At a time when traditional book stores are shutting down in the face of competition from online stores, Maharashtra is planning to promote a new “town of books” on the lines of the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, famous for its book stores and literary festivals.
The proposed book town in the state will be close to popular tourist destinations such as Mahabaleshwar or Ganapatipule.
The proposal, currently in its early stages, envisages identifying a town that can boast of bookstores with a vast and rich literary collection and which can attract both writers and readers.
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State’s Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde, who had recently visited the Welsh town, said that for branding this initiative, the state government would host a week-long literary festival every summer. “We will invite famous authors and novelists to interact with children and lovers of literary works,” he said during a discussion in the state Assembly.
Tawde said the book town would have a minimum collection of 5 lakh books, including works of international authors.
Literary tourism has caught up in a big way in European countries. At the annual Hay-on-Wye festival of Letters and Arts, top writers and artists converge and this year’s edition features writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Germaine Greer, besides Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen.
Tawde said the move was in response to concerns raised over the decline in the culture of reading. In another push for traditional bookstores, the minister said directives will be issued to all urban local bodies in the state to reserve at least one 500 to 1000 sq ft space at nominal cost for bookstores promoting local literature.
The minister also spoke of plans to boost cultural tourism in Maharashtra. On May 1, celebrated as Maharashtra Day, the government will kick off an event that will showcase talents of the state police band and folk artists. “The event will be organised at prime locations in various cities every evening,” Tawde said.
Also on the anvil is a residential drama school in Mumbai’s film city, an independent space for experimental theatre in Dadar’s Ravindra Natya Mandir, a textile museum in Central Mumbai and a memorial celebrating works of legendary cartoonist (late) RK Laxman inside premises of the premier JJ School of Art. Tawde also declared setting up of an independent board for conservation of forts. The upcoming Raigad Mahotsav, to be held atop the Raigad fort, will be themed on Maratha warrior king Chatrapati Shivaji’s regime. Tawde said talks were on with the Union Cultural Affairs Ministry for assigning joint responsibility for maintaining the Raigad fort, which is a national monument, to the state government.
Tawde said directives would soon be issued to urban local bodies for setting up specialised sports’ training centres. Despite the ongoing controversy on parks allotted on caretaker basis in Mumbai, the minister said the state had plans to allot district sports complexes to private bodies on caretaker basis.