The Fairway Galle Literary Festival, since first launching in 2007 has become one of the most anticipated literary events in south east Asia for both authors and literary enthusiasts around the world.
“I have spoken at dozens of book festivals around the world, and Galle was perhaps the most welcoming and memorable. Please invite us back.” – Professor Richard Dawkins (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2012)
The festival is celebrated annually, in and around the historic Dutch Galle Fort, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the southern shores of the tropical isle of Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
It’s intimate format allows visitors the opportunity to appreciate the works of Sri Lankan and international authors, to take part in literary discussions and enjoy other writerly, readerly, archeological, ecological, philosophical, cultural, musical, artistic, and culinary activities in a beautiful and unique setting.
“I appreciate the Galle Literary Festival for bringing readers and books together without creating a flea market atmosphere. It underscores the connection of communities and ideas. At the heart of every discussion is an examination of how literature helps us more effectively share our world.” – Gregory Pardlo (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016)
During the day the Fairway Galle Literary Festival features writing workshops, panel discussions, topical debates, poetry readings, cooking classes, theatre workshops and literary lunches, while during the night there are poetry slams, jazz performances, wine tastings, art showings and photographic exhibitions, which take place at historical landmark locations, boutique hotels, and private properties, making this festival truly an immersive cultural experience that celebrates literature and the arts.
“Why is the festival great? It uses one of the most beautiful places on the planet to make a marketplace of thought and an oasis of feeling. I loved being there because the scale is human, and the humans are kind and welcoming, the food wonderful and the balmy evenings allow long conversations on any subject into the night” – Fiona Shaw (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016)
The Fairway Galle Literary Festival was the first ever international literary festival to be held in Sri Lanka, founded by adventurer/hotelier Geoffrey Dobbs in 2007. This ambitious venture launched with an impressive line-up of accomplished international and local authors such as the late great Arthur C. Clarke, Kiran Desai (winner of the Man Booker Prize, 2006), Sir Mark Tully and Romesh Gunesekera.
“The Galle Literary Festival has made literature amazingly exciting in Sri Lanka. It is a wonderful space for all of us—writers and readers—and a tribute to the importance of books in our lives. The encouragement it gives to reading and writing in Sri Lanka is immense!” – Romesh Gunesekera (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2007)
Geoffrey Dobbs noted that people’s reaction to his idea was: “You’re completely crazy!” But crazy things do happen and successfully with the correct drive and vision, especially when the voices of skepticism fall on deaf ears as it did with the founder. It was clear by the third day of the inaugural event that the enthusiasm generated amongst the attending Sri Lankan and international literati who had flocked to the venue had surpassed the expectations of even it’s organizers.
“Galle literary festival is a remarkable experience. It’s not just in a marvelous place, but also manages to be both distinguished and intimate. It’s focus is, quite properly, on reading and writing rather than celebrity, and the audiences are a treat – warm, highly literate and curious.“ – Joanna Trollope (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2012)
By 2011, The Fairway Galle Literary Festival had been dubbed by Harpers Bazaar UK as the ‘No. 1 literary festival in the world’ and continued it’s growth through 2012, with the attendance of literary contemporaries such as Joanna Trollope, Tom Stoppard and Richard Dawkins.
The festival then took an 3 year hiatus, but made a triumphant return in 2016 with the support of title sponsor, Fairway Holdings (Pvt) Ltd.
“The festival was just what one wishes a literary festival to be, a treat and a tonic.” – Sir Tom Stoppard (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2012)
The Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016 hosted 83 participants, both local and from around the world. Authors, historians, explorers, environmentalists, actors and poets took part in 102 sessions across the four days of the festival.
The 2016 festival also debuted 2 mini-festivals which took place in the cities of Kandy and Jaffna. The FGLF 2016 also launched the ‘Fairway National Literary Award‘ which recognizes the best Sri Lankan novel in the languages of Sinhala, Tamil and English, in addition to being selected as the venue for the presentation of the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was won by attending author Anuradha Roy.
“The FGLF throws people, cultures, hot ideas, hot food, laughter, poetry and arrack together in a beautiful country. Pointless to resist.” – Sebastian Faulks (Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016)
The Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2017 will take place in Galle from January 11 through January 15th 2017.
Geoffrey Peter Dobbs
Born just a week after Stalin died, Geoffrey lived for 14 years in the Soviet Union, 4 years n Poland and 2 years in the former Yugoslavia, with interval years in India, Italy and England. Of Anglo-Irish and Australian parents, his father was a diplomat and mother a journalist turned best selling author. Geoffrey was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. After leaving university he went to seek fame and fortune in Hong Kong, where on a holiday he discovered Ceylon and bought the Island of Taprobane and later is credited with starting boutique hotels in Galle Sri Lanka. He was swimming in the sea in Weligama when the tsumami hit and set up Adopt Sri Lanka, which spent over 4 million dollars alleviating the plight of many Sri Lankans. He is a keen sailor and has crossed the pacific on bamboo raft and the Indian ocean on a traditional Omani dhow. He set up the Galle Literary Festival in 2007. He was honoured by the President of Sri Lanka for services rendered to tourism and for the work he did after Tsumami.
Amrita has been director of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival since 2012, following a very prominent career in the world of advertising. She returned to lead the revival of the GLF in 2016 after the festival’s absence of 3 years. The 2016 Fairway Galle Literary Festival was a tremendous success which comprised of 2 mini-festivals in Kandy and Jaffna, in addition to the main festival which takes place in Galle, The 2016 FGLF featured 83 participants and 102 events.
Shyam Selvadurai is an acclaimed and award-winning author. His first novel ‘Funny Boy’ (1994) won the Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award. He has gone on to publish 4 critically acclaimed novels as of 2016, including ‘Swimming in the Monsoon Sea’ (2005) a novel for young adults which garnered him another Lambda Literary Award for best Children’s and Youth Literature. His latest novel is ‘The Hungry Ghosts’. He is also the editor of the first comprehensive anthology of Sri Lankan literature containing works in all languages, titled ‘Many Roads Through Paradise.’ His work has been translated into 10 languages. Shyam has been curator of the Galle Literary Festival since 2011, and is very excited by the emerging line up of authors and speakers and says 2017 promises to be his best festival ever.
Natasha is currently in her second year as manager of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, a position she now holds after 4 consecutive years of volunteer work in the festival. She has worked extensively in hospitality, customer service and logistics in Melbourne and the Maldives at the Four Seasons Resort, Kuda Huraa. Having completed a diploma in Fashion Design at the Melbourne School Of Fashion and having been a part of Barefoot Pvt Ltd for a large part of her life, Natasha is well versed in the fields of event management, art and design. Natasha is looking forward to another successful year of the Festival and can’t wait to show the world what they’ve been working on for 2017.
Shiromi was a new comer to the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, never having visited one before, leave alone get involved as a full time member of the organizing team. When the very persuasive Festival Director, Amrita Pieris, asked her to join in as Festival Assistant, Shiromi never imagined what she was in for and from July 2015 it’s been a charged ride through and through. “It was quite an experience getting to know the writers, coordinate their flight schedules and make their bookings, especially when you finally meet them in person at the Festival and realize that you’ve been a part of what it took to get them there”. Finding the work interesting Shiromi pulled through and came out a winning willing member and is here again on the FGLF team to give it her all, and says “Though it was hard work, I loved every moment of it and am looking forward to the 2017 edition even more eagerly”.