Case study: Ayesha Hussain at International Norwich Showcase

The International Literature Showcase, founded by the British Council and the Writers’ Centre Norwich with support from Arts Council England, is a platform that brings together talented individuals from all over the literary world with the aim of initiating exchange.

Over the three days, from the 18 – 21 March 2015, festival organisers, including Ayesha Hussain from Pakistan, one of the Founders of the Khayal Creative Network’s Festival of Art and Literature, were able to interact and meet with new writers, discuss thought-provoking ideas about what literature can achieve and develop possibilities of collaboration in the future.

On her return, we caught up with Ayesha to us of her experience. See what see has to say: 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background, as well as experience as a festival organiser?

I did a Masters in Literature from Kinnaird College. I am passionate about my work and have been teaching since 1999. I teach Literature in English to O and A level students at Lahore Grammar School. I also teach a course at the B.A Honours in English programme offered by Goldsmiths College London as part of the International degree programme at the Lahore Grammar School.

I am currently enrolled in the MPhil programme in Education at the Beaconhouse National University.

I set up Khayaal Creative Network along with three other women, Nuria Rafique-Iqbal, Amna Omar and Zainab Qureshi in 2012. The purpose of our network is to promote the arts and literature via discussions, debates, performances and readings throughout the year by organising a series of public events in Pakistan. Khayaal Creative Network hosted its first festival ‘The Festival of Arts and Literature’ in Lahore in November 2013. The idea behind our first festival was to honour Pakistani talent by bringing together authors, publishers, thinkers, philosophers, filmmakers, artists, actors and musicians. To invite speakers who would bring their thoughts and experiences to the festival through debates, discussions, readings, and performances and in doing so, inspire our youth.

A lot of hard work went into organising a festival of this scale. Over 70 speakers were a part of our festival, the sessions were bilingual hence interactive, the audience got to see two music performances, one dance performance and a play by Ajoka. Our festival was vibrant and attracted people of all ages and from all walks of life. 

How would you describe the International Literature Showcase in two lines?

The ILS was an unforgettable experience. I got the chance to meet like-minded people, and learn from their experiences. 

What was it like to represent Pakistan in a global literature community?

It was a proud moment for me to share the work that our organisation has done with incredibly talented people who have contributed greatly to the world of literature. Most of the people I met were interested in hearing about the work being done in both the arts and literature in Pakistan, and were keen on coming to Pakistan to share their work.

If you were to choose one thing that inspired you on this trip to the UK, what would it be?

I was inspired by people’s desire to build connections and make a difference. Everyone I met is passionate about the work that they do and want to share their ideas and by working with people from across the globe - irrespective of cultural, social and religious differences. The power of the arts and the written word is such that it transcends all barriers. 

How, in your opinion, has this opportunity benefited your work and what are you planning next?

I was able to network and develop links. We have invited a few authors who were a part of the ILS to talk about their writings at our upcoming festival in Lahore this November. I would like to work with as many people as I possibly can, to invite writers to Pakistan and to ensure that our writers/artists get an opportunity to represent the country at festivals abroad. 

What are the possibilities for collaborations between the UK and Pakistan in terms of literary programming?

The possibilities are endless; however, we have to make sure they materialise. We are already working on a collaboration with The Roundhouse. We want to invite UK’s leading writers and musicians to come and work with their counterparts here. We would like to initiate a programme where the writers/artists can work with students in Lahore.

We need all the support we can get to make sure that we are able to collaborate and share our work with people all over the world through regular exchange of talent.