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Annasi & Kadalagotu: Savour local literature in all its simple glory

For those who love to read books and discuss them with the friends or coworkers, October brings in good news. This is the National Reading Group Month, and it’s the perfect time to start or join a reading group.

Today is October 1, but not sure where to start?

Take a stroll in the colonial grounds of the Mount Lavinia hotel.

Well, that is a dreamlike experience to a common man. Yet that dream will be materialised this month thanks to the meticulous efforts of Annasi and Kadalagotu team.

Captain Elmo Jayawardena had one primary objective when he founded and initiated the Annasi and Kadalagotu literary festival (AK LitFest): simply literature, simply local. With that slogan, the literary festival opened its doors to anyone interested in the arts.

Continuing to expand the borders of literature, the A&K (Annasi & Kadalagotu) Literary Festival will be back on October 21 at the iconic Mount Lavinia Hotel for the fourth consecutive year. Entrance for the full day festival is priced at only Rs. 100/- in keeping with the core objective of making literature available for all and aptly themed ‘Simply Local, Simply Literature’.

Born from the idea of providing a platform for anyone who loves literature and comes from all walks of life - since literature should be enjoyed in its own stride, even as you nibble upon slices ofAnnasi or Kadala in gotu –over the past few years the A&K Lit Fest has brought together a variety of writers, poets, dramatists, musicians and artists in a range of panels that discuss writing, publishing, performing, travel, digital writing, and comics.

The panel discussions for this year, as in the past, promise to push the perimeters of literature by not confining to novel or poetry writing alone but explore the many other avenues in which ideas are expressed. The dialogues attempt to touch upon governance, writing in the digital era, science fiction, short films as well as an opportunity for debut writers.

Short Story Competition

A short story competition in all three language – English, Sinhala and Tamil - is being conducted parallel to the literary festival where writers can submit their pieces under the two age categories of ‘13-18 years’ and ‘18 years & above’. Submissions can be made directly through the A&K Lit Fest website The winners of the competition will be announced at the literary festival on October 21.

Creative Writing Workshops

Two creative writing workshops; for students and adults, will be held in the morning of the festival. Registration for these workshops is free. Since seating is limited, each workshop will only host 30 people. Registrations can be done through emailing Nishika on [email protected].

Book Launches

As done every year, the A&K Lit Fest will once again open its doors to writers who are looking for a space to launch their new books. The past years have seen these book launches help writers immensely as they provide them with an option to an otherwise expensive and tedious task of organizing a book launch. Those interested in launching their books at the A&K Lit Fest can contact Dhananath on [email protected] for more details.

The Mount Lavinia Hotel joins the festival as official venue partner, creating the ideal setting for literature to be enjoyed; seeped in its own history and picturesque beauty, with the Indian Ocean as the background.

Your only requirement is that orange-hued hundred-rupee note to settle the entrance ticket and be a noted participant of the event. And the rest was not what you could usually experience at the Mount Lavinia hotel another day.

The participants have the opportunity to browse local publications in all three languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English. The festival will also feature three attractive food outlets by the hotel with a variety of local food and beverages available at affordable rates. The food, of course, included kadala (chickpeas) served in gotu.

The festival will also provide provided grounds to book launches. The benefit of such a book launch is the opportunity to have their books launched in a historical place.

At the inaugural festival, Captain Elmo Jayawardane elaborated why he wanted to initiate a festival of this calibre.

“Hundreds of prospective amateur writers pen or type their lines and pour their thoughts out to paper with humble expectations of getting published. That is the ‘day-dream’ of anyone who loves to write. The reality is so very different. Most times it is a trudge from pillar to post with a dust-laden manuscript seeking that ‘elusive door’ which seldom opens. Often the success rate is so low that the ‘would be literati’ then admits defeat and becomes one more “also wrote” to add to the ‘Dead Poets Society’.

It is not the publishers’ fault. They run a business, it is not anybody’s fault. It is just the way things are.

“People love to write and they write and fail to publish and then they fade away discouraging the rest who are struggling to write.

So we need literary events. Places where pedestrian participation is given precedence. The stage must be for people who write. Not only from the top shelf, but from any rung in the ladder as long as they are writers and poets. That is the thought behind Annasi and Kadalagotu,” Captain Jayawardane added.

The AK LitFest has focuses on giving the grassroots of Sri Lankan literature a platform to showcase their talents and also expose a wider Sri Lankan audience to the enchantment of literature.

AK is also about exposing as many as possible to the various different languages that compose Sri Lankan literature.

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