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Scotland guest of honour at Kolkata Book Fair


Kolkata : Scotland will be the guest of honour at the 30th Kolkata Book Fair, the largest book carnival in Asia, to be held at the Park Circus Maidan in central Kolkata from Jan 29 to Feb 10.

American author Paul Theroux will inaugurate the fair. While United States is the theme country this year, that honour will be bestowed on Scotland next year.

“The British Council East India, British Council Scotland and Education UK Scotland will jointly host a series of programmes in the British Council stall at the fair on the occasion,” Samarjit Guha, head programmes, British Council, East India, said Wednesday.

A discussion on publishing and entrepreneurship will be held Jan 30 in which a host of speakers such as the International young publishing award winner 2007 S. Anand, publisher Mandira Sen, publisher from Argentina Octavio Kules and academic Swapan Chakraborty will take part.

The discussion will be followed by the announcement of the India finalist for the International Young Publisher Entrepreneur of the Year Award by Roy Cross, Director, British Council, Scotland.

On Jan 31, Scottish writers Robin Robertson and Maggie Ferguson will read from their works followed by a question-and-answer session.

On Feb 5 and 6, Catherine Lockerbie, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, will lead a discussion on book festivals and also launch the Unesco City of Literature bid document and film.

British Council is initiating the bid document to give Kolkata the City of Literature title shared only by Edinburgh so far.

On Feb 7, Keeper of the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland Henrietta Lidchi will give a talk on museums of past and present.

The Scottish link will continue with the performance of singer Eddi Reader, who rose to prominence through the popular band Fairground Attraction, whose number one single “Perfect” won Best Single at the 1999 Brit Awards.

The series will conclude with a performance Feb 10 by Eddi Reader after the closing of the Book Fair to announce Scotland as the Theme of the Book Fair in 2009.

The Kolkata Book Fair is the most awaited annual cultural event of the city. It is Asia’s biggest and the world’s largest non-trade book fair but there have been controversies regarding the venue of the event.

The city’s green brigade had vehemently protested the choice of the venue, saying a cultural jamboree of such magnitude in a thickly populated area like Park Circus would be an environmental hazard.

A huge fire had destroyed the book fair in 1997 when it was held in the Maidan, with far more open space around. The fire had spread from a food kiosk.

The Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild, organisers of the book fair, had to shift the venue from the Maidan to Salt Lake in 2007 after environmental activists won a legal battle to stop the event from being held in the city’s green area.

The guild has set up an environmental protection cell after pollution-related controversies over hosting this year’s literary carnival.