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JLF plans to expand international footprint with permanent presence in Toronto

JLF’s co-founder and festival producer, Sanjoy Roy, announced he is looking at making the festival a fixture in Toronto.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2018 16:53 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Martin Puchner (R) in conversation with Homi K. Bhabha (L) during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) at Diggi Palace in January.
Martin Puchner (R) in conversation with Homi K. Bhabha (L) during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) at Diggi Palace in January.(Raj K Raj/HT File Photo)

After establishing annual events in London and in Boulder, Colorado, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is set to expand its international footprint with a permanent presence in Toronto, where the inaugural festival is expected to be held in September.

JLF’s co-founder and festival producer, Sanjoy Roy, announced he is looking at making the festival a fixture in Canada’s largest city, as he appeared on a panel along with India‘s envoy to Canada, Vikas Swarup, during the annual Canada-India Partnership Summit.

“What we’re hoping to do is in September, this or the next depending on how or when we are able to find the resources, do a three-day festival at (the) Distillery (district in Toronto),” Roy said on the sidelines of the summit organised by the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC).

JLF moved beyond Jaipur, where it was founded in 2006, to London five years ago and then expanded to Boulder two years after that.

One reason for bringing India’s biggest show in literature to Canada was Roy’s co-panelist, since Swarup, also an acclaimed author, was “bullying” JLF to bring its act to the country.

As Swarup said, “I think it’s a great idea. Canada needs a JLF because Canada is a model of diversity and JLF is a festival of diversity. And Toronto, which now has the reputation of being the most diverse city on the planet, is the perfect fit for a festival like JLF.”

While JLF was considering a pop-up event in Toronto earlier, along the lines of its one-day debut at New York’s Museum of Modern Art last year, the plan, now in an advanced state, is of going the whole hog with a three-day celebration of the arts that will return to the city each year.

“Canada was not necessarily on our radar but the more we’ve been in the US, the more we’ve understood that Canada as a culture and a country is so completely different,” Roy said. And Toronto appeared to be an apt destination, when the organisers asked themselves the question: “Where’s the largest catchment area where we can find a niche?”

The intent is to make JLF integral to Toronto’s landscape, not just an import from India, by involving talent from within Canada, including those from the First Nations or indigenous communities.

Among those delighted with the prospect of JLF’s imminent arrival in Toronto is Kasi Rao, CEO and president of C-IBC, who moderated the discussion between Roy and Swarup.

He said, “At a time when we all seek to project soft power, the JLF offers a model perspective on how to do it.It is a projection of India’s soft power with a direct connect to literary Canadian giants like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. For this remarkable festival to put Toronto on its radar would be terrific.It would yet again show Toronto’s prowess and materially advance our economic interests with India.”

That enthusiasm will be shared by many in the city hoping JLF becomes a permanent feature of its cultural landscape, which is exactly the plan, as Roy said, “When we come in we don’t come in for one-offs, we come basically to stay.”