Because he is India’s cultural event ambassador at home and abroad. Roy’s inexhaustible energy and drive keeps him going as the producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)—expect about 114 award-winning authors in 2020.
This year, JLF travels to the Middle East, debuting in Doha as the first litfest in West Asia. It has editions in London, New York, Toronto, Houston, Belfast, Boulder, Adelaide and Cairo. Roy is the boss of Teamwork Arts, which organises 26 festivals in about 40 cities worldwide—Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, the Ishara Puppet Theatre Festival, the Kahaani festival of storytelling and the Friends of Music concerts, among others.
His motto reflects the company’s tagline: Bringing India to the world and the world to India. He is a versatile expressionist; recently he held a cultural promotion of craft, design, heritage, food and fashion event in Delhi with 150 handpicked master craftsmen, Padma Shri awardees, artisans and women entrepreneurs.
The Teamwork Arts’ Jazz India Circuit, in which many international brands participate, is reinventing Indian jazz with punk, funk, hip-hop, R&B et al. His heart lies not in fests alone: students of Salaam Baalak Trust, a street children’s organisation he set up with Mira Nair, is using the arts to rehabilitate kids.
The Trust has produced aeronautical engineers and scholarship winners to study in America and Australia. They are taught music, dance, theatre and sports.
Belief The arts create tangible wealth
The other side
Co-founded Salaam Baalak Trust in 1988
Makes a great sorpotel
On his white locks
After an accident in 1996, he couldn’t cut his hair for a while. His son warned that if he didn’t get a haircut, he cannot attend the PTA meetings.
He promptly grew his hair to escape the annual engagements where teachers lectured him on being a badly behaved parent.
Because he has changed weddings into a fantasy to remember. He only has followers, no leaders unless you count Philippe Starck.
Jayakrishnan is the first scenographer to introduce laser gigs, Star Wars Jedi girls and flamboyant live graphics, which are being emulated by every father with money to throw. The master illusionist creates outre installations at curated venues—fashion week shows, supermoney weddings, brand celebrations, the Serendipity Arts Festival and more.
The set he sets up today is the trend tomorrow. When a top brand wants to make a statement, Jayakrishnan is the go-to guy: he conceived the much-talked-about “evening of stories” to mark the 10th anniversary of a Delhi lifestyle company’s clothing label.
Jayakrishnan trained in visual communication at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, where he developed multi-disciplinary skills in various genres.
In 1994, he studied theatre design and scenic techniques at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and subsequently trained at the English National Opera, Royal Opera House, Royal Court, Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC in London.
In 1995, he travelled to France to train in puppetry, lighting design and theatre design and then to New York in 2002 as a visiting installation artist and visiting scholar at NYU.
Needless to say, he brought an amalgamated platter of all he had learned to India. His designs are more than just installations.
He merges in various elements such as audio-visual, video, calligraphy, lighting, performance and more within the mode of theatrical performance.
A recipient of several recognitions, including Charles Wallace India Trust Arts Award and the Sanskriti Award, Jayakrishnan considers setting up at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon for Tim Supple’s multilingual rendering of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be one of his best work moments.
Motto Not rocket science, only common sense
A camera from his grandfather on his 14th birthday
Workout on a run
Meeting Lady Gaga
Because she turned Indian ethnic into luxury lifestyle. Good Earth, the exclusive Indian luxury retail store Anita founded, unites traditional weaves and materials with modern aesthetics. The company launched its exclusive Gandhara collection in 2019, which makes extensive use of the terracotta and pottery style of the eponymous, extinct kingdom. The Maladvipa collection translates the glory of the islands into tableware, textiles and home décor.
Focusing on the ‘Make in India’ ideology, Good Earth took part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India campaign. More than two decades ago, while shopping for her eldest daughter’s wedding trousseau, Lal realised that there were more bridewear options available abroad while she had a tall task in India. Encouraged by an indulgent husband, Lal’s impulse set up Good Earth which became more than just weddings.
It launches an annual design collection inspired by a particular mythical or cultural aspect of a region at India Week, Mumbai. For example, ‘Pichwai: The Dance Of Krishna’ curated by Good Earth offers ‘ornate, handpainted temple hangings that bring alive the legends’ of the god. The brand has collaborated with designer Rohit Bal and the Raw Mango and Pero labels and is constantly in search of new sensations and subjects.
Fun Fact She mixes all the music for the stores
Favourite things • Historical fiction • Jazz music • Stan Getz
Bijoy Jain Takes her team on work breaks to places such as Varanasi and Uzbekistan to glean artisanal knowledge and channel inspiration
Oath ‘I will never compromise on design or quality’
Because he is the architect of opposites who takes Indian sustainability design language to the world.
This year, the space-cum-experiential designer gave us the Nila House, Jaipur, a quintessential Bijoy Jain space where renovated heritage and clever modernity meet to preserve and project new and old India.
Part of the Lady Bamford Foundation, it will display the best of Indian craft traditions. Earlier this year came the second edition of handmade furniture by Jain for Brussels-based Maniera where it was exhibited.
He favours unusual materials such as stone, concrete, cow dung, brick, textiles, glass and Japanese washi paper to work with. Almost always dressed in monochrome, his creativity has the same starkness; take for example the ‘Stone Chair’ inside at the Le Cabinet de Curiosités.
His family upbringing had little to do with architecture: both parents were doctors. He worked for around four years in the model shop of an American architecture firm where he made models out of wood, which taught him how to work with his hands.
He spent his early years amid concrete and glass in Los Angeles and London before returning home to Alibaug after his family died in a freak accident.
He went to ground, dealing with the pain. When he finally came up for air, it was to found Studio Mumbai which has given the world a new Indian design ouvre. Jain’s success lies in the innovative application of modern technology to traditional Indian building techniques. Most of his buildings are houses.
In another life Was a professional swimmer
Challenge Swimming across the English Channel
Motto Do not fear trying
Cool quotient Winning the contract to redesign and renovate the prestigious Beaucastel winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Iconoclast Gateway of India must be torn down since it is a terribly proportioned building. This would open Mumbai to the sea.
Abha Narain Lambah
The healer of time
Because she is India’s pre-eminent conservation architect who has mended more historic structures than anyone else in her profession.
The Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra; the 15th-century Maitreya Temple in Basgo, Ladakh; the Golconda Fort, Charminar and Qutb Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad; the Bikaner House, Nehru Memorial Library and Museum, Teen Murti House and the Red Fort Museum in New Delhi; and Municipal Corporation headquarters, Asiatic Library and Town Hall, Bandra Railway Station, Royal Opera House, University of Mumbai, JJ School of Art, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market in Mumbai; all bear her healing touch. Lambah’s 28-year-old restoration carer was recognised by the UN this year with the ‘Award of Merit’ at UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
She got it for restoring the Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue, a heritage landmark in Mumbai. She has won many accolades: the Eisenhower Fellowship, the Charles Wallace Fellowship, and nine UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation awards. Lambah started her company in 1998 when conservation was not in the Indian vocabulary, let alone was a profession.
She often wonders why Ayn Rand conceived the anti-establishment architect protagonist Howard Roark in The Fountainhead as a man, instead of a woman. She says it was American architect Joseph Allen Stein, with whom she worked on the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, who ‘nudged me in the direction of conservation’.
The childhood summers she spent at his grandfather’s timber mansion in Kashmir is probably where it all began.
Dream To restore her gradmother’s heritage house in Kashmir
Loves The Sultanate Period
Favourite Projects • Maitreya Buddha Temple, Ladakh • Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad • Royal Opera House, Mumbai • Moorish mosque, Kapurthala
What Next • Getting the Gateway of India back to its glory • The Rs 100-crore-plus Bal Thackeray Memorial at Shivaji Park
Because he is one of India’s most versatile and influential architects whose style and success made him a part of the planning process of nation-building.
This year, NITI Aayog appointed him a Champion of Change in Transforming India through G2B Partnerships even as he continues to be the spokesperson of Soft Power on the special advisory board to the Prime Minister for Incredible India 2.0.
Shah started work in New York in the mid-2000s before starting Ashiesh Shah Architecture + Design in India almost a decade ago. This year, he headed many high-flying design projects from office spaces and penthouses to concept stores and restaurants.
In 2014, Forbes India nominated him the most influential young art collector in the subcontinent.
He curates art, crafts and design exhibition in which India’s best in their fields participate. His clients include Bollywood celebrities such as Hrithik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Meher Jesia, Abhishek Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez and Aditya Roy Kapoor. Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and Masaba Gupta swear by him.
His talk of the year moment: reinventing the Kashmiri box for the Papier Mâché Project with Matryoshka dolls.
Believes in • Wabi-Sabi, peaceful nature-oriented Japanese philosophy • Art with function • Artisanal methods
Secrets Had terrible stage fright. Studied to be a dentist.
Motto Every designed space needs soul
Celeb clients Hrithik Roshan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Jacqueline Fernandez, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, Masaba Gupta, Pernia Qureshi, Ranbir Kapoor
Complaint People think interior design is a frivolous occupation
Storyteller of craft
Because she opened up India’s exotic local product ranges to sustainability-oriented customers thereby creating a new consumption ethos that provides livelihood for artisans and small studios in major metros and small cities.
At ‘Baro’, Chatterjee’s furniture, textile and decor store in Mumbai, surprise itself is an experiment. It is driven by the principle that there is a story behind everything and it is the story that gives product cachet. Find an ‘Ayurvedic’ sari or a gardening knee cushion at the Baro Market section launched earlier this year for emerging brands to sell their products.
‘The Good Life’ is the new multifarious collection of singular local products: Kaisori natural handmade soaps from Kashmir, Boheco Hemp green fashion made with organically grown and consciously dyed fabric, basketry, linen and home accessories of banana fibre and water hyacinth and Inmate footwear. Present at the store is Hamsini of Bengaluru where clients take vintage saris to be transformed into bespoke quilts.
Silaiwali organises Afghani refugee women to make dolls from fabric waste. The store which opened in 2014 started as an experiment in handmade furniture made of reclaimed and old teak. Previously she was an incubator of talent in cinema, fashion, production and set design at Highlight Films. She curated the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in its early years, co-founded blueFROG, the iconic music space, and collaborated at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. At Baro, craftspeople work for themselves and are told how to adapt to the client’s needs.
Belief • What you do or think must focus on living with a conscience • What you buy and use has a story of its own
Loves • Original clothes • Natural fabrics • Bright colours
Unique at Baro • Shola flowers made by the artisan on the premises so that people know its story: a pith that grows within the mangrove trees • Baro reuses 70 percent of its bubble wrap
Fun Fact • Baro means 12 in Bangla, since the address of the store is 12 Sun Mill • Srila only wears watches from Ice in different colours
Patron of artisans
Because in the highly young and competitive world of design, the éminence grise of native sensibility has kept his top place with his vast knowledge of rural Indian art and craft.
This year, World University of Design, the country’s first and only university for creative education, honoured him as the ‘Design Guru’.
The man behind the Jaya He GVK New Museum at Mumbai’s T2 International Airport celebrated three initiatives—‘Jiva’, which sells local produce to locals; ‘Jiyol’, which supplies city boutiques with goods made by marginal communities in the Red Corridor; and ‘Janu’, which provides cultural products targeting young Indians, with a six-day expo of new-age yoga, tribal dance, forest foods, fashion products with conscience, tribal performance art and workshops with artisans.
Very few design restorers have done as much as Sethi to revive the dying rural arts and crafts economy and promote sustainable livelihood for artisans.
His sculpture ‘Gondwana’ was the first artwork to be unveiled at Adani Shantigram’s Art Programme; a piece that combines the Gonds from Madhya Pradesh and the Warlpiris of Australia. One of his eclectic successes: teaching women weavers the design skills of sujini, a quilting technique to make bay blankets.
Belief Benefits should reach the artisans
Sleeps with His dogs on top
The quaint bylanes of Nizamuddin basti where he loves the fresh bread made at wayside eateries
Prateek Jain & Gautam Seth
Because they are the leading lights in brightening urban India’s chic spaces. Klove founders Prateek Jain and Gautam Seth are known for their eclectic lighting-it-up sensibility; yet another milestone was launched this year with Klove’s Goa collection inspired by the freewheeling 1970s.
Klove has revolutionised the use of lighting in urban design and decor with signature hand-blown glass pieces plus metal, veneer and rattan, too.
Founded in 2005, the travel experiences of the owners are behind each new concept and evolving design vocabulary.
Earlier this year, came the Magic of Being Alice: Into the Light, in collaboration with Arttd’inox. Totems Over Time made up wall installations, which were unveiled at India Design ID in February.
It was a natural progression from Klove’s Shamanic Soul, inspired by the lives of shamans. The highlight was Klove’s participation in Downtown Design in Dubai, the Middle East’s leading fair for high-quality design.
Klove was also part of the India Design 2019, the country’s biggest symposium for the best in design, architecture, and interiors.
April saw them at an artist-in-residence programme at the eco-friendly Soneva Fushi resort in the Maldives where they learned to make bespoke pieces from waste glass at the hotel studio. The resort has commissioned them to create a capsule collection with the material.
Motto Work hard, party harder
Belief • Opulence is not a dying trend • Little things spark our imagination
Inspiring Cities Paris and Copenhagen
Signature Style Neo-classical
Because he is changing the concept of affordable housing with cutting-edge modern, budget-friendly homes for the contemporary customer.
This year, Kohli curated and launched a home collection for bachelors and the wallet-cautious. The versatile designer has been in an overdrive since 1992.
In 2019, he launched accent furniture with clean lines and linear contours, bespoke living room furniture and a range of bedroom spaces—all pocket-friendly.
He curated a range of art pieces in tune with his interior sensibility. Kohli has come out with a new collection almost every alternate month this year.
Known to strike a chord with his clients for finding solutions for remarkable spaces, his designs are suitable for all contemporary places. Kohli balances elegance, modernity and simplicity with function.
An inveterate traveller, much of his work is inspired by his journeys, especially the art, which borrows inspiration from his own personal zone.
Kohli believes that a beautiful home should not be restricted by the size of the pocket. An ardent reader, he is addicted to his collection of books as much as he likes to talk about unique artefacts he picked on his sojourns.
Known for • Clean lines and linear pieces • Versatile furniture • Marrying radical ideas with traditional pieces
Passionate About • Travel • Collecting artefacts • Reading
Historic England has revealed the most important archaeological discoveries of the decade as the 2010s draw to a close.
The list included the grave of Richard III, Britain’s oldest rabbit and the theatre where Shakespeare’s Hamlet was first performed.
The public body released the list to commemorate the finds that ‘have helped transform our understanding of how people who came before us lived their lives, made their homes and traded across the world,’ according to their official website.
Excavations at the site of Greyfriars friary in Leicester (pictured) revealed the extent of the area that had thrived in the early 13th century as a centre point for the social and economic evolution
The grave of Richard III (2012)
The grave was discovered in Leicester in September 2012 after the Richard III Society alongside Leicester City Council began an ambitious excavation to search for his remains.
His remains were discovered under a car park in the city centre before being identified by DNA analysis of surviving descendants.
He was buried at the site after the Battle of Bosworth – the last significant battle during the War of the Roses – in 1485.
The grave was discovered in Leicester in September 2012 after the Richard III Society alongside Leicester City Council began an ambitious excavation to search for his remains
His remains were discovered under a car park in the city centre (pictured) before being identified by DNA analysis of surviving descendants
He was buried at the site after the Battle of Bosworth – the last significant battle during the War of the Roses – in 1485
Further excavations revealed the extent of the friary that he was buried in known as Greyfriars.
It was prominent in the early 13th century and served as a centre point for the social and economic evolution of Leicester.
But it was later disbanded in 1538 during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Britain’s oldest rabbit (2019)
A tiny rabbit bone was originally found at Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex in 1984 but was overlooked until earlier this year.
Rabbits are native to Spain and France and it had been thought they were a medieval introduction to Britain.
But the discovery of the 4cm piece of tibia bone has now been dated to the first century AD which proves they were actually introduced hundreds of years before.
A tiny rabbit bone was originally found at Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex in 1984 but was overlooked until earlier this year
The discovery of the 4cm piece of tibia bone has now been dated to the first century AD. Pictured: Dr Fay Worley holding the find
The bone was verified through generic testing by a zooarchaeologist at Historic England.
Radiocarbon dating showed the rabbit was alive during the Roman occupation of Britain.
Scientific analysis suggests it was kept in confinement and the bone didn’t reveal any butchery marks.
The Theatre: The first successful Elizabethan playhouse built in London (2008)
The initial foundations of The Theatre were discovered in 2008 in Shoreditch, London, which soon prompted ongoing archaeological investigations.
It is now considered to be earliest known example of a polygonal playhouse in London having been built in 1577.
The design, which is similar to that of The Globe, is thought to have been inspired by classical Roman theatres.
The initial foundations of The Theatre were discovered in 2008 in Shoreditch, London, and prompted ongoing archaeological investigations
A number of playing companies were associated with The Theatre such as Lord Chamberlain’s Men that included William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet was even premiered there in 1596 with Richard Burbage as the lead.
In 2016 The Theatre was recognised as a nationally important archaeological site to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Must Farm Bronze Age Settlement (2015)
An excavation in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in 2015 revealed the site of a Bronze Age settlement.
The remains of timber roundhouses that had been raised on stilts above the marshy grounds which had been destroyed by fire shortly after being built.
But their contents were fortunately preserved in the mud allowing archaeologists an insight into everyday life more than 3,000 years ago.
An excavation in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in 2015 revealed the site of a Bronze Age settlement. The remains of timber roundhouses that had been raised on stilts above the marshy grounds which had been destroyed by fire shortly after being built
But their contents were fortunately preserved in the mud allowing archaeologists an insight into everyday life more than 3,000 years ago
The earliest complete Bronze Age wheel in Britain was also found at the excavation that was carried out by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and jointly funded by Historic England and Forterra
Included in the finds were woven textiles made from plant fibres, stacks of cups, bowls and jars complete with food.
There was enough evidence to determine that the roundhouses had turf roofs, wickerwork floors and that the people who lived there ate wild boar, red deer and pike.
The earliest complete Bronze Age wheel in Britain was also found at the excavation that was carried out by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and jointly funded by Historic England and Forterra.
Graffiti at Hadrian’s Wall (2019)
Graffiti that included a phallus – considered to be a Roman good luck symbol – was discovered etched into a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall at Gelt Woods, Cumbria, earlier this year.
Roman builders are thought to have left the inscriptions on what is now known as The Written Rock of Gelt while repairing the wall in in 207AD.
A total of nine inscriptions were found but only six were legible.
Graffiti that included a phallus – considered to be a Roman good luck symbol – was discovered etched into a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall at Gelt Woods, Cumbria, earlier this year
Roman builders are thought to have left the inscriptions on what is now known as The Written Rock of Gelt while repairing the wall in in 207AD
A total of nine inscriptions were found but only six were legible. The scrawlings have since been heavily photographed and documented as it is thought that they will soon be lost through erosion
One was a caricature of the commanding officer in charge of the quarrying.
Another referred to the consulate of Aper and Maximus which meant that the inscription could be dated.
The scrawlings have since been heavily photographed and documented as it is thought that they will soon be lost through erosion.
The London Shipwreck
The shipwreck of the vessel called London is one of England’s most important dating back to the 17th century.
It blew up in 1665 and sank off Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where it lies in two parts on the sea bed.
Licensed divers spent time examining the ship between 2014 and 2015 as well as retrieving important artefacts before they could be lost to damaging currents or sea worms.
The shipwreck of the vessel called London is one of England’s most important dating back to the 17th century
It blew up in 1665 and sank off Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where divers found a range of personal items including leather shoes, pewter spoons and coins on board
Musket balls, ingots and navigational tools were found alongside personal items including leather shoes, pewter spoons and coins.
A rare and well-preserved wooden gun carriage was also brought to the surface and is now the only known example from this period in existence.
The London warship had a significant role in British history after being part of the squadron that brought Charles II back from the Netherlands in 1660 in order to restore him to the throne.
Fear of the ‘living dead’ (2017)
Medieval bones that were excavated in the now deserted village of Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire, showed that the corpses had been burnt and mutilated after death.
Scientists discovered knife marks on the bones in 2017 that was consistent with decapitation and mutilation.
It is thought that this could be evidence of action taken by villagers to prevent the dead from rising.
Medieval bones that were excavated in the now deserted village of Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire, (artist’s impression) showed that the corpses had been burnt and mutilated after death
Scientists discovered knife marks on the bones in 2017 that was consistent with decapitation and mutilation. It is thought that this could be evidence of action taken by villagers to prevent the dead from rising
Medieval folklore suggested that the dead could rise from their graves and spread disease to menace the living.
The excavation team had previously considered theories that the bodies had been treated with such disregard because they were outsiders or that their remains were cannibalised by starving villagers.
But these theories have since been discounted.
Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (2016)
An Anglo-Saxon Cemetery containing more than 80 wooden coffins were discovered at Great Ryburgh, Norfolk.
The site was found during preparations for a new lake and flood defence system being built at the site.
The water-logged conditions of the river valley meant that the coffins had been incredibly well preserved.
An Anglo-Saxon Cemetery containing more than 80 wooden coffins were discovered at Great Ryburgh, Norfolk
The structures themselves were made out of tree trunks that date from the seventh and ninth century AD.
It is now thought to be a Christian cemetery that indicates a church would have also stood nearby.
The excavation was carried out by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) funded by Historic England
Roman Settlement (2017)
Archaeologists unearthed the remains of a major Roman settlement at Scotch Corner, North Yorkshire, in 2017.
The discovery was made during a routine road improvement scheme to the A1 motorway.
The site is thought to predate settlements in York and Carlisle by at least ten years.
Archaeologists unearthed the remains of a major Roman settlement at Scotch Corner, North Yorkshire, in 2017
It suggests that the Romans expanded their occupation into Northern England earlier than previously believed.
Shoes, keys, a snake-shaped silver ring and rare amber figurines were all found at the site.
Experts also found the most northerly example of coin production ever in Europe.
Iron Age Settlement (2012)
The Iron Age settlement was first photographed by the aerial archaeology team for Historic England using a light aircraft.
The site was spotted in in Gillsmere Sike in Killington, Cumbria, in 2012.
Two roundhouses could be identified that were separated from the surrounding land by an embanked boundary with an entrance that opening towards a stream.
The Iron Age settlement was first photographed by the aerial archaeology team for Historic England using a light aircraft. The site was spotted in in Gillsmere Sike in Killington, Cumbria, in 2012 (stock image of Cumbria)
Evidence of medieval or post medieval ploughing, known as ridge and furrow, were also spotted.
It proves that the area was in agricultural use for many years.
The dry summer of 2018 also proved beneficial for furthering archaeological discoveries from the air.
Duncan Wilson, the Chief Executive of Historic England, said: ‘This has been a truly remarkable decade of landmark archaeological discoveries.
‘The past never ceases to surprise us.
‘Over the past ten years archaeologists have learned where Richard III was laid to rest, about what kind of food our Bronze Age ancestors on the Fens ate and how medieval villagers in Yorkshire mutilated corpses to prevent them rising from the dead.
‘There is always more to learn and I look forward to the next ten years of amazing discoveries.’
As we end the literary community’s year, let’s recall a few of the high points, from a successful new festival to bookstore news and a visit from rock star author and former First Lady Michele Obama.
The most exciting locally produced event was the first-ever Wordplay festival, one of the biggest book-related festivals in the history of Minnesota. Sponsored by the Loft Literary Center, the two-day event in May drew more than 10,000 people to the area across the street from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where publishers, authors and other vendors set up booths.
Big-name authors included Tommy Orange, Edwidge Danticat and LeAnne Howe, as well as a sold-out performance at First Avenue by the Rock Bottom Remainders rock band that includes Stephen King, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Mary Karr, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, Scott Turow and Alan Zweibel. Nobody in the audience will forget Amy Tan, strutting in high black boots and bustier, lightly slapping the butts of the lined-up guys with her little whip.
The biggest audience of the year — 16,000 — rocked the Xcel Energy Center in March when Michelle Obama came to town to talk about her memoir “Becoming,” one of the fastest-selling books in publishing history. The former First Lady was charming, funny, honest and thoughtful in her conversation on a giant stage with Michele Norris, former host of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered
Twin Cities Book Festival, presented for 19 years by Rain Taxi Review, again drew thousands of book lovers to the State Fairgrounds, with programs that included interesting pairings of authors such as Christopher Ingraham, whose book “If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now,” told of his move from the East Coast to Red Lake Falls, Minn., talking with former Minnesotan Kent Nerburn, whose “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” is out in a 25th anniversary edition.
In April, Garrison Keillor sold Common Good Books at 38 S. Snelling Ave. because he moved to Minneapolis and is working on a memoir. St. Paul native Nicholas Ballas bought the store, which he renamed Next Chapter Booksellers. In May, Micawber’s Books in St. Anthony Park closed after owner Tom Bielenberg slipped on the ice in winter and suffered injuries that would take months to heal. The 47-year-old store in the Milton Square complex at Como and Carter was replaced by a new one, Winding Trail Books, that opened in July in a nearby space. Owned by Sue Costello and Rick Gahm, the full-service independent bookstore hosts a full reading series.
In November, Friends of the St. Paul Public Library assumed stewardship of Fitzgerald in St. Paul, the 7-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the life and work of St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Friends promise to continue that mission, which began with seed money from Prof. Dick McDermott, who helped restore and lived in the building that included 481 Laurel Ave., where Fitzgerald was born. The Friends are planning events around Fitzgerald’s first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” which turns 100 years old in 2020. Young Scott wrote the book in his parents’ Summit Avenue home.
It was the year of Swede Hollow, the ravine on St. Paul’s East Side that was home to generations of immigrants who lived without electricity or running water in the shadow of the Hamm brewing family’s mansion. Swedish author Ola Larsmo visited the Twin Cities for several events surrounding his novel of the same name, a bestseller in Sweden. Interest was so high that, despite a cold and pouring rain, more than 100 people turned out for a walking tour of the hollow, now a city park. Mother-daughter writing partners Karin DuPaul and Angela DuPaul wrote “Swede Hollow: A Pictorial History,” which traces the area’s fortunes from the 1860s through neglect in the 20th century to the community’s efforts to transform it into a leafy park. McKnight composer Ann Millikan also wrote an opera about the neighborhood, which was vacated and then burned by order of the city in 1956 because of health concerns.
Among impressive picture books, Preston Cook published “American Eagle: A Visual History of Our National Emblem,” a look at some of the 25,000 eagle-related items in his collection, the largest in the country. After 50 years of collecting, Cook has donated his unique collection to the nonprofit National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn. “My Mighty Journey,” another gorgeous book, with text by John Coy and illustrations by Gaylord Schanilec, was announced earlier this month winner of the Minnesota Book Awards Book Artist Award that is shared by a collaborative of artists who worked on the story of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River.
Speaking of awards, Minnesotans Marlon James (“Black Leopard, Red Wolf”), and David Treuer (“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee”), were finalists for National Book Awards. Neither won, but just getting to the finalist list is an honor.
Two nonfiction books won wide recognition for exploring topics that aren’t often addressed. Sheila O’Connor’s “Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions,” a blend of genres, is based on her grandmother’s incarceration in the 1930s at the Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre for the “immoral” act of getting pregnant at 15. The book calls into question the ways in which girls were (and still are) punished by the state for things that were not their fault, such as getting raped, and the cruel treatment the young women suffered at the state-run institution that was certainly not a home. “What God is Honored Here? Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color” edited by Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang, is made up of heart-wrenching stories of infant loss and the different ways families handle this difficult time. The contributors’ willingness to be frank has started a national conversation.
The year ended on a sad note with the passing Dec. 21 of prose poet Louis Jenkins, who died at his Bloomington home at age 77. Author of 16 books, Jenkins was born in Oklahoma and lived for years in Duluth, where the winter cold inspired some of his writing. His collection “Nice Fish,” published by Duluth’s Holy Cow! Press in 1995, won a Minnesota Book Award and was the basis for a play that was produced in the United States and England. After his death, friends and former students applauded Jenkins on social media for his kindness, wit and encouragement.
Award-winning Minnesota poet Freya Manfred caught the essence of Louis Jenkins and his work when she introduced Jenkins at his last major reading on his 77th birthday, Oct. 28, 2019, at Plymouth Congregational church in Minneapolis:
LOUIS JENKINS — WHERE YOUR HOUSE IS NOW “I mentioned to Louis that I felt overwhelmed by the idea of introducing him tonight. How would I be able to convey the power and breadth and depth of his work — over decades? Should I say this, or that, or something else?
“Louis listened and kindly said, ‘Really, Freya, whatever you say will be fine.’ And then he added, ‘Just be sure you mention my name.’
“That remark is pure Louis — it’s funny — it’s real — it’s the bottom-line response to my concerns. Like so many of Louis’ poems, it reduces ‘nothing in particular’ and ‘everything in particular’ to its essence.
“So, let’s get to down to the bottom line: The NAME of the poet who will read to you tonight is LOUIS JENKINS.
“Louis even reduces himself to the bottom line in a poem entitled ‘Dark Matter’ in this new collection, ‘Where You Are Now.’ In ‘Dark Matter’ he talks about what he hopes might happen if he dies … what he does not want to happen, given his religious beliefs, etc., etc., etc. And by the end of the poem — as usual — he gets down to the bottom line. He says, ‘At most I hope to be a particle, or part of a particle. Something with no memory, no agenda…a minor probability.’
“Yeah – that LOUIS JENKINS. ‘The most strikingly original poet in America’ as poet Connie Wanek has said. ‘One of the most subtle poets of his generation,’ as poet Robert Bly has said. That guy. The guy who feels he will be known — in the end — as “a minor probability. The guy who reminds me, ‘Just be sure you mention my name.’
“When I asked Louis what we might include in a ‘bio’ about his many accomplishments, he sent the following: labeled, ‘BIO CRAP.’
“ ‘Louis Jenkins poems have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. He has published 10 collections of his poetry. He was awarded two Bush Foundation Fellowships for poetry, a Loft-McKnight fellowship, and was the 2000 George Morrison Award winner. Louis Jenkins has read his poetry on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ and was a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in 1996 and at the 2007 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, in England.’
“Beginning in 2008, Louis Jenkins and Mark Rylance, Academy Award winning actor and former director of the Globe Theatre, London, began work on a stage production titled ‘Nice Fish,’ based on Jenkins’ poems. The play premiered April 6, 2013, at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and ran through May. A revised version of the play was performed at American Repertory Theater in Boston (Jan/Feb 2016) where, thanks to Rylance and Claire Van Kampen, Jenkins got a chance to attempt acting. It was a short-lived career, he says. The play then moved to St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York City (Feb-March 2016). In November 2016 the play opened at The Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, and ran until February 2017. In March 2017 Nice Fish was nominated for an Olivier award, Best New Comedy, 2017. Mr. Jenkins latest book is ‘Where Your House is Now: New and Selected Prose Poems,’ published by Nodin Press.
“I knew Louis’s poetry before I knew him. My dearest friend, Helen, read a book of his poetry that I’d sent her, and she sent me an interview with Louis, in which he talked about writing poetry. She said, ‘Freya, when you talk about writing — what you say reminds me of what Louis Jenkins says about writing. So I want you to meet him when you get back to Minnesota. I know you’ll like him. I have a feeling about this, he can be your friend — so you be sure you look him up!’
“Helen was right. When we get together I get to laugh and yet we’re not avoiding the truth, however sad or dark or otherwise. I think it’s unusual to find anyone who is so consistently honest, real, and also funny. He reminds me that humor depends on telling unexpected truths.
“After reading his work, I often start to feel that I’m living in a Louis Jenkins poem and I can’t get out. I start to see everything around me in terms of the world he’s created. Word by word he reels us in — not boring — taking surprising turns — even when he’s writing about everyday things — leaping the vast echoing spaces he creates between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.
“Entering a Louis Jenkins poem reminds me of the fantastic drawings of M.C. Escher, where staircases lead nowhere, and yet everywhere, and a topsy-turvy world makes perfect sense. As Escher once said, ‘Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement. … Let me go upstairs and check.’
“Jenkins’ world is so free and believable (familiar yet utterly new) that we soon feel the intolerable sorrow and pity of how every object and person and place and event is redolent with humor.
“I can’t possibly explain such a miracle. Except to say that it’s all so very FUNNY … living inside a Louis Jenkins poem, even when he’s ripping out my heart.”
— Freya Manfred
So now we look to a new year of literary adventures, wonderful books, lots of good discussions. Thanks to all readers of this column, to authors who graciously make time for interviews, and publishers who do the hard, unseen work.
The remains of a Shakespearean theatre, 17th Century shipwreck and bones of Britain’s first rabbit have been named among the top 10 archaeological finds of the last decade in England.
Historic England drew up the list to mark the imminent arrival of 2020.
Chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “This has been a truly remarkable decade of landmark archaeological discoveries.
“The past never ceases to amaze us and there is always more to learn.”
Must Farm Bronze Age Settlement, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
Although archaeologists knew there was something important at this site, it was not until 2015 that a major excavation revealed the remains of a remarkably intact Bronze Age settlement, made up of timber roundhouses raised on stilts above the marshy ground.
Shortly after being built, the settlement was destroyed in a catastrophic fire and the roundhouses, with most of their contents still inside, were preserved in the water-logged ground, giving a glimpse everyday life 3,000 years ago.
The excavation, carried out by Cambridge Archaeological Unit and jointly funded by Historic England and Forterra, also led to the discovery of the largest, earliest complete Bronze Age wheel in Britain.
The Theatre, Hackney, east London
The Theatre was built in 1576-7 and is thought to have been the first place to show William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
A popular venue, a number of playing companies were associated with it, such as the Lord Chamberlain’s Company that included Shakespeare as an actor.
The remains of The Theatre were formally protected in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Known as The Written Rock of Gelt, the inscriptions were made by the Romans while they were repairing Hadrian’s Wall in AD207.
It was thought they included a group of nine inscriptions, of which only six were legible, however more have been found including a caricature of the commanding officer in charge of the quarrying and another that proves the Romans were rebuilding their frontier in the early third century.
The graffiti were discovered during a project to record them before they were lost through erosion, work funded by Historic England and carried out by archaeologists from Newcastle University.
The London Shipwreck, Southend, Essex
The London accidentally blew up in 1665 and sank off Southend-on-Sea, where it lies in two parts on the sea bed.
Five years previously it had been part of the flotilla that brought Charles II back to Britain from the Netherlands to restore him to the throne.
It was excavated by Historic England, Cotswold Archaeology and licensed divers between 2014-15 to retrieve important artefacts before they could be lost forever through damaging currents and sea worms.
An array of items including musket balls, ingots and navigational tools were recovered.
An extremely rare and well-preserved wooden gun carriage was also brought to the surface – the only known example from this period in existence.
Mutilated corpses, Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire
The burnt and mutilated bodies discovered in the deserted village of Wharram Percy could be a sign of a medieval fear of the living dead, archaeologists said.
Medieval folklore held that the dead could rise from their graves, spreading disease and menacing the living.
In research published in 2017, experts from Historic England and the University of Southampton found many of the bones had knife-marks consistent with decapitation and dismembering.
There was also evidence of burning and the deliberate breaking of bones after death.
Rabbits are native to Spain and France and it had been thought they were a medieval introduction to Britain. The 4cm (1.6in) piece of tibia was discovered during excavations in 1964 but had been overlooked at the time.
In 2019, a Historic England zooarchaeologist recognised the bone belonged to a rabbit and verified this through genetic testing.
This animal may have been kept as an exotic pet with scientific analysis suggesting it was kept in confinement with no signs of butchery marks.
They were discovered during an excavation by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) funded by Historic England, in advance of a new lake and flood defence system being built.
The waterlogged conditions of the river valley led to the preservation of the tree-trunk coffins as well as plank-lined graves that dated from the seventh and ninth centuries AD.
It was believed to have been a Christian cemetery “greatly adding to our understanding of early Christian Anglo-Saxon communities and their funeral practices”, Historic England said.
Roman settlement, Scotch Corner, North Yorkshire
Discovered in 2017 as part of a road improvement scheme, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a major Roman settlement that pre-dated settlements in York and Carlisle by 10 years, showing the Romans probably expanded their occupation into Northern England earlier than previously thought.
The archaeological team also found a startling range of Roman objects during the investigations, from shoes and keys to a snake-shaped silver ring, rare amber figurine and the most northerly example of coin production ever found in Europe.
Long known to be the site of a medieval monastery, in August 2012 the University of Leicester, the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council began an ambitious excavation to search for the grave of Richard III.