Representation is a huge topic in publishing, especially as publishers and readers want every child to have the opportunity to see themselves in a book. We have a guest blog today from Indi Deol about DESIblitz, a South Asian Literature Festival happening now in Birmingham.
The DESIblitz Literature Festival, the UK’s leading South Asian Literature Festival, will take place from 12th – 25th November 2022, featuring a line-up of leading British South Asian and South Asian literary stars. A mix of in-person events in, Birmingham and digital sessions, festival tickets are free of charge, available through the website.
Now in its fifth year, the festival offers author talks, panel discussions, workshops, and poetry performances, and aims to encourage young, aspiring British Asian writers. The festival showcases South Asian literary and cultural excellence, and demonstrates the remarkable contribution of South Asian writers, poets, and artists to the British cultural landscape.
A truly unique cultural festival, the DESIblitz Literature Festival will feature discussions with award-winning authors and journalists, acclaimed directors and screenwriters, renowned poets and more, tackling topics including representation in publishing, advice for aspiring authors, and the importance of identity and heritage in the stories we tell.
The DESIblitz.com website has launched the careers of over 40 British South Asian journalists, and now uses the festival to inspire a younger generation of British South Asians to read and write more often.
During this year’s festival we are honoured to have events with author of children’s and young adult fiction Bali Rai and Sufiya Ahmed who has written several children’s books throughout her career. Bali is doing a workshop on creative writing for young writers, and he is also on a separate Q&A panel discussion with Sufiya on writing for children.
Why do we need a DESIblitz Literature Festival?
This festival was started for many reasons but at the core it has always been the need to support emerging writers from Asian backgrounds to get into the literature sector where the statistics show there is a chronic under representation and to build new connections for these writers with more established authors/publishers to help them thrive.
Representation still matters now in 2022 as much as it did when I was growing up and at school as a child. When I was growing up, I hardly visited the library or connected with the books I was made to read because I could not see any references to my British Asian lifestyle being reflected in the books or in the authors.
The young people of today do have more choice and variety in the books they read than we did but change is still not happening fast enough. We now have a chance to change the narrative within literature and to become more reflective of the communities in which we live. A greater diversity in literature is vital as it will mean more people of colour reading and writing and that is exactly what we aim to accomplish with our festival.
What we need is a top-down approach with publishers taking more responsibility for implementing change at the very top including the make-up of the staff and retaining talent within their organisations. We all want to see people who look like us and who come from similar backgrounds working in the bookshops on the high street and again change is happening but much more needs to be done to get this right.
The educational system is barely recognisable since I was at school due to all the changes that have taken place over the last decade alone. What’s even more shocking than that is that what is being taught to our young people has hardly changed at all!
Penguin Random House did a recent study which highlighted the lack of inclusion in schools which showed that fewer than 1% of students at GCSE study a book by a writer of colour. Are we deliberately being denied the opportunity to study writers of colour within our educational institutions? I would go further to say, that the curriculum being taught today is out of touch with society and certainly does not reflect the diversity of inner cities in which we live and this in turn hinders the emotional and intellectual growth of young people.
Now more than ever we need to achieve greater diversity within literature and greater inclusion within our curriculum for our young people in education. We at DESIblitz Literature Festival along with others will continue to push for positive change as we move ahead and I for one, truly believe it’s not too far away.
We certainly will not stop doing what we do in this space until every reader, writer, author, or young person has the best possible literary experience possible in the future.
About Indi Deol: Festival Director and Founder of the DESIblitz Literature Festival
Indi Deol is the Founding Director of the UK’s largest online British Asian magazine DESIblitz where he leads on advertising, leadership development and strategic business growth. He also runs Aidem Digital CIC which is a Social Enterprise and digital media agency focused on delivering projects that produce a positive social return. Indi sits on the board for Culture Central – which is the collective voice of the cultural sector in the West Midlands, the advisory board of Aston University Business School; he is a consultant for BFI Film Audience Network and he sits on the West Midland Combined Authority Cultural Leadership Board. He thrives on achieving success through utilising his digital skills to solve marketing and business problems. His education and background include a strong emphasis on fashion design, and over the last decade, he has been immersed in online media, and content marketing.