Saturday, March 31, 2007

KLILF - Some Thoughts

So some thoughts about this litfest - known gulpily as KLILF.

Any event that brings together a bunch of excellent writers to inspire us is mighty welcome. I really do thank all the organizers for their hard work. I know from the inside just how draining getting a festival together can be.

Some comments though which might be helpful for next time.

The timing wasn't great. Many of my friends were heartsick that they had to miss the events because they were working. There were no evening events except on the last night. Surely a festival like this should be as accessible to as many people as possible?

Events over the weekend would work best. The last Singapore Writers' Festival I seem to remember, took place over a couple of weekends with a few events on weekday evenings.

I liked that the venues were easily accessible. Parking wasn't a problem. Everything was in easy walking distance. There were plenty of good places to eat.

I liked Alexis best as a venue: it was comfortable and intimate.

Marmalade was a very nice space but distractingly noisy as only one section of the restaurant was closed off. Writers had to compete with the noise of the coffee grinder and the ice pick and the chat of other diners.

Cafe 1920 was a very public space as it is just next to the ramp which connects the two parts of Bangsar Village. New Zealand poet Elizabeth Smithers decided that her words would be lost here and asked for a change of venue. Performance poet Chris Mooney-Singh was unhappy with the acoustics.

Which all brings me to another point - folks who hadn't registered and paid could (and did) wander into events unchecked. There was one very loud and distracting German lady who was talking loudly during one of Benjamin Zephaniah's sessions when she shouldn't have been anywhere near it!

I was surprised that other very accessible venues in Bangsar weren't used though - Actor's Studio would have been an obvious choice. La Bodega are very keen to sponsor the arts and I'm sure would have lent a space. Seksan might have been happy to lend his inspiring space for an event or two, his place just a short walk away. And MPH - why was Bangsar's biggest bookstore sidelined when they have a very nice meeting area in their Bangsar Village store?

It wasn't possible to see many writers in a day. There were just 3 sessions, of one and a half hours, a day with long gaps between them, most of them featuring just a single writer. I liked the way the Ubud Readers and Writers festival worked, where the sessions ran in just two venues from 9-5 without a single break, and most featured at least a couple of writers. And of course there was a good programme of evening events at Ubud too.

To their credit the organisers had made sure most writers appeared twice so that readers weren't too torn as to who to go and see.

KLILF felt oddly without centre. There was no opening event or closure (except for Cecil Rajendran's party at Ronnie Q's which I couldn't make it to.) I had wanted to meet up with people and socialise, but everyone was so spread out that I didn't seem to bump into many folks.

There was zero buzz about the events outside the venues. Surely at the very least there should have been lots of banners around? Surely a festival should feel ... well, festive? I'm sure the vast majority of people who came to Bangsar village to shop during the festival had no idea that this event was on.

Our first KL Litfest by comparison was over ambitious and messy, spread out over too many venues and the organisers were right to scale it back to something more intimate and manageable. Overall, KLILF broadly succeeded in what it set out to do, but felt ... minimalist and half-hearted.

So ... what did you think?


eliza said...

Sharon, I'm one of those who paid but could not attend. I agree wholeheartedly that there should be evening sessions and weekend sessions.

Kenny Mah said...

Ditto here. Last night's poetry performances @ Central Market Annexe was the first one I could attend, plus the Poetry Slam later today. The way the Singapore LitFest organised seems a better option for future events, really.

Lydia Teh said...

Sharon, as a housewife, being able to attend while the kids were in school was great (though I had to rush back in the afternoon). But then working folk have to give it a miss unless they want to take leave. Overall, I'd say it was well organized. As to the venues, I prefer Starbucks. Alexis was ok but I don't like the seats - they're not comfortable and it was a tad too dark.

amaruhizat said...

I had to miss this one out. Work work work.

If you think KlIF sounds gulpily there's this one time I stumbled upon "Malaysia Islamic Liberation Front". Which the abbreviation is--MILF.

I was like wtf?

bibliobibuli said...

well amaruhizat, I was waiting for the next festival to be called the malaysian international literary festival

but really this oes show that you read the wrong kinds of websites!

Chet said...

I was going to take a few days off to attend the LitFest, and I registered. But then, I got put on a new project and I couldn't take time off at all. But I was determined to get to Dina's second reading which was in the evening. And that day, I was at the new office which is in Bukit Damansara and much closer to Bangsar. I was sure I could make it to the reading. But in the afternoon, I had to go back to the old office, but still very determined to get to the reading. I drove fast but safe, and the traffic was good, too. In the end, I arrived at around 10 to 6 - so happy to have made it! That was the only LitFest event I was able to attend.

amaruhizat said...


*ehem* but I assure you I read all the wrong kind of websites with a good kind of intention, namely...research.

Dina Zaman said...

i wish it was held over the weekend, friday to monday. a lot of friends wanted to come but couldn't.

while i applaud it, i did feel like i was floating. what was i going to do between the sessions? there's so much window shopping one can do.

oh well, at least the fest materialised! start small first!

bibliobibuli said...

start small first!

don't forget this litfest started enormous and unwieldy! but yes, i'm happy it happened and presented us with something that could be built on

agree though about the generous spacing between sessions padded out in the programme with promises of lunch and tea with the authors ...

Anonymous said...

get an organiser that can sell the event to bigboy like YTL and National Library maybe.... the whole thing came to a mess because of budget constraint.If the organiser get sponsorship from the corporate sector... then it's easier to get a "proper" non-shopping mall venue. KLPAC is a nice place with its theatre and garden, workshop and lake. Noted that the organiser is Silverfish which also reside in Bangsar. Maybe they should get away from their comfort zone? As one of the non-paying guest, i'm able to attend to most of the reading and joint. How? Well... when i know the venue is going to be in a commercial complex. And the organiser is Silverfish which obviously lack of manpower to run a Fest.