Come as you are to the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Youth Literary Arts Festival (KLYLAF) on June 24-26, with a handful of arts venues across the Klang Valley participating.
Yes, they really mean it: the festival’s theme is “No Invitation Necessary”, an apt representation of its spirit of openness, diversity, inclusivity and community.
“So much of our society is based on elitism and exclusivity, where access and opportunities are given based on ‘cliques’ or who you know, who your parents are or how popular someone is on social media. We want to challenge these barriers, limitations and restrictions based on social status, age, gender, abilities, race, culture, religion and many others.
“We want to disrupt the status quo of closed doors, or doors with secret entrances and locations, priority-lists and private auditions. At KLYLAF, you don’t need an invitation, and you do not need permission. If the sky is the limit, where would you go? What would you do? What would you talk about? Who would you be?” outlines the message from the organisers.
This literary and performing arts festival for young and emerging writers, arts educators and performers, is organised by the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) and MY Poetry School, with sponsorship from the School of English at the University of Nottingham Malaysia and additional support from MABECS (a British education counselling service).
It aims to promote literary arts education, platform young and emerging writers, as well as build youth writing communities.
This is a place where young people inspire young people, while creating opportunities and exchanges for youths who are passionate about plays, drama, spoken word and storytelling.
“Access and inclusion are often not the norm in our society, which is why we made it a major part of our agenda. We also need to prioritise on developing creativity and promoting collaboration amongst our youth as a discipline, instead of putting too much focus on the idea of the genius, the outstanding talent or the virtuoso,” says Elaine Foster, founder of MY Poetry School.
“When we facilitate young people to take on a greater role in designing a more accessible and inclusive world for themselves, we automatically create a better future that is more diverse, equal and inclusive,” she adds.
KLYLAF is a hybrid festival, with online workshops, artist panels and a mentorship session, and physical live events which include an opening show at Nero Event Space at the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPac); Saturday Night Live, an open mic event at Merdekarya in Selangor; and a poetry slam in KuAsh Theatre, Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun in TTDI, Kuala Lumpur.
Every event is curated with specific age limits in mind by art and soft skills educators to maximise the learning experience.
Through these educational and interactive activities, the festival hopes to promote literary and performing arts education to the Malaysian youth.
“Now more than ever, spaces for young people to express themselves, connect and socialise with each other have become vital. With schools closed and the prolonged lockdown limiting their social lives, our youth have been deprived of more than two years worth of opportunities to polish their soft skills which need to be developed through rigorous daily interactions, as well as meaningful lived experiences that can shape their maturity, emotional intelligence and worldview,” says Emellia Shariff, chief executive officer of MIDP.
KLYLAF also highlights the increasing need to shift the limelight from established, big names to the next generation of local artists and writers.
“Conceptualised with young people in mind, the festival provides a safe, interactive space that allows for such a gathering of minds and talents, while exploring ways for the creative work of our youth to be seen and heard outside of the traditional expectations of getting published,” said Dr Sheena Baharudin, assistant professor in Literature at the University of Nottingham Malaysia.
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