About the festival

The three-day programme of events in 2013 included authors and speakers from Bangladesh and across the world.

Hay Festival Dhaka in 2011

Following Hay Festival Kerala 2011, visitors were urged to attend a one-day pilot festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh, bringing together writers and thinkers from Bangladesh and Britain to share stories and ideas in the spirit of Rabindranath Tagore in his 150th anniversary year.

The South Asian city was host to a programme of readings, book launches, and literary panels in the grounds of the British Council on the Dhaka University campus.

Over 700 visitors were treated to a series of events that included a lecture by BBC anchor Nik Gowing, a discussion on the art of translation with Welsh writer Jon Gower, and events that celebrated the rich literary heritage of Bangladesh. Well-known Bangladeshi novelists Selina Hossain, Fakrul Alam and Niaz Zaman shared a stage with British and Welsh authors Jon Gower, Tiffany Murray, Andrew Miller and Jan Blake.

Authors read to packed audiences who were eager to share their enthusiasm for books. Many spoke about their love of literature and their excitement at having an international panel of writers with whom they could interact and engage.

At the end of the day, both audience members and writers were left wanting more, and the Hay Festival will continue what it has begun here – an important dialogue about books, how they engage with both the historical past and the urgent present, and how Bangladesh, 150 years after the birth of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, can once again become a centre for world literature.

This felt like an extraordinary moment and focus for the English language writers in Bangladesh and perhaps for post-1971 Bengali writing too; and it’s a real turning point for the Hay Festival team. We’ve never had such a thrilling debut anywhere. I think we’ve all fallen for the city, and were captivated by the robust intellectual energy and joy of the audiences. At a stroke, it’s leapt up the list of our international priorities and aspirations for development.”Peter Florence, Director Hay Festivals

Among those taking part in previous Dhaka Hay Festivals were Tagore translator and litterateur Fakrul Alam, journalists Mahfuz Anam and Lorna Bradbury, Festival Counsellor and novelist Tahmima Anam, writer and columnist Farah Ghuznavi, storyteller Jan Blake, Hay Festival Director Peter Florence, author and publisher Niaz Zaman, bilingual novelists Jon Gower and Syed Manzoorul Islam, British Council Literature Director Susanna Nicklin, literary critic Firdous Azim, cultural activist and researcher Lubna Marium, teaching artist Naila Azad, poet Kaiser Haq, novelists Andrew Miller, Tiffany Murray, Shazia Omar and leading feminist author Selina Hossain.

Read interview with Selina Hossain, ‘in conversation’ in The Daily Star.

Read article by Festival Counsellor Tahmima Anam in The Telegraph.

Entry to the events is free to all.

  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
  • Dhaka
The Hay Festival presents a wonderful opportunity to create dialogue between leading British and Bangladeshi authors; I hope this event will herald a new wave of Bangladeshi writing as we bring some of the magic of Hay to Dhaka.”Tahmima Anam

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is located in the geographic centre of the country, in the great deltaic region of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The city is within the monsoon climate zone, in one of the world’s leading rice and jute growing regions. Dhaka is divided into an old city and a new city.

Photographs of Bangladesh by Safia Azim