Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

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Feb 2009 Ubud is in the throes of wet season. Our lives are marked by afternoon rains and morning flashes of sunshine. Since the last festival, ceremonies and colourful processions have come and gone in between Christmas and New Year celebrations. This month, our books were blessed on Saraswati Day and our computers received offerings in homage to all things mechanical. Our little office is feeling rather sanctified. All good omens for the sixth festival that is looming on the far horizon.

In the meantime the festival team is focusing on the 2009 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. Writers are being invited at the speed of a thousand kerises, budgets are being drawn up, sponsors approached and designs created. It’s all systems go under tropical skies.

Last year was our most successful festival to date. In terms of attendances, the festival numbers were more positive than we could have imagined. Overall sales were at a record high with audience participation increasing more than thirty percent. More than 100 writers appeared and participated in more than 50 events.

The Neka Museum of Art, the new third venue this year, was filled to capacity. The in-conversation session with Vikram Seth, presented by HSBC, saw an audience of nearly four hundred readers and writers, who listened ardently to Seth chat jovially about his life growing up in India .

A total of 43 venues were used with panel sessions, book launches, performances, readings and literary lunches brimming and buzzing to capacity.

This year’s festival promises to be as exciting as ever. Our 2009 theme is Suka-Duka: Compassion & Solidarity. Suka Duka is an ancient communal wisdom that for centuries has been one of the main pillars of Bali ’s traditional institutions and communities. The principle has guided the members of the traditional institutions, such as banjar (neighbourhood organisations) and desa pakraman (customary villages), to act as one single entity in dealing with life’s hardships and blessings. The suffering of one member will be shouldered by all, while the joy of one will be shared by the other.

The theme reflects the Festival’s commitment to turn this literary gathering into an inspiring moment, through which writers and readers from every corner of the world can establish a mutual understanding as well as a common platform to remind the world of the need to think and act as one single, compassionate entity, particularly during this epoch of violent conflicts and social turmoil.

In 2009, the enduring power of the human spirit over suffering and hardship will be explored alongside stories that have changed lives and tales of profound wisdom. Environmental issues and the rise of fundamentalism will be further debated with globalisation, censorship of media and world poverty. The art of storytelling will be celebrated together with discussions on writing about travel, food, poetry and song.

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will continue its culinary tradition with visiting chefs descending on the kitchens of some of Ubud’s most gracious hotels. They will join forces with our leading literary stars to present the kind of languorous lunches and dinners for which we have become famous.

Invited guests include Nobel Laureates J.M. Coetzee and Wole Soyinka, Kate Grenville, Abdourahman Waberi, Mohammed Hanif, Laura Esquivel and Hari Kunzru.

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