The organisers of the Chennai Literary Festival have many reasons to cheer about on the success of the fifth edition of the festival. The twenty per cent increase in participation at the CLF is something phenomenal at a time when electric gadgets rule the roost.

The festival is an outcome of a strategic partnership between academic institutions and the citizens of the city. This annual festival is organized by a group of like-minded including academicians, social activists, professionals, businessmen, artists and publishers from Chennai and they host this event.

The University of Madras, its English department headed by Prof S Armstrong, play a pivotal role along with its constituent colleges and other academic colleges in the city.

The Chennai Literary Festival endeavours to create a confluence of literature and art forms. It is unique in many aspects as its core objective is to target potential young readers and it aims to inculcate and cultivate reading habits beyond their academics. The activities and events are designed towards achieving this objective and in providing right climate to kindle their interest in literature.

The uniqueness of CLF is the series of workshops conducted in parallel across various colleges on a range of subjects including literary theory, copy editing, film and literature, corporate grooming, journalistic writing, theatre, critical thinking, writing for a given scene, translation studies, storytelling, Dalit literature and poetry reading among others. Participation for students and the public are free. The fifth edition of the festival saw more than 3,000 students attending as many as 21 workshops conducted across 16 colleges in the city over three days. The participant count was 2,500 last year and the year before.

‘Today, there is an urge among students to acquire new skill sets, and in the quickest possible way. The workshops were designed to cater to their requirements’, says RJ Kumaravel, President of the festival’s organising committee. Prof Mangayarkarasi, a key member and a faculty at Ethiraj College, says the wide variety of topics offered, provides students the opportunity to choose the one that they are interested in. ‘For the students, the workshops, unlike their mundane classes, create more opportunity for interaction and provide a platform to meet and share ideas with students of other city colleges’, Prof Armstrong, head of the department of English, University of Madras. What helps is that the workshops are free and open to all, says Latha Rajan, the past president of the festival committee.

The literary festival is conducted in two stages. First, the literary events like picture story writing, mono acting, story writing, literary Tableau (freeze a scene), Adzap, sing a story, stage a scene, dramatic monologue and so on were conducted at one college (this year at MGR Janaki Arts and Science College) few weeks prior to the festival. Each partner college takes responsibility for an event. They promote the event to other colleges; prepare the logistics for successful completion till judging the winners; the winners are awarded with certificates and cash prizes. Other participants are given certificates. ‘In the current festival in the events which were held on 9th December 2017, around 1500 students have participated. The second stage is a three-day event, that includes inaugural on the first day, workshops on the second day and the valedictory on the last day. This year the festival was held on 08, 09 and 10th January. To promote CLF, activities like Walkathon, Chennai Reads, Oratorical competition in Tamil were conducted’, Rajan adds.

The cross-pollination of ideas by eminent academicians and experts from different walks of life contributed to the success of the Literary Festival. The last day of the festival coincided with the inauguration of another prestigious event, the Chennai Book Fair; a logical continuation.