The Hindu Lit Fest 2024: championing free speech, democracy, and a pluralism of expression

Event to be held on January 26 and 27; panel themes to range from politics and the economy, to food, sports, fashion, and stand-up comedy; mobile library, curated walks, workshops, quizzes planned through January

January 04, 2024 08:05 pm | Updated January 17, 2024 07:32 pm IST - CHENNAI

For over a decade now, The Hindu Lit Fest has celebrated literature and its many facets, playing host to authors and performers, culture icons and eminent professionals.

The festival, in its 2024 edition to be held on January 26 and 27, once again promises to provide a platform that encourages and nurtures the exchange of ideas, allowing participants and audience to engage consciously with the important questions of the day.

The Hindu Lit Fest ensures that it actively makes room for an experience that both fosters and champions, above all, “free speech, the highest ideals of democracy, and a pluralism of expression in the arts and literature”.

As The Hindu Group Chairperson Nirmala Lakshman puts it, these are the “underlying core values that reflect the newspaper’s ethic”. They reflect the principles on which the festival, Dr. Lakshman’s brainchild, was founded back in the year 2011.

Voice of the unheard

“We also ensure space for the quieter unheard voices, for work that may not always be very visible, which we believe is valuable and needs to be showcased,” she says.

Dr. Lakshman emphasises the importance of curation, ensuring that what makes it to the final programme is a diverse but solid line-up, anchoring “the festival firmly to the underlying core values that reflect the newspaper’s ethic”.

Beyond books

As always, The Hindu Lit Fest, 2024 will go beyond books, expanding to include conversations that turn the spotlight on some incredibly important and urgent issues — from sessions on the global shift to hypernationalism to a discussion on countering viral falsehoods; from a conversation on Sangam poetry to the journey of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); and from a panel on understanding the history of idol worship to another on the Indian economy.

This year, focusing on both current affairs and larger societal shifts, programme director Rachana Singh Davidar and programme consultant Prasanna Ramaswamy have ensured that the panels offer conversations and food for thought on a wide and inclusive range of subjects, from politics and the economy, to food, sports, fashion, and stand-up comedy. There is something for everyone, and the line-up will feed your existing interests while also encouraging new ones.

The panellists, too, are experts, change-makers and leaders from a wide range of fields. Confirmed speakers for the 2024 edition include Ramachandra Guha, Tarun Tahiliani, T.M. Krishna, Perumal Murugan, Manu Chandra, Cyrus Broacha, Kanan Gill, Sreenivasan Jain, Shashi Tharoor, Amish Tripathi, Devdutt Pattanaik, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, William Dalrymple, Neerja Chowdhury and Anuja Chauhan.

Discussing the great diversity of brilliant speakers, Dr. Lakshman points out that “not all of them do the ‘festival rounds’, and [many of them] have come exclusively to us. For instance, S. Somanath, ISRO Chairman, will deliver a lecture on ISRO’s spectacular recent achievements at this year’s festival”.

Month-long events

One need not wait till January-end to begin experiencing the festival. Starting from the second week of the month, Chennai will see a series of on-ground engagements that include a kind of sampler of the things to come — from a mobile library to curated walks, sessions and workshops on storytelling, quizzes and contests — all designed to lead up to the main event.

The quality and scale of a festival such as The Hindu Lit Fest is not without its challenges, and Dr. Lakshman says that finding support from sponsors is the biggest one. “But because of our very hard-working marketing team, who really understand what we aim to do, we are able to garner support,” she says.

The 2024 edition has found its title partner in the Gsquare Group, in association with the NITTE Education Trust and Christ University.

FIITJEE is the festival’s associate partner. Higginbothams will be the festival’s Bookstore partner for this year.

As the festival grows, so does the audience. And as registrations keep increasing year on year, Dr. Lakshman says that this has a direct impact on the future of the festival itself which lies “firmly in the hands of our audience and the support they generate for the festival by showing up, attending sessions, asking questions and indeed by giving festivals like ours a great energy that shows how transformative literature, culture, ideas and conversations can be in a democratic society like ours”.

A long-term goal, she says, is to see this “sharpest of literary festivals become bigger and brighter and be a promoter of the best kind of work that human creativity has on offer.”

To find out more about The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, visit:

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