Lee and British Pakistani Qaisra Shahraz to debate the effect of political separations on their countries and their writing, at an event in partnership with the British Council/London Book Fair Korea Market Focus. The Festival will also feature Why do Indians Vote?, a wide-ranging discussion on the world’s largest democracy and its upcoming election.

Continuing the Changing Values theme into the main Festival in May, foreign correspondent Peter Popham examines Burma two years after its milestone election, while Shereen el Feki  (author of Sex and the Citadel) and Sally Howard (author of The Kama Sutra Diaries) take a serious but entertaining look at changing sexual mores in the Middle East, India and Pakistan.

Literary superstar Hanif Kureishi launches the Festival on 6 May as he discusses his new novel, The Last Word, while award-winning Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie introduces her hotly anticipated novel of friendship, injustice and love, A God in Every Stone.

The best of Asian literature is further celebrated as new works by acclaimed Sri Lankan novelist Romesh Gunesekera, one of Granta’s Best of Young British novelists, Xiaolu Guo and Pakistani-born Roopa Farooki are previewed in a special showcase event ahead of publication. A new series, Extra Words will introduce debut authors from Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.

Award-winning BBC reporter John Sweeney (author of North Korea Undercover)  joins author of North Korea: State of Paranoia Paul French to analyse the threat posed by that country, while historian John Keay introduces the first comprehensive history of South Asia as a whole with his new book Midnight’s Descendants.

Digital freedom in East Asia will be analysed with Thai blogger Giles Ji Ungpakorn and Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi and others, in an event in partnership with English PEN.

But not all events will focus on Changing Asian Values, some will be just for fun.  Look out for lunch-time cookery with The Vietnamese Market Cookbook authors and don’t miss Tai Chi, Origami, the Ninja Meerkats and poetry workshops for children. Joining forces with  live literature producing company and publisher Penned in the Margins at Rich Mix in East London, the Festival programme includes The Shroud, a two-man, miniature epic about loss, time and the things that connect us, with Siddhartha Bose and Avaes Mohammed. British Asian humour will be hotly debated by a panel including journalist Sathnam Sanghera, BBC head of comedy Saurabh Kakkar, comedian Shazia Mirza and writer producer of hit TV shows Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at Number 42, The Office and Citizen Khan, Anil Gupta. The author of Packing Up: Further Adventures of a Trailing Spouse Brigid Keenan takes us on a wildly funny tour through her life in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Palestine.

In addition to events at Asia House, the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival this year extends its youth engagement programmes with two-day writing workshops and author visits in six London area schools and six others across Newham, Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham aiming to reach 300 plus students.  There is a student writing competition with the top five students winning a day of mentoring with writing, publishing and communications professionals.

Bookings for tickets are now open and you can book tickets here. 




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Twitter:  @festofasianlit

For all media enquiries and any requests please contact Annabel Robinson or Melody Odusanya at FMcM Associates on 020 7405 7422 or email /

 Notes to editors

  • Asia House is a centre of expertise on Asia and the leading pan-Asian organisation in the UK .  Through its unique programme of events on culture, policy, business and education, Asia House promotes understanding and the mutual exchange of ideas, building stronger relationships between the diverse communities of Europe and Asia.  Asia House is a non-profit, non-political organisation.
  • Asia House is grateful for the support of their founding stakeholders: HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered
  • The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival is also supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
  • The Bagri Foundation is a UK registered charity whose principal aims and objectives are the advancement of literacy, education and the arts, with an emphasis on those of India, and the appreciation and understanding of Asian countries, their cultures and religions.  The Foundation runs rich and diverse cultural programmes and collaborates with other organisations to further its own charitable aims and objectives.