posted on May 7th, 2019

First list of speakers announced as ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’ comes to NI

Noirin McKinney, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer for the Jaipur Literature Festival, Colette Norwood,British Council
Radhika Deshpande, Daniel Perskawiec, Pradnya Joshi and Archana Kadam, at the launch of the Festival.

Preparations are well underway, as one of the biggest, most spectacular literature festivals in the world gets set to come to Northern Ireland for the first time this June. JLF Belfast will recreate the magnificent spirit, colour, energy and atmosphere of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in India, with a packed weekend of events celebrating books, creativity, ideas and culture.

Among those already confirmed for the two day line-up are: Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Indian diplomat and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; esteemed writers Brian Keenan and Patrick Gale and award-winning poet Ruth Padel. Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers Teamwork Arts, events will take place on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd, at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

In the true spirit of the original festival, JLF Belfast will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland, the UK and more, for a unique literature festival celebrating a joint love of books, creativity, music, and sharing each other’s stories. Themes under discussion will include Borders, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Tagore, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence. Early-bird tickets are available to buy now, with day passes from £25/£14 concession and children’s workshops from £5.  Full programme details will be announced later in May.

Paul McVeigh, Writer and Programmer JLF Belfast, commented: “Never been to India? Well, a little of Jaipur is coming here to us. We are delighted to reveal today the first details of our June programme and there is much to look forward to. The festival will be a wonderful, immersive experience. If you love listening to and engaging with writers and thinkers from around the world then you’ll love JLF Belfast.”

Namita Gokhale, Writer and co-Director of the festival, commented: “The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi’ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy. He has written and published a number of books including Evil Cradling (1991), and Turlough (1996).


Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature and History at Delhi University. A monthly columnist for The Hindustan Times (New Delhi), The Telegraph (Kolkata), Nai Dunia(Indore) and Scroll , he writes for The Hindu (Chennai) as well. He is currently Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University.

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. In addition to his latest, Take Nothing With You, which was his fourth Sunday Times bestseller, his novels include Little Bits of Baby (1989), The Cat Sanctuary (1990), The Facts of Life (1995), Tree Surgery for Beginners (1998), Rough Music (2000), A Sweet Obscurity (2003), Friendly FireNotes From an Exhibition (2007), The Whole Day Through (2009), A Perfectly Good Man (2012) and A Place Called Winter (2015). There are also two collections of short stories, Dangerous Pleasures (1996) and Gentleman’s Relish (2009).

In 2017 his Man in an Orange Shirt was screened by BBC2 as part of the Gay Britannia season, which also featured the documentary All Families Have Secrets – the Narrative Art of Patrick Gale. Continuing to be broadcast regularly around the world, it won an International Emmy for best miniseries. He is currently working on a feature film adaptation of a Rose Tremain short story, a television adaptation of A Place Called Winter and two of early 20th century classics.

Ruth Padel is an award-winning poet and conservationist, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London. Her works include The Mara Crossing on migration, Emerald for green in a dark time, and Tigers in Red Weather, a prose memoir of tiger conservation.

William Dalrymple is a bestselling author of In Xanadu, City of DjinnsFrom the Holy Mountain, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives, and Return of a King: An Indian Army in Afghanistan. He has won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the French Prix d’Astrolabe, the Wolfson Prize for History, the Scottish Book of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Asia House Award for Asian Literature, the Vodafone/Crossword Award for nonfiction, and has, prior to the shortlisting of Return of a King, been longlisted three times for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In September 2016, a Hindustani translation of The Last Mughal was released as Aakhri Mughal. His latest book is Kohinoor, co-written with Anita Anand and he is currently working on the upcoming The Anarchy, scheduled to release in autumn this year. Dalrymple is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival.


JLF Belfast runs 21-23 June 2019 

Prices for JLF Belfast start from £25 for a day pass/ £14 Concession

To book your ticket visit or