Program subject to change

William Dalrymple transports us back to a bygone era of matchless splendour – the period of the last Mughal. This evocative session features readings by award-winning author and historian Dalrymple from his book The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857 and the vocals of Vidya Shah celebrating the poignant and robust folk poetry of the time and ghazals of the Mughal court.


The Koh-i-Noor is the world’s most famous diamond but its history is shrouded in mystery. William Dalrymple and Anita Anand’s fascinating biography of the stone blows away the legends to reveal a true history stranger, and more violent, than any fiction. Navtej Sarna’s passionate biography, The Exile, is a poignant novel about Maharaja Duleep Singh, the younger son of the great Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab, who signed away the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria when he was only 11. Together, they present the riveting story of the Koh-i-Noor, the “Mountain of Light”.


As Artificial Intelligence takes over human narratives, Marcus du Sautoy questions the shape of our future. In his new book The Creativity Code: How AI is Learning to Write, Paint and Think, he expounds on how algorithms work, the nature of creativity and how engineers are tracking our emotional responses to art. In a riveting session, du Sautoy, the Charles Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, discusses intuition, the creative process and its correlation with mathematics.

A session that journeys through the elusive landscape of love, family and relationships. British novelist Patrick Gale, the author of 16 novels, lives on a farm in Cornwall. His new novel, Take Nothing With You, is about boyhood, coming of age and the power of music. David Park is a prolific and much-awarded Irish novelist. His recent novel, Travelling in a Strange Land, speaks of fathers and sons, grief, memory, family and love. In a session of readings and conversation, they speak with Elaine Canning of books, belonging and the dynamics of writing family.

Most residents of Northern Ireland claim a multiplicity of co-existing identities. The construction of self, always fluid, has become even more complex with Brexit. In conversation with Michael Patrick MacDonald, foreign correspondent and editor Salil Tripathi, novelist and playwright Paul McVeigh, award-winning playwright and producer Shannon Yee and playwright and novelist Lucy Caldwell speak of their struggle with belonging and identity and how it impacts their work.

Asma Khan hit the spotlight with the Chef’s Table on Netflix. Home-style Indian regional food cooked by an all women kitchen. Family recipes and no professional chefs. In Asma's Indian Kitchen, she reveals the secret to her success, telling her immigrant's story and how food brought her home. Her London restaurant, Darjeeling Express, celebrates her Mughal ancestry and the busy streets of Calcutta. In conversation with Joris Minne, the Belfast Telegraph’s restaurant critic, the restaurateur discusses her cooking, community and life.

The stark realities of borders and barbed wire cannot always divide peoples and cultures. Author, journalist and broadcaster Susan McKay is a chronicler of borderlines and the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict. Savage Harvest, Navtej Sarna’s translated stories about the Partition of India, evoke the tragedy and horror of the largest mass migration in history. Garrett Carr’s The Rule of the Land addresses the turbulent history of the Irish border questioning nationhood, land and power. Salil Tripathi is the author of The Colonel Who Would Not Repent, which charts the Bangladesh war and its unquiet legacy. Together, they speak of walls and bridges, borders and barbed wire.

A session that invokes the foremothers and female ancestors who laid the ground for fiercely contested and precariously won freedoms. Bee Rowlatt’s In Search of Mary celebrates the life and legacy of the remarkable feminist Mary Wollstoneraft. Prize-winning Belfast novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell evokes the rites of passage in women’s lives through her work. Writer and Festival co-Director Namita Gokhale has written about the women of her native Kumaon through fiction and biography. In conversation with writer Vayu Naidu, they speak of the inspiration and learnings they have received from their foremothers in their quest for freedom.

Travel writing is one of the most ancient forms of literature but is it losing its relevance in the age of globalisation, travel technology and space cruises? Celebrated travel writer Pico Iyer, writer and poet Ruth Padel, Indian writer and diplomat Navtej Sarna and chef and restaurateur Asma Khan discuss the genre with Garrett Carr and read from their work.


Irish-American author Michael Patrick MacDonald is the author of All Souls, a wrenching account of the violence of inner-city Boston. Journalist and broadcaster Malachi O’Doherty has written extensively on Northern Ireland’s political and cultural conflicts. Author and playwright Glenn Patterson addresses the theatre of conflict and Ireland’s troubled past. Writer and diplomat Navdeep Suri has translated his grandfather's emblematic poem Khooni Vaisakhi, which was banned by the British in the aftermath of the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre. Across cultures and continents, they discuss writing about conflict, its roots and consequences with author, journalist and broadcaster Susan McKay.

Brian Keenan became headline news when he was kidnapped by Shi’ite militiamen in 1985 and held hostage in Beirut for four and a half years. The intensity and horror of that traumatic encounter is recounted in An Evil Cradling. His next book is a collection of short stories all located in Lebanon and provisionally entitled Ghost Gallery. In conversation with writer, journalist and human rights activist Salil Tripathi, he speaks of the trauma of incarceration and the will to survive.

Myth and memory impact the collective imagination of cultures and people. Mythographers glimpse connections between the ancient Celtic traditions and the mysteries of Indian myth. Jan Carson’s evocative novel The Fire Starters weaves magical and fantastical tales rooted in Belfast’s sectarian conflicts. Namita Gokhale has written extensively on the Indian epics, including a retelling of the Mahabharata, The Book of Shiva and anthologies on Radha and Sita. Writer and oral storyteller Vayu Naidu takes inspiration from the ancient Indian epics. In conversation with novelist and playwright Paul McVeigh, they discuss the intersections of myth, memory and culture.


“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves…” Pico Iyer, British-born essayist and novelist of Indian origin, leads a peripatetic life between a Benedictine hermitage in California, Nara in Japan and international airports around the world. His new book Autumn Light is a far-reaching exploration of Japanese history and culture and a moving meditation on impermanence, mortality and grief. In conversation with author, journalist and playwright Glenn Patterson, he speaks about his life, beliefs and writing.


Iconic Indian transgender rights activist, dancer and actor Laxmi Narayan Tripathi’s bestselling autobiography, Me Hijra, Me Laxmi, describes her turbulent exploration of biological, social and personal gender roles. In conversation with writer, journalist and broadcaster Bee Rowlatt, she speaks of the quest for selfhood, gender activism and the responsibilities of becoming the ‘Maha Mandaleshwar’, or religious head of her community.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was destined to be the conscience and political catalyst of his age. His distinguished granddaughter, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee speaks to Asma Khan of the vision of the Mahatma, his genius, his human vulnerability, and the enduring legacy of non-violence that he bequeathed to a troubled world. Gandhi Bhattacharjee, vice-chairperson of the Gandhi Smriti, is an activist who works extensively with rural women and children, and the author of Reflections of an Extraordinary Era.

Rabindranath Tagore’s meeting with Yeats in 1912 was to have an enormous impact on his writing. Yeats was influenced by Indian mysticism while the Celtic traditions appealed to Tagore. Writer and historian Reba Som, a trained exponent of ‘Rabindra sangeet’ (songs penned and composed by the Bengali polymath), has written extensively on Tagore and other leading figures of the time such as the Irish Sister Nivedita. Author, academic and poet Bashabi Fraser is the Founder Director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies and her critical biography of Rabindranath Tagore will be published later this year. Author, award-winning poet and conservationist Ruth Padel is Professor of Poetry at King’s College London. In conversation with poet Sudeep Sen, they unravel the creative connections between possibly the two greatest poets of their times.

In the first of his ‘Glanmore Sonnets’, Seamus Heaney introduces us to the ghosts and voices hidden in the 'earth' of one’s self, one’s own history and home landscape. Poets Eric Ngalle Charles, Sudeep Sen and Francis Jones will discuss their responses to these Heaney themes with Ruth Padel. Each poet will read one poem they love by Heaney and one poem of their own.