The 15th anniversary of the Emirates LitFest started on Wednesday, 1 February with a return to the desert for the signature Festival event, in which 250+ authors, illustrators, and guests gathered out in the Dubai desert for a magical night of music, poetry, and dance that celebrated Emirati heritage and culture.
Day 2 of the Emirates LitFest — Thursday, 2 February — sees the conversations continue with an exciting selection of author talks and inspiring speakers reflecting on their life experiences and sharing their wealth of knowledge.
Gaming and esports were front and center for a lively and engaging panel featuring Ambassador for Women In Games Lucy Chow, CEO of Galaxy House Paul Roy, business coach Philip Wride, and Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge games writer Rhianna Pratchett as they discussed the potential rapid growth of the video games industry and esports in the UAE (and the rest of the MENA region) in the next few years, the need for upscaling local talent when it comes to game design in the local cultural economy, as well as how brands can embrace gaming communities to tap into a new audience or market of consumers.
“There is huge potential here. There is a huge need for localization of games,” stated Chow, referring to audiences’ desires for popular games to be translated as well as for nuance in depictions within games. “If you’re a recruiting company, you need to recruit people to come into this region.”
“You’re looking into investing in the consumer of tomorrow,” noted Roy. “You’re laying the foundation and getting in.”
Ultra-endurance athlete Toby Gregory discussed the success of completing his latest challenge as he and his three teammates not only rowed an eight-metre rowing boat unsupported from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua, but also overshot their 4800km goal by 400km in only 42 days.
“I read a book and it allowed me to dream and imagine,” said Gregory about his experience reading The Penance Way and how it inspired him to undertake this journey. “So please read books, dare to dream and push your boundaries.”
“I hope and I believe that we have inspired some others and I've loved to have been part of that journey where we do have an all-Emirati team trying to row across the Atlantic,” said Gregory of his experience and his involvement with an Emirati rowing team looking to undertake a similar challenge. “I would love to see an all-Emirati female team row across the Atlantic. I personally think they would absolutely smash it!”
Dubai-based clinical psychologist Dr. Saliha Afridi discussed the “pervasive and invasive nature” of technology and social media in our lives, and specifically those of children and teenagers and what parents can do to mitigate the effects on their developing minds, while still helping them grow into emotionally intelligent adults who are able to self-regulate and are connected to the world around them.
“Social media is designed to be addictive. I’m talking about a design that is a code to keep you on that screen longer, to tap into your biggest insecurities as a human being: ‘am I going to be liked? Am I popular? Am I going to be followed? Am I going to have influence?’ These are things that matter to us as human beings,” observed Afridi about how good guardrails are needed to prevent becoming addicted. “We know that 50% of all mental health issues arise by the age of 14. Then introducing [social media] by such a vulnerable age where their brain is more likely to get addicted, because neurochemically that’s what happens, it’s a window of sensitivity, and they’re the most insecure, and their bodies and their minds and their social groups are changing, you are causing a lot of stress and pressure on a developing brain, which is why we are seeing a rise in mental health conditions across the board.”
HH Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum will discuss her book, Through My Eyes, touching on her relationship with her father, the late HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as she offers rare insights into his life and values, and shares who he was behind his public persona.
The actor behind the patriarch at the heart of the hit show Succession, Brian Cox, will take the stage for an intimate discussion about his legendary acting career.
Actors, comedians, and children’s authors Ben Miller (Bridgerton, Paddington 2), and David Walliams (Britain’s Got Talent) will share the stage for the very first time as they tell stories and talk about their inspirations.
Mind coach Vex King and beauty influencer Kaushal Beauty will take audiences on a journey of self-exploration as the husband-and-wife duo discuss their latest book, The Greatest Self Help Book (Is the One Written By You), and help guide their audience towards mental wellness and better self-care habits.
It’s time for some herstory as author Kate Mosse and historian and writer Manu S. Pillai discuss the unnamed women from across the globe who’ve helped shape our world, the hurdles in convering these often undocumented (or even erased) efforts, as well as the similarities between the histories of women in the East and the West and what we can learn from them.
Children Take Over the LitFest!
Join this group of young writers as they read excerpts from their books, share inspirations and challenges, and reveal what’s next for them!
Fresh Air, Fresh Lyrics
Sit back and relax in an outdoor setting as an eclectic mix of poets and spoken word artists from across the world and here in the UAE regales audiences with their chosen art form. The line-up includes Maitha Alsuwaidi, Pia A Fajelagutan, Danabelle Gutierrez, Asma Baker and Tishani Doshi.
Film Screening: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Catch a screening of the award-winning animated adaptation of Gibran’s beloved novel, followed by a special video message from actress Salma Hayek (one of the film’s producers), and a Q&A with producers Clark Peterson and Haytham Nasr, and director Roger Allers who will discuss the production of the film and how they brought Gibran’s magnum opus to life via animation.
Coming Up Tomorrow…
Celebrity chef and Top Chef Arabia judge Bobby Chinn has designed a special vegan dinner using locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients.
Head of Business Marketing at TikTok MENA Annie Arsane Mattar will delve into the world of #BookTok and what this channel means to the publishing industry.
Award-winning author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers returns to offer his unique perspective on our world, by exploring its history adn our place in the universe as he discusses one of his latest books, Meanwhile Back on Earth — followed by a reading in Arabic!