Festival History

The Irrawaddy Literary Festival is an annual not-for-profit event that was founded in 2013 by Jane Heyn, wife of (then) British Ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Heyn, under the patronage of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Festival’s initial aim was to open up communication between Myanmar’s writers and their fellow authors worldwide. This was of immense importance to Myanmar’s literary and cultural community, which had been silenced for so long.

The inaugural festival in Yangon was hugely successful in its ambitious goals. William Hague (former British Foreign Secretary) commented that the Irrawaddy Literary Festival ‘achieved more for freedom of speech in one afternoon than most of us manage in a lifetime’.

Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans, spoke of ‘a most memorable festival . . . The excitement will be with us forever.’ She was speaking for everyone involved.

Subsequent festivals were held in Mandalay in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, the Irrawaddy Literary Festival took the important step of becoming a UK-registered Charitable Trust and is now seeking sponsors to assist the board in expanding and strengthening the Festival to ensure a sustainable future for this highly acclaimed event.

The next Irrawaddy Literary Festival will be held at the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel, Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th November 2017. Once again, the Festival will bring together a stellar cast of international and Myanmar writers.

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said:  ‘The festival is providing an important open forum for Burma’s literary talent. Its stimulating mix of gifted writers from overseas and some of our most accomplished Burmese authors, cartoonists, translators and artists, has helped to shine a spotlight on the arts and literature in Burma. The next festival will strengthen existing bonds and encourage yet more creativity between Burma’s writers and those from many other countries. It is also another opportunity for all those who care about literature to enjoy a world-class festival.’