LAHORE - The second annual Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) kicked off in the historic city of Lahore on Friday at the Alhamra Arts Centre, The Mall.

Like the pervious year, the LLF attracted a large number of people especially youth on its first day which is to be continued till Sunday. Huge number of youth at festival depicted the younths interest in literature and art. The successful episode of last year’s festival has encouraged the organisers to come up with more programmes and festivity.

On the day first, the festival had a variety of discussions with a good number of intellectuals and writers. Prominent highlights of day one included Vikram Seth in conversation with Nasreen Rehman; Aitizaz Ahsan, FS Aijazuddin, Khaled Ahmed and Pran Neville talking about “Lahore, Literature and Longing;”, the world renowned artist Shahzia Sikander’s animated session on the World in Miniature with John Zaroel; the ever enigmatic Zia Mohyeddin and Zehra Nigah’s session on Urdu literature and poetry; and a closing Kathak performance by the enchanting Naheed Siddiqui.

To relive the true spirit of Lahore, exhibitions were set up by various organisations and artists; there was also a food court full of traditional and contemporary delicacies for the visitors.

LLF’s founding director Razi Ahmed told, “LLF 2014 will feature over 100 delegates from eight countries over three days.

We have scheduled book launches, readings, panel discussions, performances, and exhibitions as part of this year’s festival to celebrate the best of Lahore’s varied and storied cultural traditions.”

Some of this year’s LLF guests include Kamila Shamsie, author of A God in Every Stone; Zia Mohyeddin; artist Shahzia Sikander; poetess Zehra Nigah; journalist Jugnu Mohsin; and many more. LLF 2014 will feature several exciting panel discussions including on Punjabi humour; Ardeshir Cowasjee; Lahore’s lost daughter, Amrita Sher Gil; scholar Pierre Alain Baud on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; and Pakistan’s young new writers on creating fiction.

“We bring together new ideas and themes to the program each year,” said Ahmed. “This year’s program reflects our commitment to present a well-thought and stimulating literary festival packed with intellectually-stimulating events in both Urdu and English, as well as Punjabi.”

Last year’s event drew over 30,000 visitors and featured, many prominent names including, Amin Jaffer, Ayesha Jalal, Bapsi Sidhwa, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Jeet Thayil, Linda Bird Francke, Lyse Doucet, Mohammed Hanif, Nadeem Aslam, Shehan Karunatilaka, Tariq Ali, Victoria Schofield, Urvashi Butalia, William Dalrymple, and Zehra Nigah.

The opening ceremony of the festival was conducted by Fasih Ahmed. The main speakers of the opening ceremony were Ahmed Rashid - who welcomed the guests on the behalf of the LLF Advisory Committee, Amber Saigol. They were followed by special addresses from the French Ambassador, German Ambassador and Italian Ambassador who congratulated the organisers on arranging such a great event and urged on the importance of literature and learning for the growth of the society.

Faqir Ijazud Din then spoke about the 300 year old history of Lahore, talking about the great culture and traditions of this beautiful city followed by Vali Nasr who gave a short speech about the importance of literary festival and how it brings a positive change in the society.

The opening ceremony concluded with two ‘Lifetime Achievement’ awards which were given to Farida Khanum and Zia Mohyeuddin respectively and one ‘Artist of the Year Award’ which was given to Shahzia Sikander.