Litro Live! World Series: A celebration of Dutch culture

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A small group was passing through the street with Bibles in their hands. My father was standing next to me, grinning.

He said: “Those people still believe in God.” He probably stopped to think about what he’d just said. The word “still” implied progress. “Those people still believe in God.” It suggested levels of increasing insight. My father sniffed and mumbled, “We still believe in progress.” Silently we watched the slight figures until the small group had disappeared around the corner. Then I looked to the side and behind me. There was no one there. (Progress, by Nyk de Vries, Litro magazine Lekker issue)

Litro, a free monthly literary magazine, last week hosted Double Dutch — a spoken word and music festival — to showcase literature from the Netherlands.

In partnership with the Dutch Embassy, the free festival, which ran during the day and into the evening, was a celebration of the Netherlands and the impact it has had on the world through literature, sports and the arts.

The event coincided with the translated Lekker Dutch issue, the first in a series of planned world issues of Litro Magazine. The programme began at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen in Hyde Park before moving to the Kensington Gore Hotel in the evening.

The Double Dutch festival had a sporting theme, by looking at the place of sport in a literary context, in honour of London hosting the Olympic Games. Guest speakers with a sporting background included renowned Dutch radio and television personality Mart Smeets, David Winner (journalist and the author of Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football) and author of Marathon Runner, Abdelkader Benali.

Eric Akoto, editor-in-chief of Litro Magazine, said: “The world series of issues and festivals is a continuation of Litro Magazine’s celebration of great international literature & writers.”

“The Litro World Series will bring to Londoners fresh and exciting talent from the world of the spoken word: from authors, poets and musicians alike from across the globe. Alongside the print issues, Litro will be showcasing the issues by hosting country specific Litro Live! Festivals.”

The festival featured Palestinian-Dutch poet, author, actor and director Ramsey Nasr who is the current Poet laureate of the Netherlands. Nasr showcased his work as well as discussing his mixed ethnicity and how it has influenced his poetry.

Additional guest speakers included novelist Sanneke van Hassel and contemporary artist Caroline Havers who discussed her A walk in the park series which was inspired by daily walks in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

Journalist Joris Luyendijk argued in favour of bankers following research he conducted into the world of finance which includes his banking blog and interviews with interns at financial institutions.

The evening’s entertainment included a reading by the Nigerian-Flemish writer Chika Unigwe followed by a Q&A which focused on her novel On Black Sisters Street, which explores the lives of four African women who become prostitutes in Europe. The writer discussed her research in Belgium where she spoke to African prostitutes about their plight.

The event also featured music from Dutch jazz singer Kim Wassens, Mad Dog and Dust. The Netherlands themed short story award was won by actress Rebecca Cordingly who claimed a Dutchie bicycle as a reward.

The festival provided an opportunity to be introduced to leading figures in Dutch literature, sports and the arts as well as a unique insight into Dutch culture.

The next world issue – to be published in April along with a Brazilian Litro Live! Event - will feature rising literary stars and artists from Rio and celebrate international writing through the launch of the Litro & IGGY International Young Persons Short Story Award. Submissions for the award open Monday 3rd March, with a prize of £2,500. The winning story will be posted at a London underground station as well as in an issue of Litro Magazine.

For more information visit www.litro.co.uk  

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