Spread over two weekends beginning September 19, the LitFest will have 12 sessions, all based on a single thread of storytelling.

Chennais Queer LitFest 2020 moves online to have Tamil diaspora and non-Indian speakers
news Litfest Saturday, September 19, 2020 - 12:23

Chennai Queer LitFest is back with its third edition this year and if you’re thinking the limitations imposed by the pandemic for such festivals would somehow deter the show and its organisers, you’re wrong. Organised by Queer Chennai Chronicles since 2018, the Queer LitFest this year comes with an interesting package intended to reach far and wide.

Spread over two weekends beginning September 19, the LitFest has moved online with 12 sessions, all based on a single thread of storytelling. Moulee, the festival’s director and curator explains, “People have been expressing themselves through dance, slam poetry, stand-up comedy, performance, etc. The end result of how it is presented varies but the beginning for all of it is writing. That is why the organising team decided to go ahead with this theme.”

Sneha Belcin, the festival’s programme media manager adds that the groundwork for this year’s show was laid in about a couple of months’ time. “The climate continues to be uncertain and we were not sure if we could host the fest online this year. But it is essential for us to hold on to this safe space and continue the conversation. So, we decided to go ahead online. The Global Pride this year was a definite inspiration,” she says. 

And going online came with an unexpected benefit, says Moulee. “We were able to bring in people who may not have been able to come in person otherwise. We’ve got Tamil diaspora speakers, non-Indian speakers to our list. I feel that’s the positive aspect of going online this year,” he says.

While the festival added children’s literature to its mix last year to widen its reach, this year, with its speakers’ list, it has been able to go a step ahead.

“There’s Sunthar V, a Tamil-Canadian stand-up comedian settled in the United Kingdom who will be speaking about toxic masculinity and how stand-up can be more inclusive. Yalini Dream, a Sri Lankan Tamil performing artist currently in the United States who will be dealing with identity through performative storytelling. Whenever we talk about queer discourse in Tamil it is limited to people in Tamil Nadu. This time, we thought this would be an interesting break from it,” says Moulee.

Then there are Chennai-based young artist Nabi Haider Ali who will be tuning in from California, comedians Aayushi Jagad from Pune and Navin Noronha from Mumbai, and theatre artist Living Smile Vidya from Switzerland at the fest too. The festival will also have two non-Indian speakers. 

“Writer Martin Frank from Switzerland was in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu during the seventies and has written a book called ‘Ocean of Love’. This book talks about gay men in Tamil Nadu which in itself is a great premise. We thought it would be interesting to have a discussion with him on it,” Moulee offers.

Austrian poet Florian Niederseer is the other non-Indian who would be a part of the festival and would be performing spoken word poetry. “It stands apart from traditional storytelling. It was what we intended: to bring in variety to the traditional storytelling form,” Sneha adds.

The sessions too are not just storytelling. There will be workshops by Chennai-based filmmaker Priyasharshini and activist Kirthi Jayakumar, and poetry readings as well.

Here’s the full list of sessions and you can find out more on their Facebook page for the festival here

Week 1:

Punching up: The Tamil Comedy Renaissance (In Tamil)

Sunthar V, Writer & Comedian

September 19, 2020 from 7 pm to 8 pm


The poetics of theatre storytelling (In Tamil)

Living Smile Vidya, Theatre Artist. 

September 19, 2020 from 8.20 pm to 9.30 pm


Ocean of Love - a discussion (in English)

Martin Frank, Writer

September 20, 2020 from 6 pm to 6.30 pm


Reading Session

curated by Gireesh, poet and Writer

September 20, 2020 from 7 pm to 8 pm


Activism 2.0: Using digital media strategically to fight oppression (in Tamil)

Workshop - Filmmaker Priyadarshini and Kirthi Jayakumar, Founder, The Gender Security Project

September 20, 2020 from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm


Week 2

Slam poetry

with Florian Niederseer 

September 26, 2020 from 6 pm to 6.30 pm


Discussion on queer affirming stand-up comedy in India

with Naveen Norhona and Aayushi Jagad

September 26, 2020 from 7 pm to 8 pm


Redefining art

with Nabi Haider Ali

September 26 from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm


Reading session of selected works from queer persons 

September 27, 2020 from 6 pm to 6.30 pm


Discussion on storytelling and performance

with Yalini Dream

September 27, 2020 from 7 pm to 8 pm


Tamil Queer Roundtable (queer persons and allies from India, Sri Lanka and Diaspora)

September 27, 2020 from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm

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