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Rico’s Blog : UWRF 2009, Day 1

8 October 2009

The literary buffet is open… queue up!

Wednesday is “the light day” at the Festival — “light,” of course, being a relative word. I unfortunately, spent the first half of my day dealing with hotels. Had to sort out a move from one to another and deal with all the various mundane tasks that go with that exercise. By the time I got it all sorted, I was late for the Opening Press Conference.

The Press Conference was not terribly well attended, which was quite a shame given the quality of the panel present. Wole Soyinka, Hari Kunzru, to name but two of those on hand. (Are mainstream journos too intimidated by literary titans to show up and cover them, I find myself wondering… ) The conversation centered on the genesis and ongoing motivation for the Festival. Wole’s comments focused on the necessity for positive efforts to counter the negative events that sometimes seem so pervasive. One of the most striking elements about him being his rejection of cynicism — his commitment to try to make a difference, regardless of likelihood of success. It’s refreshing to see that the man embodies the principles he proclaims.

balinese dancerPost-Press Conference I hopped on my toy moto and raced across town to change into something suitable for the Gala Opening. (The road construction that currently completely blocks the main road of Ubud is a major pain in the butt!) I made it back just in time for the Opening, which was held at the Ubud Palace (see photo). The venue is spectacular, as is typical of Bali’s larger palaces and temples. Atmospheric is an understatement. The very stones seem imbued with the ether of a parallel world.

The Gala Opening was largely what one would expect: a bit of entertainment, a fair number of speeches by various esteemed personages, some more entertainment and a formal “This Festival is Official Open.” Took a few photos — they are up on the Facebook page.

After, I grabbed a cold Bintang, then headed over to Pura Dalem for the Tribute to WS Rendra. The place was absolutely packed. I was pleasantly surprised to see this level of support for someone that I assumed was not widely known. The tribute was heartfelt and a rich, warm experience. I think in hindsight we will look back on it as one of the Festival highlights.

Grabbed a bit of nosh before heading back to the hotel to write it all up — only to find no Internet connection. Welcome to Bali…


Jo’s Blog: Awe inspiring start to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival!

8 October 2009

Began the festival with a book launch from Australian author Margo O’Byrne whose book ‘Left Unsaid’ is a true act of resilience. After the tragic death of her father at a young age, Margo witnessed her mother’s descent into alcoholism resulting in the neglect of both Margo and her brother. The audience was moved to tears as fellow author Arnold Zable read an excerpt from the book which detailed Margo being found ‘guilty’ by the courts for being an abused child. Stirring memoirs which remind us of how writing can really help one understand oneself.

Met fellow book launch author Margaret Stephenson Meere there, who launches her own groundbreaking spiritual parenting book ‘The Child within the Lotus: Human Behavior from Birth’ tomorrow. She’s a fascinating lady who explained that her book had almost become like a birthing process and aligned her book launch as a process of letting go, almost like a “child at the first day of school”. She explained that her guide is not merely focusing on parenting techniques but also delves into the ‘child within’ and the role of ‘parenting ideas’ throughout life. Excited to see what occurs at her book launch!

Wearing traditional Balinese dress or ‘kabaya’ I followed up the book launch with the Official Gala Opening at the Ubud Palace; a beautifully ornate Hindu temple in the centre of Ubud. Balinese dances, poetry readings and welcome speeches were the order of the evening.

Wandered down a sleepy street in Ubud, taking small steps in my sarong; I entered the Puri Dalem, a dramatically lit temple that set the scene for a tribute to the powerful performance poet WS Redraw who recently passed away. He returned to Indonesia from New York and found a spirited passion in the Indonesian people. His poetry and plays, which he called ‘pamphlets’, reflected the current state of society at the time and were deemed so controversial that, in 1978, Rendra was imprisoned for one year without trial, following a poetry reading in Jakarta. Friends and fellow poets, both Indonesian and foreign helped to bring this charismatic character to life.

What a wonderful way to start a most fascinating literary journey, I can’t wait for tomorrow.

(Jo & Rico are covering the 2009 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival for various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and this WordPress Blog.)

Program Changes for Thursday, 8 October

8 October 2009

Please remember, there’s only one constant in this world: change.

Main Program


1.45 – 3.15
Moving Stories: the pleasures of writing for screen
Dany Laferriere CANCELLED


10.15 – 11.45
Poetry across the archipelago
NEW CHAIR: Debra Yatim

1.15 – 2.15
In Conversation with Hari Kunzru
Neel Mukherjee – CANCELLED

Left Bank Lounge

10.15 – 11.45
Folklore, myth & the new millenium
Mansoura Ez Eldin – CANCELLED

12.00 – 1.30
Telling Tales: the Role of Storytelling
Arthur Flowers – CANCELLED

1.45 – 2.45
Covering the world
Bruce Dover and Woon Tai Ho CANCELLED

Special Events

Karaoke Cabaret Cancelled – Jazz Café, 9pm

Rico’s Blog: UWRF 2009, Tuesday, Day -1

7 October 2009

Blogs are slippery things. Part reportage, part personal journal, part literary masturbation. On the whole, they tend to veer wildly from vaguely useful to hugely specious. That fact alone should be enough to discourage most self-conscious types from blogging. Undertaking the task of blogging about a literary festival raises the stakes even further. Nonetheless, fortified by free cocktails and an unflagging willingness to be mocked mercilessly, I venture forth…

Today is labelled “-1” as we’re still one day out from The Event Itself. Yes, there were things happening, but this was not an official event day — at least not for the general public.

Today was all about getting things done. Getting participants picked up at the airport. Getting them booked into hotels. Getting press kits distributed. Getting our proverbial and literal acts together across a wide variety of channels. And, if that was the measure of our day, it was a success. People were picked up at the airport, checked into their hotels, given their press kits and in general stroked, soothed, encouraged and groomed for the literary onslaught that begins on the morrow.

For most of this day I was running about trying to cover last minute issues. Like many others, I needed to get into my hotel. I also needed to clear up press access for our team (we’re providing the social media coverage). Most of the day, however, was spent running around on a ridiculous little motorcycle (I am physically large) with a GPS, updating the online map of venues we’ve created for Festival visitors (see the link on the right column of this page). Bali is a wonderful place in general, but slightly less so on a motorcycle. Traffic patterns here tend toward the manic; just as you think things are smoothing out, chaos rears its head. Trying to spot venues as you simultaneously dodge children, dogs, potholes and other vehicles is really not my preferred way to spend a day in Ubud.

While the daylight hours were filled with a large measure of scurrying around, by sunset, things had calmed down dramatically. The writers and the members of the media gathered for the first official event of the Festival — a sunset cocktail party at the Four Seasons Sayan.

Reviews of the Four Seasons Sayan are often studded liberally with adjectives like “stunning,” “lush,” and “picturesque.” While all those terms can be fairly applied to the scene, by far and away the best description (to my mind at least) is “other worldly.” The hotel itself clings to the side of a river valley, like kudzu. The cocktail venue is reached by a short walk out a candle lined walkway; a walkway that takes you straight away from the valley wall. Each step takes you further out into the abyss. The walkway terminates on a circular plane filled with water and floating plants. The venue for the cocktail is a platform in the middle of this plane. Around the perimeter — air. It has a surreal feel. One feels suspended, exposed. As the design of the venue is undeniably modern, there is a tension in the juxtaposition with the living noisy forest at dusk.

Oddly, the cocktail started very slowly — something one does not normally expect when you combine the nouns “writers” and “media” with the phrase “free cocktails.” Nonetheless, it was very pleasant and well-attended. At the conclusion, everyone piled into vehicles and headed out for a dinner organized by the Festival. I took a pass on the dinner, choosing instead to dine alone at one of my favorite Ubud haunts, Terazo. Heaven knows there will be plenty of socializing over the course of the next few days. Afterwards I headed back to the hotel in hopes of getting a bit of work done and a reasonable amount of sleep…

Wednesday is the slowest day of the Festival. Things don’t really start to crank up until the evening, with the opening party and the night events. Thursday is a different matter altogether, with a scheduled crammed from early morning to late evening.

Over the next few days – time and spirit(s) permitting, I will add to this blog. We’ll also be posting photos from various daily events on our Facebook page, so drop by there to see the Galleries (sorry, but posting photos here and there is out of the question due to time constraints!). There’s a link to the Facebook page in the right column.

(Jo & Rico are covering the 2009 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival for various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and this WordPress Blog.)

Events in Seminyak and Kuta

4 October 2009

The drum roll opens with a glam event at Sarong, the hippest restaurant on the island, with a night that will dazzle Seminyak. Slum it at Sarong features Vikas Swarup, of Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire fame, in conversation with the charismatic Asitha Amereskere, Sri Lankan film-maker and author. Appearing alongside Vikas is the wickedly funny and unashamedly outrageous Dany Laferriere, author of the stories behind the movie Heading South, who will share his x-rated views on island life, love and lust; writer, word-poet and prankster Tom Cho will present his sharp-witted skits and Jeet Thayil, Indian guitar-strumming performance-poet will sing gritty tunes brimming with punchy prose. The talented Will Meyrick, Sarong’s dishy chef, is flicking through his recipes as we speak to present you with a menu of culinary genius. So be prepared for one of the island’s coolest events that takes the S out of Sarong and slots it snugly into Seminyak: celebrating the spoken-word with style.

Writers Rock Hard
at the Hard Rock Café, Kuta, brings together three unconventional and wildly entertaining talents. Enter Sam Cutler former road manager of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, Jerinx, the drummer of acclaimed Balinese punk rock band Superman is Dead and Degung Santikarma, irreverent anthropologist, activist and journalist. Rocking hard is an understatement when these three electric forces appear on stage, so be prepared for a night that offers more “satisfaction” than you could wish for.

Saturday also brings High Tea with Lloyd James. Step into Bougainville in the South Pacific with Lloyd Jones and his breathtaking novel, Mr Pip. Short listed for the Booker Prize, Mr. Pip tells the extraordinary tale of a child’s imagination, the power of storytelling and survival in the face of tragedy. Enjoy the finest teas and freshly baked cakes in Biku’s elegant antique Javanese joglo in an intimate gathering with one of New Zealand’s most accomplished authors.

Writers Rock Hard

THURSDAY 8 October
19.30 – 21.30
Hard Rock Café, Kuta
Rp 450.000   / AU$55  ( includes dinner )

High Tea with Lloyd Jones
15.30 – 17.30
Biku, Seminyak
Rp 300,000 / AUD 35

Slum It At Sarong
SATURDAY 10 OCTOBER 7pm onwards
Sarong Restaurant,  Seminyak
Rp 800,000 / AUD 95

Global Voices in Borobudur

3 October 2009

“Global Voices in Borobudur” will bring ten writers from around the world and five Indonesian writers to the world’s largest Buddhist temple at Borobudur to present their work on October 13, 2009, as an extension of the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The readings and spoken word performances will commence at Manohara at 6:00 p.m., on the Borobudur temple grounds. The presentation will be free of charge and open to the public.

The writers’ performance at Borobudur marks the first time that the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival’s organisers have expanded this international literary festival’s events beyond Bali. Borobudur lies near Yogyakarta in Central Java, the neighboring island west of Bali. The theme of the Festival is Suka Duka: Solidarity and Compassion.

“It is a big leap and really exciting to extend the Ubud Writers Festival from Bali to Borobudur in Java,” said Festival founder Janet DeNeefe. “Buddha’s spirit of compassion and his timeless teachings can help us to navigate the many global problems we face today. It is fitting that the festival, with its theme of ‘Compassion & Solidarity’ culminates at Borobudur.”

borobudurBorobudur provides a stunning and relevant setting for these reading. The temple is located in Central Java and is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a 400-foot tall mountain of stone carved in the eighth century. The temple features reliefs depicting the Buddha’s life and teaching in concentric terraces, as well as 504 life-sized Buddha statues. Its beauty and grandeur has inspired millions of visitors and pilgrims since its full restoration was completed in 1982.

Writers presenting their works at Borobudur include the following:

Fatima Bhutto, a journalist and writer, is from Pakistan. Her father was Murtaza Bhutto, who was killed by police in 1996 in Karachi during the premiership of his sister, Benazir Bhutto. Fatima’s third book, a history of the Bhutto family, will be published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in 2010.

Michelle Cahill edited the transnational anthology Poetry Without Borders (Picaro, 2008). Her forthcoming collection Vishvarupa is themed around Hindu deities. Michelle has sojourned in monasteries and ashrams in Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal and Bali, to practice yoga and vipassana meditation.

Andrew McMillan Andrew’s close contact with the people of East Arnhem Land has resulted in essential reading for those with an interest in Aboriginal history. His award winning book An Intruders Guide to East Arnhem Land tells of a moving and exciting story of warfare, loss, social and cultural struggle, and renewal.

Sophie Hackford is an academic, writer and consultant with a special interest in migration and diaspora. She now works at the innovative James Martin School of the 21st Century at the University of Oxford.

Angelo R. Lacuesta has won the Palanca, Philippine Graphic and NVM Gonzalez Awards for his short fiction. His first book Life Before X and Other Stories won the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award and the National Book Award in 2000. His second collection White Elephants: stories won the National Book Award in 2005. He has recently published a third collection Flames and other stories and is at work on his first novel.

Sosiawan Leak was born in Solo in 1967. His published poetry includes Umpatan (1995), Cermin Buram (1996), and Dunia Bogambola (2007). He is also playwright, director and performer. In 2006 and 2008, together with two other poets – Martin Jankowski from Berlin and Dorothea Rosa Helriany from Magelang – he has toured Indonesia giving poetry readings.

Antony Loewenstein’s best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict My Israel Question was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier’s Literary Award. His second book The Blogging Revolution on the Internet in repressive regimes, was released in 2008. He is the co-founder of advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices and contributed to Amnesty International Australia’s 2008 campaign about Chinese Internet repression and the Beijing Olympic Games.

Gunawan Maryanto was born in Jogya in 1976. He is director and writer in Garasi Theater, Jogja. His books include Waktu Batu (a play story written with Andre Nur Latif and Ugoran Prasad, 2004), Bon Suwung (an anthology of short stories, 2005), Galigi (an anthology of short stories, 2007), Perasaan-perasaan yang Menyusun Sendiri Petualangannya (a poetry book, 2008) and Usaha Menjadi Sakti (an anthology of short stories, 2008). He won a “Sih” award in 2007 and a poetry award from Indonesia’s Education and Tourism Ministry in 2007.

Dyah Merta was born in Ponorogo, East Java, in 1978. Her writing has won the Short Story Contest (Jakarta, 2003 and Lampung 2004). She has published two books – Hetaira, an anthology of short stories, in 2005 and Peri Kecil di Sungai Nipah, a novel, in 2007.

Omar Musa was the 2008 Australian Poetry Slam champion, who has swum with piranhas and alligators in Bolivia and taught Aboriginal children in outback Australia. The 25-year-old Malaysian-Australian baritone has backpacked almost every continent and has a treasure-trove of stories to tell. Musa was a winner of the British Council’s Realise Your Dream award in 2007.

Ugoran Prasad was born in Tanjungkarang, Sumatra, in 1978. He is coordinator at Garasi Theater in Jogya and manager of programs for the Indonesian Performing Art Society. In 2008 he was a visiting scholar in the Performance Studies Department, Tisch School of The Arts, New York University.

Jeet Thayil, born in Kerala, India, is a poet, novelist and musician. He is one half of the experimental music duo Sridhar/Thayil. His four poetry collections include These Errors Are Correct (Tranquebar, 2008) and English (Penguin/Rattapallax, 2004), and he is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (Bloodaxe, 2008) and Divided Time: India and the End of Diaspora (Routledge, 2006).

Triyanto Triwikromo was born in Salatiga, Central Java, 1964. He is editor of Suara Merdeka daily and lecturer of Creative Writing at Universitas Diponegoro Semarang. His anthologies of short stories include Rezim Seks (1987), Ragaula (2002), Sayap Anjing (2003), Anak-anak Mengasah Pisau-Children Sharpening the Knives (bilingual, 2003), Malam Sepasang Lampion (2004) and Ular Di Mangkuk Nabi (2009).

Film Screenings: Saturday 10 October

3 October 2009
tags: ,

It’s a Festival for Writers, Readers & Watchers!

FILM SCREENINGS at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival introduced by the writer/directors, and followed by a Q & A session.

Saturday 10 October: Asitha Ameresekere presents Do Not Erase and 14

British- Sri-Lankan Asitha Ameresekere is a writer and BAFTA-winning filmmaker, brainwashed by Greek myth at an early age and has attempted to tell stories ever since. His collection of short stories, ‘Wedding Gifts and Other Presents’, was published in 2008 in Sri Lanka and he is currently developing two feature film scripts and a novella.

Movie: Do Not Erase won the 2007 BAFTA Best Short Film award. It is set against the backdrop of the Iraq conflict, exploring its impact on an ordinary family in the north of England. Annie sends video diaries to her 19 year-old son, Darren, who is stationed in Iraq with the British Forces. She keeps him updated on all the news from home. But it is not long before the video becomes more than just a diary.

See Do Not Erase
Saturday 10 October
10.30 – 12.30 @ Casa Luna  |    FREE

Movie: 14

A story unfolds within a home through the perspectives of three people on a young girl’s birthday, as they try to communicate with one another. This is a 2009 European Film Award nomination.

See 14
Saturday 10 October
10.30 – 12.30 @ Casa Luna  |    FREE

Read the Director’s Bio at the full Ubud Writers & Readers website: [Link]