5 reasons you should attend the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2017

The line-up is phenomenal, with fascinating speakers from both Indonesia and overseas; Ubud itself is booming; and there is a plethora of food-related events. What more could you want?

Kate Walton

Published: 6:15 PM October 5, 2017

Updated: 12:53 PM October 6, 2017

UNIQUE EXPERIENCE. A special event at last year's Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Photo by Xenia Blair/UWRF 2016.

Every year as October comes around, I, like many others, decide that this is the year I’ll finally attend Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF). But for some reason, it just never seems to happen.

But this year, I’m finally going.

The line-up is phenomenal, with fascinating speakers from both Indonesia and overseas; Ubud itself is booming; and there is a plethora of food-related events. What more could you want?

Here are 5 reasons why you should attend the festival too:

1. Inspiring international speakers

UWRF always has an impressive list of international speakers, and 2017 is no exception.

An undoubtedly fascinating keynote will be delivered by Malaysian activist Marina Mahathir. Marina is a former UN Person of the Year, a leader at the Malaysian AIDS Foundation, and her writings about minority rights have been compiled into 3 books so far.

Marina is a controversial figure in Malaysia: she has been calling for the end to discrimination based on sexual orientation since the late 1990s, and has decried ‘Arab colonialism’ as the destroyer of Malaysian culture.

Other international speakers include Pierre Coffin, the French-Indonesian animator who lent his voice to the Minions; Australian climate change activist and writer, Tim Flannery; Chinese cookbook writer, Fuchsia Dunlop; author of Man Booker Prize finalist ‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’, Madeleine Thien; and traveller Paula Constant, who once walked 7,000km across the Sahara with her own camels.

2. Amazing national speakers

Some of Indonesia’s most interesting writers, actors, and comedians will be appearing at UWRF in 2017, including poet Joko Pinurbo, author Leila Chudori, and author Nh Dini.

Controversial author Djenar Maesa Ayu will be screening her fourth film, ‘hUSh’, and talking about how film can combat stereotypes and push for social change, while actress Debra Yatim will be discussing motherhood in a panel with Balinese author Oka Rusmini.

For socially-conscious laughs, one of Indonesia’s first female Muslim stand-up comedians, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, will appear at multiple sessions, before turning serious on the final day of the festival, when she and other comics will discuss how to poke fun at discrimination and religious extremism.

But UWRF isn’t all just about writers: all-girl Sundanese metal band Voice of Baceprot (VoB) will be performing at the festival, bringing their stereotype-smashing tunes to Ubud. VoB’s 3 young women sing about issues such as education and the environment, as well as covering classic metal and rock songs.

3. Ubud is an artistic, creative hub

For people interested in art, culture, and handicrafts, there are few places in Southeast Asia more exciting than Ubud. Over the past two decades, Ubud has blossomed from a quiet town in the middle of rice fields to become the center of everything creative.

In between attending UWRF sessions, there are tens of galleries and museums open for visiting. Neka Art Museum was established in 1976 and houses hundreds of Balinese paintings, sculptures, and artefacts such as kris daggers across 6 pavilions.

Slightly to the south, Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) displays a diverse collection of Indonesian art in the middle of a huge tropical garden, including pieces from Raden Saleh and Affandi. Balinese dance and gamelan performances are held almost every day at ARMA.

Ubud is also a wallet-endangering spot for wonderful traditional handicrafts. At Threads of Life, not only can you view exhibitions and purchase hand-made cloth, baskets, and ceramics, you can learn how the weaving and dyeing is done, too.

Best of all, a percentage of sales goes back to the creators themselves. Silver jewellery shops also abound in Ubud, with locally-run studios such as Studio Perak selling reasonably-priced silver rings, necklaces, and earrings, as well as offering small group silver-crafting workshops.

4. Scrumptious festival food

UWRF works closely with its sister festival, the Ubud Food Festival, and in 2017 is presenting a wide range of food-focused workshops, classes, and discussions.

Want to travel the world while not setting foot on a plane? Spend an evening exploring Latin literature from Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico while sipping cocktails and munching down on South American delights at La Pacha Mama. Or if you’re interested in exploring Indonesia, meet food activist and owner of social enterprise Lakoat Kujawas Dicky Senda at his workshop on central Timorese food, where you can try freshly-made local corn porridge and fermented sambal.

Think you know your sambal bawang from your sambal terasi? Put your knowledge to the test at an hour-long discussion about sambal. Led by head chef of Nusantara by Locavore, this is your chance to understand the subtle differences between 10 kinds of sambal from across the archipelago.

Or maybe you’d like to learn how to roast your own coffee at home. Ubud mainstay Seniman Industries will be on hand to teach you how to take green beans and turn them into the perfect cup of coffee all within the comfort of your own home.

As always, UWRF will also hold market tours, herb walks, and breakfast events, where you can not only eat local food but also learn some Basa Bali between mouthfuls.

5. Skill-building workshops

Want to gain some sweet new skills in 2017? UWRF is offering workshops on topics such as building fictional characters, stage play writing, and novel writing. Poet-activists Olin Monteiro and Clarasia Kiky will hold a free, 3-hour workshop on poetry with purpose, while human rights advocate Andreas Harsono’s investigative journalism workshop will teach participants how to plan and draft your own in-depth research stories.

Alternatively, you can learn about how to make money from travel writing with Ian Neubauer, how to write for online publications with Brigid Delaney, or how to find inspiring with Joko Pinurbo. We guarantee you will leave the festival with your mind brimming with ideas. – Rappler.com

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) 2017 is held in Ubud, Bali, on 25-29 October 2017. 2017’s theme is origins. Visit their website for more details.