LITERATURE FESTIVALS

What did it take India’s Bookaroo to win a global award for best literature festival?

‘Children’s literature festivals don’t work on star power or provocative debates.’

Over nine years of its existence, Bookaroo, India’s own festival of children’s literature, has not only held it own against the heavyweights of Indian literature festivals, it has just achieved what none of the others has. On Tuesday, March 16, Bookaroo won the Literary Festival of the Year award at the London Book Fair International Excellence awards. Excerpts from a collective interview with the three-member team behind Bookaroo: Swati Roy, Jo Williams, and Venkatesh M Swamy.

From a festival that was forced to resort to crowdfunding as recently as 2015 to becoming the only children’s festival to have won the Literary Festival of the Year award at the London Book Fair International Excellence awards, it’s obviously been an extraordinary ride for Bookaroo. Tell us about the journey so far.
It has been a phenomenal journey with its fair share of twists, turns and challenges, ranging from unpredictable sponsors to even more unpredictable weather. Even without any guaranteed sponsorship, Bookaroo has travelled from one city in 2008 to seven cities in India and one in Malaysia. Building a community of readers, writers, illustrators, poets, storytellers and well-wishers across continents has brought its own rewards. The award is an affirmation of our mission.

Venkatesh, you come from journalism. Swati, you’re a former marketing professional. Jo, you were one of the people behind the Red House Children’s Book award. Quite an eclectic set of people to become the founders of a children’s literature festival. How do your skills and experiences complement one another’s?
We all share the same deep-rooted commitment to make books come alive for each and every child, and are willing to go that extra mile to make this happen. Although we come from different professional backgrounds, we all made a choice to work in the field of children’s books. Swati and Venkatesh set up Eureka, the first children’s bookstore in Delhi, while Jo had also worked in a children’s bookstore in the UK.

What are the unique challenges of running a children’s festival in India?
Overcoming the scepticism that a standalone family literature event for children could ever succeed without having schools send busloads of children is a constant battle. Reading for pleasure has lost its appeal in India in recent times, so changing that mindset has been, and continues to be, a challenge.

Unlike adult festivals where only genres have to be taken into account, we have to consider the ages of the children carefully for a balanced programme. Securing funding is an issue for all festivals, but a children’s literature festival is even less attractive. And it’s always a challenge to ensure that a children’s literature festival remains true to its objective and does not become a circus.

I have seen Bookaroo highlighted in publishing companies’ marketing plans for children’s authors. Some publishers even bring out their titles at the same time as the festival. Yet, children’s publishing – at least of the trade variety – remains very small with conservative print runs and ambitions. Some multinationals and leading independent publishers don’t even have a children’s list. Why do you think this is the case?
This is actually a question for publishers. It is generally accepted that children’s books are given neither the recognition they deserve nor the budget they need for promotion.

The scenario is even worse for tween and young adult books. The target audience seem to be led by the West. Reading a book by a foreign writer, thus, becomes an extension of watching foreign films and shows. Your thoughts?
Overall this is true, partly because until quite recently there has been a dearth of contemporary fiction by Indian writers for these age groups.

Do children from different cities and even countries where Bookaroo has been held come with different sensibilities?
Of course children from each state and each country have different experiences, backgrounds and languages, which we take into consideration when curating the programme.

Who have been the biggest draws at Bookaroo? Do children warm up to local first-time writers, or do they still hanker after big names and foreign writers?
Names and nationalities do not matter to children, it is the connection that the speaker establishes with his audience which counts.

Bookaroo doesn’t seem to be getting much patronage from big corporate brands. Could this be because of the lack of star power, or the lack of potential for provocative debates around burning issues? What are the opportunities for contemporising a children’s book festival?
When it comes to sponsorships from companies or brands, a children’s literature festival is dependent neither upon star power nor provocative debates. Moreover, Bookaroo is a festival which deals with contemporary issues quite extensively. Any attempt to compare the quantum of sponsorship received by adult literature festivals with that received by a children’s literature festival is like comparing apples with pears.

How big are children’s book festivals outside India?
There aren’t too many literature festivals dedicated exclusively to children. As we have not attended any, we cannot comment on their size.

Like the Jaipur Literature Festival did, Bookaroo too has spawned other children’s literary festivals in the country.
Yes it has, several.

Do you see things becoming easier after this recognition? Do you plan to take Bookaroo to the UK, US and other foreign countries?
We hope that the award and the recognition which it brings will help in our search for funding. At the moment we are looking to take Bookaroo to other Asian countries.

Do you have plans for diversification?
Watch this space!

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Understanding the engineering behind race cars

Every little element in these machines is designed to achieve power and speed.

All racing cars including stock, rally or Formula 1 cars are specially built to push the limits of achievable speed. F1 cars can accelerate to 90 km/h in less than two seconds and touch top speeds of over 320 km/h. Stock cars also typically achieve over 300 km/h. So what makes these cars go so fast? A powerful engine is combined with several other components that are relentlessly optimized to contribute to the vehicle’s speed. All these components can be grouped under four crucial elements:

Aerodynamics 

The fastest cars are the most aerodynamic. A sleek, streamlined design is a head-turner, but its primary function is to limit wind resistance against the vehicle. If a car is built to cut through the wind rather than push against it, it will travel faster and also use less fuel in the process. To further improve the aerodynamic quality of the car, everything from the wheel arcs and lights to the door handles and side mirrors are integrated into the overall structure to reduce the drag - the friction and resistance of the wind. For some varieties of race cars, automobile designers also reduce the shape and size of the car rear by designing the back of the car so that it tapers. This design innovation is called a lift-back or Kammback. Since aerodynamics is crucial to the speed of cars, many sports cars are even tested in wind tunnels

Power

All race car engines are designed to provide more horsepower to the car and propel it further, faster. The engines are designed with carburetors to allow more air and fuel to flow into them. Many sports and racing cars also have a dual-shift gear system that allows drivers to change gears faster. The shift time—or the brief time interval between gear changes when power delivery is momentarily interrupted—can be as little as 8 milliseconds with this gear system. Faster gear shifts enable the car to travel at their fastest possible speeds in shorter times.

Control

The ability to turn corners at higher speeds is crucial while racing and racing cars are often designed so that their floors are flat to maximize the downforce. Downforce is a downwards thrust that is created in a vehicle when it is in motion. This force exerts more pressure on the tyres increasing their grip on the road, and thereby enabling the car to travel faster through corners. The downforce can be so strong that at around 175 km/h, even if the road surface were turned upside down, the car would stick to the surface. Many racing cars like the Volkswagen Polo R WRC are even equipped with a large rear wing that helps generate extra downforce.

Weight

The total weight of the car and its distribution is a critical part of race car design. All race cars are made of durable but extremely light material that reduces the weight of the vehicle. Every part of the vehicle is evaluated and components that are not strictly required in the race car—such as trunks or back seats—are eliminated. The weight distribution in these cars is carefully calibrated since at high speeds it proves crucial to car control. As a result, almost all racing cars have an RMR configuration or a Rear Mid-engine, Rear-wheel-drive layout where the engine is situated at around the middle of the car (but closer to the rear than the front), just behind the passenger compartment. This layout where the car is a little heavier towards the rear than the front allows for better control of the car at high speeds.

Only the most cutting edge technology is used to develop modern race cars and as a result, they are normally far more expensive to buy and more difficult to maintain than regular ones. But your dream of owning a race car does not need to remain a dream. The Volkswagen GTI, part of the award-winning VW GTI family, is now coming to India. Since 1979, these sporty and powerful cars have been dominating roads and rally race tracks.

With a sleek aerodynamic build, a great power-to-weight ratio and 7-speed dual-shift gears, the Volkswagen GTI is the most accessible race car experience available in India. Packed with 189 bhp/ 192 PS, the car is capable of doing 0-100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds and boasts a top speed of 233 km/h. And though the car is built to be quick and powerful, it is also strong on fuel economy with an outstanding mileage of 16.34 km/l. To experience what it is like to drive a race car, book a test drive now.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Volkswagen and not by the Scroll editorial team.