Jill Dawson was invited to take part in the Galle Literary Festival in 2011. The trip was supported by the British Council

‘My Galle festival experience was wonderful, Sri Lanka itself (my first visit) was enthralling. Everyone, from the Sri Lankan air stewardess in her kingfisher colours who greeted me at the airport with my name on a stick and whisked us through customs, to the tuktuk drivers who ferried us around the Galle Fort, to the Festival volunteers, were so friendly, calm and helpful. The Galle Festival programming was intelligent, ambitious and imaginative, and I loved the fact that for once, I was on a panel with three great writers who had much to say on the topics that interest me – you can’t imagine how often I’m lumped together with writers I have nothing at all in common with, usually because we’re all women and the programmers assume we’ll have plenty to talk about. If that wasn’t enough there was the location itself. The sea, the cocktail parties, the glamorous hotels, the generosity, the delicious food – (Felix is still going on about the lime basil sorbet he had at the Dutch House); the Sri Lankan wildlife – monkeys playing in the treetops while I gave my breakfast talk at the top of Lady Hill hotel, baby crocodiles on our river safari ….and can you believe it – to top all that we even saw a blue whale on our fabulous, unforgettable trip with ‘whalehead’ Phillip Hoare – well, it all adds up to one of the most memorable week’s of my life, and definitely the best literary festival I’ve ever attended.’

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