I recently descended upon the lush greenery of Bali’s cultural capital and home to the famous Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Southeast Asia’s largest and most celebrated literary event. Here to help with all things publicity, I wouldn’t be doing much of a job without devoting a post to this amazing event and how it has carved itself such a fantastic reputation over its 10 years of running.
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was first conceived by celebrated foodie Janet DeNeefe, Australian-turned-Indonesian after calling Bali her home for over thirty years. Launched as a healing project shortly after the Bali bombings, the Festival has since become one of Ubud’s strongest draw-cards, pulling in over 25,000 people each year from across Indonesia and the globe.
This year, the Festival will be running for a full five days of in-depth panel discussions, cultural masterclasses, street parties, poetry slams, cooking demos and much, much more, dotted throughout Ubud’s abundance of amazing venues. For those who haven’t yet visited, conjur images of restaurants and bars that perch above thick-forested gullies, endless lime green rice fields and giant solemn Buddha’s lining the roadside as wafts of incense fill the air.
Ubud is popular not just for its natural beauty, but for its relationship with culture and the arts, with barely a single night passing without live music, open mics or a showcase of local art. Despite its popularity (it is still one of Bali’s most visited tourist destinations), it has managed to retain its grassroots vibe – not yet over-run with the temples to consumerism that have swallowed Southern parts of the island.
So it seems natural that Ubud would be home to one of the best literary festivals in the world, this year enticing some of the worlds leading thinkers, performers and artists including acclaimed travel author Colin Thubron, Scottish crime-writer Val McDermid, New York Times best-seller Carl Hoffman, and leading Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery, amongst many more. In fact, the UWRF has lured over 150 authors from over 25 countries; not just the big names but emerging writers too, in recognition of amazing new talent hitting the scene both in Indonesia and elsewhere.
I confess, I’m no book critic myself – although I’m never not in the middle of a novel (or two) at any given time – so being involved in the Festival has so far been a pretty big journey through the literary and artistic scene. Already, I’m in awe at the knowledge and expertise of the Festival team, who are in a constant flow of conversation about the amazing program of events and speakers. My favourite part of the office is a giant bookshelf of all the novels from our program contributors, which I hope to slowly make my way through over the coming weeks (I feel a book review blog coming on!).
Watch this space for more updates on all things Ubud; while I’m here I plan to explore the famous culinary scene, have a cocktail or two, as well as explore the surrounding beaches, mountains, islands and temples that make this tiny dot on the map so well-loved by everyone who visits.
Image credits: Matt Oldfield, 2013. More beautiful imagery from the UWRF’s past years can be found via their FLICKR account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ubudwritersfest