An interview with Bare Lit’s co-founders
Mend Mariwany and Henna Zamurd-Butt


Bare Lit Festival is back this year with an absolute stellar line up on 4-5 May at The Albany in Deptford. Spread the Word will be doing a session on the Saturday led by our Director, Ruth Harrison and Programme Manager, Bobby Nayyar. They will be joined by writers Anne Chen, Iqbal Hussain and Tice Cin from the London Writers Awards to discuss ‘Taking Your Writing Forward’ – exciting! We spoke to the festival’s directors and co-founders, Mend Mariwany and Henna Zamurd-Butt to find out more…

Hi Mend, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us during what I’m sure must be a very busy period! How are preparations for this year’s festival going so far – there’s not long to go!

Preparations are going well! We have just opened up the submission window for writers hoping to present their book ideas for feedback from industry experts in the Open Pitching session and last week we announced that our keynote speaker is going to be Ben Okri!

Wow, that sounds brilliant – are there any particular highlights that you’re looking forward to– I see that you’ve introduced a children’s programme for under 13s this year?

We’re really excited to be holding the topical sessions that we are known for with discussions on body positivity and independence struggles for freedom. We’ll also be covering brand new ground with our live podcast session on architecture, an immersive session with actors performing audition monologues, and one in collaboration with Uganda’s Writivism Festival which will feature readings from an upcoming anthology.

Sabeena Akhtar, the children’s festival curator has done an amazing job putting together a mix of sessions including animation, singing, storytelling and illustration. We can’t wait to be introducing this, after consistent requests from our audience over the years!

This year we will also have Filipino desserts from Mamasons, following on from last year’s first foray into adding food.

This is the fourth year that Bare Festival has been running – how has the response to the festival been previously and in what way do you think the festival has evolved over the years?

Bare Lit has an incredibly committed audience that blows us away with their support and enthusiasm every year. As directors we try to bring fresh perspectives and new angles to the weekend. We take audience feedback to heart and this is reflected in the kinds of themes and formats we programme. I think as we have become more experienced as programmers we have become more adventurous in this sense – including writers from across genres and disciplines, and creating more space for them to share their work. That’s why we’ve included more readings and performances this year, rather than just discussions.

The festival is described as a ‘festival of stories, bringing together poets, journalists, playwrights and novelists’ and celebrates writers of colour. What do you hope to achieve by giving this much-needed platform to celebrate writers of colour?

Bare Lit has created a real community of writers and audiences of colour, and with each festival we hope to nurture this space. At the same time we are constantly looking to support new and emerging talent, and by emphasising the stories told through literature, we hope to appeal to someone who might not feel like literature festivals are for them.

Spread the Word is really looking forward to our event on the Saturday – we’re thrilled to be supporting such a brilliant venture. How do you work with your various partners to deliver the festival?

We are so grateful to Spread the Word who have been tireless supporters of Bare Lit from day 1! When we started out, our team were not experienced event producers. Having partners like STW to speak to for advice has been key. This year Hachette UK are sponsoring the festival and are also offering a fabulous free workshop on how to get published. The Arts Council have also generously helped us to grow our offering with Lit Kids.

And finally, why do you both think absolutely everyone should come to the Bare Lit Festival?

Bare Lit is a fun and enjoyable weekend for people from all walks of life – and you don’t need to be a book buff to attend. If you love stories, get inspired by people who are passionate about their topics, hear some poetry, or get some tips on writing then Bare Lit is the place to do that!

Bare Lit Festival 2019 is on 4-5 May at The Albany in Deptford. Check out the programme and book your tickets here