Rebecca Hart is literature programme manager at the British Council.
in HeadRead literary festival. HeadRead is the pre-eminent
festival in the region and has attracted world-renowned writers
since its inception in 2008. The festival has a collegiate
atmosphere, with events taking place in the great hall of the
Estonian Writers’ Union in both Estonian and English, but
remaining intimate, as though you are listening in on a private
conversation. Again, after meeting key publishing and literature
figures, we developed a better understanding of how Estonia
positions itself and its literature as both Baltic and Nordic, and
how it remains closely connected to its neighbours, particularly
Finland, through shared history.
A flavour of each country
Armed with these experiences and information, and an incredibly
long reading list, the British Council now faces the challenge of
bringing the flavour of each country to the UK throughout 2018.
At the heart of the programme is the author delegation, which will
be made up of four authors from each country–writers of fiction,
poetry, non-fiction and children’s literature–who will be
programmed alongside UK writers and commentators to debate,
challenge and complement each other as they tease out the ideas
that highlight the commonalities and differences in our literatures.
The British Council also aims to build new and deeper
connections between each country and the UK through bilateral
programmes focusing on a different part of the literature sector:
Estonia is looking to forge stronger links between their festivals
and those in the UK through visits and commissions; Latvia will
be producing a creative commission in which UK and Latvian
writers, translators and producers create new works together to
be presented in both countries; and Lithuania, after a very
successful inaugural Lithuanian translation workshop during the
BCLT Translation Summer School, will be developing a bespoke
professional development programme for those looking to make
a career of literary translation.
While the Baltics are known for their stunning countryside,
beautiful coast and vibrant capital cities, forgetting their
literature means missing out. All three countries are passionate
about poetry, draw upon folkloric traditions, and champion
cutting-edge book design and illustration. They are also closely
linked by their 20th-century history–including their
independence in 1918, which celebrates its centenary next year,
and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.
As with our collaboration on the Poland Market Focus
earlier in 2017, we hope that this exciting and wide-ranging
programme will demonstrate that while the UK is leaving the
EU, we are still very much Europeans, and that the LBF Baltic
Countries Market Focus will serve to deepen the connection
between the UK and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, increasing
trust and understanding of one another through literature. ■