Sunday

Reflections on the 2007 Writers Festival

The writers from Australia and other countries are gone, live goes on in Ubud. But we like to recall the memories of the 'Event of the year in Ubud'. Let's start with what some of the writers have to say about the 2007 festival:

Miles Merrill summed up his experience with "it was the perfect place for those who tell stories. My dreams were full of spirits and ghosts".

Richard Flanagan claimed our event "was the best I have been to anywhere in the world. It was at its best, an extraordinary bridge between east and west, Muslim and Western, in the most exotic setting, and huge fun to boot. There could be no better answer by the Balinese to the horror of the bombings. Nothing was everyday, everything was joyful, and nobody remained unmoved".

Rana Dasgupta wrote, "Have just arrived back in Delhi and wanted immediately to thank you for a fantastic week in Ubud. The place is of course enchanting, but you also created a wonderful environment for conversation and thought".

Somaya Ramadan added, "It is an experience I shall always remember. The magic of Bali lingers on in my soul and I think I shall find my way back in the near future".

Nury Vittachi sent his good wishes, saying "Like everyone at the festival, I think we were all really thrilled at what a fabulous event it was. It was fabulous. Not just the best Ubud fest, but one of the best lit fests I have ever been to anywhere".

All quotes from the 'Reflections on the 2007 Festival' by festival director Janet de Neefe - read on for the whole article.

Janet de NeefeThere is a funny mix of elation and sadness that comes with the end of each Festival. Elation over the success of the event and sadness at saying farewell to new friends. Somehow this year's line-up of writers was more special than ever - a truly marvellous group of people who came together with a generosity of spirit and extraordinary warmth. If Jeni Caffin, director of Byron Bay Writers Festival, fell in love six times a day, I must have fallen in love twenty times a day - with both the writers and the events.

There were so many wonderful and dynamic writers this year that I can hardly begin to list my favourites. But I would have to say that apart from the charismatic and eloquent Shashi Tharoor (those eyes!), Kiran Desai, Patrick Gale and Richard Flanagan were probably the writers who stole most people's hearts. Richard's carefully prepared papers on asylum-seekers, indigenous people and environmental concerns were so deeply moving that they left me speechless. As Deepika Shetty, Producer of Prime Time Morning on Channel News Asia later said, "Richard was amazing, amazing, amazing. I have yet to meet a man of his intellect who is so supremely grounded". Booker-prize winner, Kiran Desai was a breath of fresh air and her warm, down-to-earth manner was infectious and inspiring while UK writer, Patrick Gale, lived up to his charming reputation of being one of the jolliest writers in literary land.

But it was the Egyptian women, Somaya Ramadan and Iman Mersal, who I loved most of all. Saying farewell to Somaya Ramadan had me close to tears - it was one of the moments where you have to change the topic for fear of crying. And Iman Mersal became my 'Egyptian sister'. We spent most of our nights together, along with the ebb and flow of other writers, sipping wine while she smoked cigarettes in a sultry Lauren Bacall fashion. Her magnetic charm and wit had us laughing for hours. The night she sang Egyptian love songs at the Casa Luna Festival Club was sheer magic and one I will never forget.

Other writers I particularly enjoyed included Indonesian poet, Wiratmadinata, who added great gusto to our wine tasting event; Catherine Lim with her haunting stories of life in Singapore; Miles Merrilll with his theatrical wow-words preached to a packed poetry slam; Cok Sawitri who entered the realms of the seen and the unseen with her cosmic wisdom; and Angelo Suarez who belted out his angst at the Jazz Café. Nury Vittachi used shock tactics to make his mark in the last session of the Festival with an overt display of simulated passion with Indonesian man-killer, Julia Suryakusuma that left the audience both stunned and in stitches.

Tuesday night at the Sofitel Seminyak Bali was the unofficial final night of the Festival featuring the lovely Kiran Desai in a literary dinner with yours truly doing the interviewing. It was a romantic candle-lit affair, with the breezy backdrop of a midnight ocean, silhouetted palm trees and a waning moon. To say it was special is an understatement. Our host and generous sponsor, Dedi Panigoro from Medco Energi, provided a superb dinner with the additional entertainment of a smooth salsa dancing couple and guitar-strumming singing minstrels. No expense was spared. Just another night in paradise!

But let's have a look at what the writer's wrote about Ubud and the Festival.

Miles Merrill summed up his experience with "it was the perfect place for those who tell stories. My dreams were full of spirits and ghosts".

Richard Flanagan claimed our event "was the best I have been to anywhere in the world. It was at its best, an extraordinary bridge between east and west, Muslim and Western, in the most exotic setting, and huge fun to boot. There could be no better answer by the Balinese to the horror of the bombings. Nothing was everyday, everything was joyful, and nobody remained unmoved".

Rana Dasgupta wrote, "Have just arrived back in Delhi and wanted immediately to thank you for a fantastic week in Ubud. The place is of course enchanting, but you also created a wonderful environment for conversation and thought".

Somaya Ramadan added, "It is an experience I shall always remember. The magic of Bali lingers on in my soul and I think I shall find my way back in the near future".

Nury Vittachi sent his good wishes, saying "Like everyone at the festival, I think we were all really thrilled at what a fabulous event it was. It was fabulous. Not just the best Ubud fest, but one of the best lit fests I have ever been to anywhere".

You see what I mean? Wonderful words from a magical mix of people.

Our deepest thanks to everyone who participated in this year's Festival from writers, to audience members to volunteers and sponsors. It was a pleasure to have you all along for the ride and we'll see you in 2008!

Janet De Neefe

1 Comments:

Agate said...

Thanks for sharing various events with me, actually I found this while searching for Writer's Event in Byron Bay.