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This year the Jaipur Literature Festival starts at a 3D Diggi Palace

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Event debut boasts an enviable group of speakers, including Noam Chomsky and Malala Yousafzai, and some entertainment technology

Someone once described the Jaipur Literature Festival [JLF] like Dasma monsoon meets the Hay Festival, William Dalrymple tells me during a phone call from New Delhi. Anyone who enjoys it Dasma monsoon in turn the colors, the spectacle and the crowds will undoubtedly miss it. But I think there have been compensations in the amazing quality of [300] Speakers this year: Noam Chomsky, Malala Yousafzai, Joseph Stiglitz, Mark Haddon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Robert Macfarlane, Philip Pullman for free! In the West, each would be a $ 50 ticket, says the writer, historian and festival director (a title he shares with publisher Namita Gokhale).

We are discussing the 14th edition of the largest literary show on Earth being digitized. Prior to the pandemic, the annual bibliophile pilgrimage had seen the Pink City come alive with hotels booked months ago, students coming out at train stations and visitors mingling between blocked sessions and book signings. The evenings were buzzing with shows, special tours and exclusive dinners. But 2021 is seeing the 10-day festival exchanging the physical foundations of Diggi Palace for a 3D interpretation of it.

The biggest challenge was how to capture the essence of JLF, says Sanjoy K Roy, festival producer and managing director of Teamwork Arts, an entertainment company. For beginners, they have tried to keep it as visual as possible. We have the entrance to the Diggi Palace featured on the web site. Enter it to choose between sessions on the front lawn or in the Durbar Hall and 3D interpretations will show you the way [to your destination]. Once you get there, you will be taken to the on-screen box where the sessions take place. While some will be recorded live such as conversations with satirist Craig Brown and art critic Ranjit Hoskote others the sessions will be in Zoom and some will be pre-recorded. Guests can also choose to hear the applause by clicking a button. The idea is to give Diggi an experience as close as possible, adds Roy.

Sponsorships hit

  • It is expected the pandemic has affected sponsorship. It has been such a deadly year for most organizations around the world, and especially in India, with limited support. So we went through a really tough time, says Roy. But we still have some of our regular sponsors.

The last few months were spent navigating the internet and putting into practice the lessons they had learned from the series of digital conversations such as the JLF Brave New World (April) they had organized in 2020. [We had to tackle questions like] how do we reach people? How do we manage the algorithms released by all social media channels? How can we count the crisis and get good data from people who visit? Weve been able to turn that whole lesson and use it for JLF, to better target our audience, Roy says, adding that in many ways, they also went back to their roots in television because it has to do with indeed with the creation of hundreds of program hours. An advantage of being virtual: the festival is accessible to different audiences. Our third or fourth highest audience internationally is from Germany. Weve never spent money on marketing there.

What about virtual reality, which music festivals like Burning Man used last year? The art of teamwork made it to Earth Fabula, an exhibition and sale held in August last year as a fundraiser for artists and artisans. But for most audiences, negotiating something like this is not necessarily easy, he says, adding that they have tried to make the festival as phone-friendly as possible because 70% of the audience will have JLF access on their phones. .

Exclusive session

  • An exclusive session with American fantasy author Sarah J Maas will be open only to those who buy her books. Sessions with Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Bill Gates will not be available on social media. You can only see it on our website, says Roy.

Roy is confident that the future of JLF will include digital events. I don’t think they were coming out of his digital aspect. For example, in the front lawn, there were an average of about 14,000 people. Today, an average session has 29,000 to 32,000 people online. You can no longer beat statistics.

Harvard class

Meanwhile, for Dalrymple, the lack of physical material that relieves the inconveniences of travel, accommodation and the like has made him able to speak on board that he was forever trying to get. Even by the usual JLF standards, these are incredible names, he says. Just get the Harvard crew. Vincent Brown, who was the finalist in The Cundill History Prixe for his amazing book [Tackys Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War]; Michael Sandel, who probably has the highest profile of all Harvard professors with his stunning TV presentations on law and ethics; and Michael Puett [who teaches Chinese history and anthropology], the only most popular professor at Harvard.

From 19-28 February. Subscribe to jaipurliteraturefestivali.org

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