Cities have inspired a wealth of narratives throughout history. They are the background for experiences or work as characters themselves. These narratives archive pivotal moments, people and practices that make and unmake a city over the years. They allow an examination into the varied and enriching encounters with different facets of the urban experience.

City Scripts, an annual festival organised by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), is a three-day celebration of writings that bring alive the city as seen through myriad lenses. Every year, we capture the essence of the city by curating a set of diverse engagements that gives us a glimpse of how cities have transformed, and how our lives change with it. We look at how contemporary narratives foreground our present concerns of living in the urban context.

City Scripts sessions are also held on a monthly basis to extend our interaction with our audiences. These intimate conversations allow us to deepen our engagement with the city and its people. 


Showcasing the city

The only festival of its kind in the country to focus on the city, City Scripts is unique in its insistence on going beyond the book to embrace a variety of forms of writing that centre the city. The festival has brought together eminent authors, journalists, architects, poets, artists and others, and centre-staged urban contemporary writings across forms through conversations, readings, panel discussions, exhibits and workshops.

The festival has showcased urban stories through the lenses of caste, activism, food, music, language and lived experiences, grounding them in contemporary research. We opened our doors to the public in 2016 and have become, over the years, a space for conversation, interaction and immersion where the city comes alive. Since its inception, the festival has reimagined the idea of the city as a ‘text’—building on and bringing together the works of people and organisations interacting with the city.

Diversity in the format of our engagements

Active audience participation sits at the core of the festival through interactive sessions that allow for a diverse—and therefore, richer—exchange of ideas about cities and the urban experience. Conversations, workshops, masterclasses, keynote lectures, round table discussions, readings, as well as innovative formats such as ‘walking-writing workshops’, translate-a-thons, live art, and games have made the festival more experiential.

Making connections between research, practice and the public

The City Scripts festival is one way by which IIHS posits art and culture as a significant metric in understanding urban societal transformation. Every year, the festival engages with critical current issues such as climate change, sanitation, disaster risk resilience, identity, language and translation, digital labour, among other evolving themes from IIHS’s cutting edge research on urbanisation in the global South, and will continue to expand along similar lines to keep up with the changing times.