The LitFest Blog
Social media volunteer Monita Mohan found herself mesmerised by the 2015 Festival
March is a significant month for me – first up is my parents’ anniversary and right after I fall down the rabbit hole of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. I’ve been associated with the Festival for four years now, volunteering twice as a Room Manager, before taking on the Social Media Volunteer role. Every year the stakes are higher, the event is bigger, and my pedometer is happier.
What I love about the Festival is how I end up reading a whole bunch of books and genres I would have usually never considered. Add to that the brilliance of bonding with complete strangers over a new find and interacting with imaginative minds.
Let me just say, as soon as I heard the theme of this year’s Festival, I was getting my costume ready. I got lucky because the wonderful Philip Ardagh hosted an Afternoon Tea where he talked about the significance of food in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Granted, I was only one of three people dressed up at the table, but it was worth it for the enormous gratitude that came our way for dressing up for the occasion.
What struck me about this year’s guest list was that it reminded me of the Black Caps (New Zealand Cricket Team) – a bunch of talented individuals, the sum of whose parts are a credit to the literary industry. We didn’t have superstars; we just had superb human beings. This was an exceptional year that’s left me with everlasting memories and so many reasons for coming back to the festival.
Here are just some of my personal highlights from Wonderland:
- Wanting to write a column because Mrs. Moneypenny (Heather McGregor) makes it look so easy.
- Falling in love with Noura Al Noman (again) as well as the panellists on the Female Focus panel – Overcoming Barriers (Mai Al-Nakib, Inaam Kachachi and Badriah Al Bishr) because you don’t need to speak the same language to want to advance the status of women in society.
- Everything Richard Parks did and said. I knew a little of his story, but when he spoke about his insecurities and the challenges he’s faced, he inspired hope in all of us.
- Being swept away by Anita Anand’s charismatic presentation on a subject close to my heart – the erasure of women from history. She was simply magnificent.
- Laughing so hard at Alexander McCall Smith’s sessions. Who knew the man was a born comedian?
- Seeing a group of complete strangers share packets of tissues with each other after becoming emotional during the Internal Flight in Wonderland session with Lemn Sissay.
- Enjoying fifteen seconds of fame dressed up as Jefferson the Mad Hatter for the Afternoon Tea in Wonderland session. Especially since Philip Ardagh actually tweeted a picture of me!
- Meeting Charley Boorman and bonding over being a twin.
- And my most enduring memory will always be looking up to find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Markus Zusak as we got our books signed by our respective favourite authors.
I know I lucked out with my gig, especially this year considering our Social Media team expanded. Which meant we had the chance to sit through entire sessions. And luckily I was part of the winning team at the Book Lovers’ Quiz in February, giving us the chance to attend the Authors’ Farewell.
What made this festival for me was just how approachable, accessible, relatable and humble all the authors were. Their experiences and stories felt real and true to life. We weren’t meeting authors, we were meeting people, and these people were taking our imaginations to whole new worlds.