Though it looked like the festival wouldn't happen this year, it was saved at the last minute.
There were fears the annual Shanghai Literary Festival wouldn't run this year, after the closure of its famed home, Glamour Bar. Luckily for Shanghai bibliophiles, however, it was saved at the final hour, and returns this weekend to deliver an eclectic sprinkling of workshops, readings, poetry slams, film screenings, panel discussions, and literary lunches from October 31 through November 5
The festival was created in 2003 when restaurateur Michelle Garnaut, of M on the Bund, invited Frank Moorhouse, who was working on a book about martinis in literature, to her recently-opened Glamour Bar (pictured above, RIP). As the story goes, guests and author enjoyed many martinis and rabble-rousing, and out of it came a celebration of the best in fiction, literary non-fiction, journalism, the arts, travel writing, and more featuring both local writers and talent from 20 countries wordlwide
This year, the Shanghai Literary Festival will take place at Garnaut's new restaurant and lounge, Glam. Normally held in March, renovation was going to postpone everything, but Glam opened in September and the team has been working around the clock to put together a wide-ranging yet downsized event. Although now in a smaller space, the cozy interior and charming setting of Glam, which has stunning views over historic Bund architecture and the city's financial district, Lujiazui, will add to the intimate feel of the festival, where guests can get up close and personal with authors.
The not-for-profit event is subsidized by M Restaurant Group, along with other contributions, and is a labor of love for Garnaut and the team. "What really makes it unique is its intimacy," Garnaut says. "At the Jaipur Literary Festival, there are 50,000 people and you feel like you're at a rock concert. There is no way that you would get to talk to a writer. The charm and the delight of Shanghai International Literary Festival is it's a community event, with a focus around the community."
Rather than purely focusing on China, the festival takes into consideration the international community and their varying interests, from art, architecture, sport, exploration, poetry, business, current affairs, children's books, and more.
All events are in English, and this year's line-up includes a literary lunch with foreign correspondents debating whether the foreign press is too tough on China, a panel discussion by North Korea specialists, a poetry slam with performance poet, Musa Okwonga, a film screening based on the book, Tracks, about Robyn Davidson's treks through the deserts with four camels and a dog, as well as author Leta Hong Fincher on her book, Leftover Women—The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China.