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Block your dates! Valley of Words 6th Edition

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By Dr TANIA SAILI BAKSHI

After a five year successful run, the Valley of Words Literature and Art Festival enters its 6th Edition this year. Dr Tania Saili Bakshi caught up with Festival Director  Dr Sanjeev Chopra to find out what more can one expect from this year’s Literary and Art Festival scheduled for the 12th-13th of November, in Dehradun.

What different can one expect from VoW this year?

Well, the Sixth Edition of the Valley of Words, Literature and Art Festival is built on the experiences of  three physical and two phygital editions during Covid.  So let me highlight the six  major changes this year.  First and foremost, we are reverting to a physical format, but post Covid  ‘all the world’s a stage’ and so all our sessions will be webcast to our partner institutions and patrons across the globe via social media  Second: we have also made the programme crisper – as we realized that  with a hundred plus sessions over three days, a kind of fatigue  sets in  by the second day and we had very few people who attend the festival for all three days. Therefore, this year we have a two-day festival with fewer sessions , but with greater engagement . Each session will be longer to enable greater interaction between the author and audience. Third: we are curating Iti Lekh, a book fair with the support of the Department of Culture of the Government  of Uttarakhand. Fourth: We have some excellent collaboration this time – with Daly College Indore for sessions on Young Adults , with IIP Dehradun for sessions in Hindi and with Chennai International Centre for sessions in English . Fifth: We are partnering with CII Young Indians to curate Iti Natya – a celebration of plays by school children on the theme of the 75th year of India’s Independence , and last but not the least, we are introducing Iti Nritya  to acknowledge the best of Indian classical dances among  the youth in the  age group of 18-28.

How has the festival changed over the years?

I would prefer to use the word Evolve to Change : for change is inevitable , but  we evolve consciously . Our Covid experience has taught us that all subsequent editions have to be phygital. True , there will be more physical than online sessions – but we will be connecting with our shortlisted and winning authors wherever they are . And all sessions will be streamed live  so that our patrons can view it – anytime , anywhere and on any device !

Will the Military History and Strategy Session be held in Dehradun considering that its home to many ex-servicemen?

The MHS sessions are being held both at New Delhi and Dehradun . Gen PJS Pannu is working on  the theme of India@75 : how the world looks at us, and  how we look at the world from the prism of technology , geopolitics and business . We are working closely with the ICWA on this .

Tell us something about this year’s shortlist of forty books under eight categories.

Each year’s short list is unique – it has to be because that is the nature of creative process. It is true that some of the larger publishers have dominated the list – but in terms of   geography, demography and gender the distribution has been quite fair. Actually , the selection of the short list is largely the function of the Jury. Their views carry the maximum weightage, though we do incorporate the suggestions of the Board members and we also take feedback from select book shops about the market response to the books . The book reviews  and podcasts also play their role . We also ask our volunteers and the faculty of our partner institutions to read the books . We share their comments with the Jury to help them decide the final winner

Where do you see Valley of Words say two years from now?

The future of literature festivals is on partnerships, and we are very proud of our associations. Let me start with the NDLI based out of IIT K. This gives a very wide reach to over 200 affiliated clubs . The AFSC schools are now associating with us for a pan-India meet on Writings for Young Adults, which is being hosted by Daly College Indore this year . From next year, we will have a tie up with a prominent school in Dehradun for the Children’s Literature section as well. The IIP at Dehradun is playing host to all the Hindi sessions and we have tied up with the Chennai International Centre for English sessions in their city. Then we have our online signature Afternoons with an Author .

We are also in touch with embassies – Israel, Iceland and Russia to showcase some of their books and authors , especially those translated in Hindi . In fact in the 2020 edition, France was the partner country. We continue to explore these relationships, because we would like to showcase the best of global literature to Dehradun as well as our partner institutions .

We have received queries about taking the festival abroad – to Nepal, to the UK , the UAE and to North America. We have to discuss this in our Board. We are a bit reticent  about traveling outside the country for  we feel that there are so many institutions in India we would first like to collaborate with .

Do mark your calendar for the 12-13th of November! See you there!