Teamwork Arts brings back JLF London at the British Library with a mix of on-ground and online sessions

The much-anticipated JLF London at the British Library is back with a unique mix of virtual and on-ground special sessions with leading speakers from across the globe. Scheduled fron 24-26 September 2021, the eighth edition of the annual Festival will continue to celebrate books, creativity, dialogue, diversity and varied intellectual discourse.

The spirit of the Festival with its pervasive sense of inclusiveness and community will once again be at the heart of London as a caravan of writers and thinkers, poets, balladeers and raconteurs bring alive South Asia’s unique multilingual literary heritage at the British Library. The Festival will explore the boundless possibilities of intellectual & literary discourse across both physical and virtual platforms, spanning a host of ideas. JLF London at the British Library will host five exclusive on-ground sessions which will run from 18-20 September at the British Library, the Aga Khan Centre, and Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express restaurant.

Special On-ground Sessions:

As the international community copes with startling new realities following the stunning collapse of Kabul, a panel will explore different aspects of the unravelling. The keynote session titled ‘Afghanistan. The Unravelling’ will search for signals as the panelists will examine fault-lines, socio-political and historical contexts, and the way forward to provide relief to the ordinary men and women stuck in the crossfire. The panel will be graced by British academic, diplomat, author, and politician Rory Stewart;TIME’s 2011 “Top 100 most influential people in the world” and Afghan-Australian entrepreneur Saad Mohseni, Afghan journalist Shazia Haya Ahmadzai;Indian diplomat and Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Gautam Mukhopadhaya, author, historian and Festival Co-ditector William Dalrymple. In the following session, two extraordinary authors Elif Shafak, a Man Booker-shortlisted author and Tahmima Anam, recepient of a Commonwealth Writers Prize and the O. Henry Prize will give us a glimpse into their inspirations.They will be in conversation with bestselling British author Bee Rowlatt.

Author of the recently published The Lost Fragrance of Infinity, Moin Mir, began writing under the influence of his grandfather, a scholar of Sufism, Omar Khayyam and Mirza Ghalib. Steeped in Sufism, he will communicate its spiritual love and understanding and its layered contributions to art, mathematics, mysticism and science in conversation with travel photographer and Head of Communications at the Aga Khan Foundation UK, Christopher Wilton-Steer. In the next session, award-winning author Alice Albinia will dive into a tale of female power, potential and reclamation in conversation with former Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Alexandra Pringle. Albinia’s latest work, Cwen, presents us with a matriarchal Eve’s paradise, offering a universe where women run all institutions and businesses.

At a session concentrated on food, award-winning food writer and restaurateur Ravinder Bhogal and celebrated Indian-born British chef and restaurateur Asma Khan of Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’ will discuss the impact of the pandemic on their business and cooking style along with the changing eating patterns of the masses. In conversation with best-selling author and journalist Shrabani Basu, they will delve into the transforming arena of food and what forms the roots of their kitchen.

Virtual Sessions:

Classicist and author Edmund Richardson’s latest book, Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City, takes us on a riveting journey through 19th-century India and Afghanistan to unravel the extraordinary exploits of Charles Masson and his discovery of the lost city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains at Bagram near Kabul. In conversation with journalist & author Taran N. Khan, Richardson will explore this tale of espionage, opportunity and discovery. Another session exploring history will feature celebrated author, politician and former diplomat Pavan K. Varma’s latest book, The Great Hindu Civilisation which unravels the texts and legacies behind its many layers and belief systems. Varma will be in conversation with eminent Indian author Makarand R. Paranjape.

British journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera, celebrated author, historian and Festival Co-director William Dalrymple, Member of Parliament & columnist Swapan Dasgupta and author and academic Mukulika Banerjeewill be in conversation at a session which will explore the reality and legacy of the British empire. Together, they will try to understand why the existence of the British Empire is often forgotten in Britain and the importance of coming to terms with a troubled past.

The Festival will also feature conservationist, documentary filmmaker and environmental Swati Thiyagarajan who will take us on a vivid and transformative journey in a fascinating world of conservation, nature and oceanography. In conversation with senior news anchor and environment reporter Gargi Rawat, Thiyagarajan will explore the fragility of life and humanity’s connection with nature along with the driving force behind her relentless efforts through the years.

Writer, publisher and Festival Director Namita Gokhale will speak of a life in books, from her debut novel, Paro: Dreams of Passion, that has remained a cult classic since it came out in 1984, to her 20th book, The Blind Matriarch. In a freewheeling conversation with Festival Producer & MD at Teamwork Arts Sanjoy K. Roy, she will take the audience through her first-hand encounters with the rich diversity of Indian and South Asian literatures, and the changing worlds they reflect. At another literary session, the American author of the critically acclaimed Luster, Raven Leilani will be in conversation with writer and journalist Catharine Morris. The intergenerational narrative of the book follows a young girl’s attempts at understanding life while navigating relationships, anger and her own hidden potential.


JLF London at the British Library, an annual celebration of books, creativity, dialogue and diversity, brings South Asia’s unique multilingual literary heritage to life in the heart of London. This year, the festival will be hosted on an exclusive virtual platform.

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