Annual Literary Event Concludes Most Successful Edition with Sold-Out Session
Dubai, 11 March, 2018: Following ten days of literary celebrations, the 10th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature concluded on a high with a sold-out session with renowned comedian and bestselling children’s author David Walliams. The event capped off the Festival’s most successful edition, which featured 180 authors from nearly 50 countries.
Held by the Emirates Literature Foundation, the Festival is under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said, ‘I am thrilled to announce that our tenth anniversary has been a resounding success. It has been such an honour to host renowned and beloved authors from around the world, to witness young readers delight in meeting their literary heroes, and see the power of words enlighten minds. Friendships have been forged and souls have been enriched. This is what the Festival is about – making memories that will last a lifetime.
‘Our Festival would not be possible without the support of the Board of Trustees of the Emirates Literature Foundation, and our many sponsors, chiefly our title sponsor, Emirates Airline, and our partners, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. We are grateful for the continued participation of the UAE’s educational institutions and the community at large. Our Foundation Friends and the Festival audiences are our core group of supporters who have helped make the Festival the success it is today. We are a small team and rely on the dedication of our volunteers to be able to run a complex and large event and we are deeply thankful for their hard work. And last, but not least, a massive ‘thank you’ to the Foundation team, who work year-round on making the Festival a reality.’
To commemorate the Festival’s decade-long literary endeavours, organisers launched a limited edition book, For the Love of Words, which featured a collection of essays, poems, short stories and illustrations by authors, speakers, illustrators and poets who have attended the event over the years.
The book was launched at the Opening Ceremony, a lavish extravaganza engaging all the senses - from recitals by international and regional authors, to shadow dancers and performances by traditional Emirati sea-faring singers – the ceremony was a larger-than-life remembrance of the Festival’s journey so far.
During his Opening Ceremony speech, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Cabinet Member and Minister of Tolerance praised the progenitors of the Festival for their bravery, saying, ‘Since 2009, the love of words has brought our country’s diverse population together at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature… Now we cannot imagine being without this event. It has become a tradition.’
Sheikh Nahyan also spoke of how literature brings about tolerance. ‘We love the words that skilled writers use to make meaning. Those artificers describe, interpret, or imagine worlds at least partially and, in most cases, wholly unknown to readers. For readers to engage those worlds is an act that grandly illustrates the benefit of tolerance. I have been thinking a great deal about the concept of tolerance recently. Tolerance is the first and necessary step toward understanding what we do not know. We must be willing to open the book we have not read. We must be willing to read it. We must be resolved to comprehend and appreciate what we read. That is the second step toward understanding what we do not know.’
In line with the resurgence of poetry around the globe, the Festival debuted an extraordinary poetry evening at the Dubai Opera. For the Love of Words, presented by the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai Opera, the Ministry of Tolerance and the British Council, with the support of the UK GREAT campaign formed part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration closing celebrations, gathering the best of the UK and UAE’s contemporary poets under one roof. Khalid AlBudoor, Nujoom Nasser AlGhanem, spoken word artist Afra Atiq, UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, John Agard, Imtiaz Dharker, Hussain Lootah, Roger McGough, Grace Nichols, Lemn Sissay and World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker enchanted a packed theatre of poetry performance enthusiasts.
The 2018 Festival included a host of powerful panel sessions that showcased the Festival’s diversity of genres. Highlight sessions included discussions on writing great female characters, Arabic science-fiction, the hidden secrets of the Arabian Nights stories, displacement and writing in exile, as well as the annual International Women’s Day session, which, this year, focused on the theme ‘Press for Progress’.
The Festival programme also included a dedicated Publishing Day, where global industry experts held sessions, masterclasses and workshops on key aspects of publishing, challenges of publishing children’s books and the evolution of the Arab World publishing industry.
Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Centre for Emirates Airline said: “We are proud to have concluded yet another successful year of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, a truly international event that encourages new ways of engaging with literature, opening the hearts, minds and imagination of visitors and participants alike. We are eagerly looking forward to the next edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and hope it continues from strength to strength in enabling visitors and participants to reflect upon the role literature can play in reimagining our relationship to the world, ourselves and each other.”
To highlight the importance of inculcating a love of words in the next generation, Festival organisers, in association with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), introduced the three-day International Students Programme. University students from the Arab World were treated to three days of inspiring and diverse sessions specifically designed to implement the Festival’s goal of cross-cultural exchange. Registered students had the opportunity to interact with and attend sessions by the crème de la crème of the Festival’s author line-up.
This year also saw a record increase in the number of students participating in the Festival’s children’s competitions, the Taaleem Award for poetry writing, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition, Chevron Readers’ Cup and Emirates NBD Poetry for All Competition for poetry performance. Particularly moving were the performances by students of determination, participating in the new non-competitive category of the Emirates NBD Poetry for All Competition.
In addition, more than 28,000 students from around the GCC took part in the Festival this year, enjoying the unique opportunity to interact with and hear from a top international author, either at the Festival or at their schools and universities.
Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, commented: “As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Dubai Culture, we also celebrate the 10th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which drew to a successful conclusion this year. Our success would not have been possible without the great support from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as always during the National Month of Reading, the festival took place in a dynamic and welcoming environment that celebrated the values of culture and creativity, which supports our vision of establishing Dubai as a global, creative and sustainable city for culture, heritage, arts and literature. To support this endeavour.”
Al Nabouda added: “We are proud to be supporting and strengthening Dubai’s literature sector and spreading the joy of reading across all segments of the community. Dubai Culture organises ongoing initiatives to support local talent in line with the objectives of the UAE National Reading Strategy 2026. As 2018 is the UAE’s Year of Zayed, we are also upholding the values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, our Founding Father, and his strong belief that the real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones. He also believed that the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education, and reading is one of the greatest sources to strengthen the cultural development of any nation.”