Emirates Airline Festival of Literature draws to a triumphant close

Alserkal Avenue finale caps three weekends of literary treats

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature draws to a triumphant close

Dubai, UAE: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (29 January-13 February) drew to a close today following three exceptional weekends with live and virtual appearances and sold-out sessions from Nobel prize winner Malala,Elif Shafak, and Lemn Sissay. Programme highlights also included internationally acclaimed authors and Booker nominees Avni Doshi (Burnt Sugar) and Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister the Serial Killer), behavioural specialistand author Thomas Erikson,and a dedicated day to Emirati talent.

For the first time the Festival took place across three weekends and three venues - Jameel Arts Centre (29-30 January), the big middle weekend at the Festival’s home, the InterContinental Dubai Festival City (4-6 February) and Alserkal Avenue (12-13 February). The Festival has been praised for enabling so many events to be enjoyed live, in a safe and socially distant way. The Festival’s digital ticket, giving access to more than a dozen live streamed sessions including Malala, Amin Maalouf, and Elif Shafak, also proved to be a popular choice, and a dedicated creative partnership link enabled creative professionals from as far afield as Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and the USA to view the sessions.

Ahlam Bolooki, Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said: “We are so grateful to everyone who made this Festival happen, against all odds. Over three weeks, we have seen a wonderful celebration of stories in all their iterations and art forms, and we have rejoiced in the strong sense of community coming together. It has been a Festival full of creativity, inspiring conversations, and awe-inspiring speakers, providing much needed nourishment for our hearts and minds.”

The ‘Spotlight on Emirati talent’ day included a discussion between HE Hala Badri and HE Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri on the UAE’s ‘Cultural Visa’ for creatives. HE Noura Al Kaabi spoke on a panel about the future of the Arabic language.

A highlight was the celebration of the new children’s books from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as well as the launch of the book celebrating the first regional winners of Voices of Future Generations entitled Young Voices of Arabia.

Booker-nominated novelist Avni Doshi compared notes with Derek Owusu on their critically acclaimed writing debuts inLiterary Fiction - On the Edge’ which was livestreamed to the Bergen International Literary Festival in Norway as part of their ‘Literature Live Around the World’ segment. This extravaganza, showcasing 12 leading international literary events, was available to view worldwide, including at the Festival in Dubai.

Highlights of the final weekend included HE Omar Ghobash,Lemn Sissay in conversation, and an inspiring festival finale celebrating poetry, with Dana Dajani, Lemn Sissay, Afra Atiq, Danabelle Gutierrez and Zeina Hashem Beck. The Alserkal Avenue community joined in with their own creative activations and events that celebrated the power of stories in all their forms. These included Gulf Photo Plus’ panel about self-publishing photobooks, Short+Sweet Theatre 2021 with its Shakespeare week at The Junction, Wisdom Warehouse’s many creative writing workshops, and acrylic and water colour technique workshops at Thejamjar, and more.

The adult winner of the Montegrappa Letter Writing Prize (English) were Katherine Rich, who took first place with ‘A Message to Gabo’. The runners up were Teejay Button with a letter to the ‘Big Monster’ character in Giles Andreae’s I love you Little Monster, and Maria Vincent with her letter, ‘Thank You, Santiago’.

Benjamin Crossland was announced as the winner of the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize for unpublished novelists.

A Students’ Edition of the Festival, featuring exclusive sessions from Ali Sparkes, Isabel Thomas, Julia Johnson, amongst others, is available to view from 7-25 February 2021 for schools that have registered to participate.

The organiser of the Festival extends its thanks to the many other organisations that also play an important role as supporters and sponsors of the event.

Title Sponsor: Emirates

Founding Partner: Dubai Culture and Arts Authority

Sponsors and partners: Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Emirates NBD, du, Investment Corporation of Dubai, Zabeel Ladies Club, Voices of Future Generations for the Middle East Region, Roots & Shoots UAE, Dubai Tourism, US Consulate, Costa, Oxford University Press, Montegrappa, The Executive Council, Dubai World Trade Centre, Mohammed Bin Rashid University Of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Immigration, Gulf News, Expat Woman, Zee TV, Zee Aflam, WION, Al Bayan, Emarat Al Youm, Dubai Post, Motivate Media Group, InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Alserkal Avenue, Art Jameel, Magrudy’s, Ministry of Culture and Youth, Ministry of Education, Careem, Dubai Police, Abu Dhabi Legal Translation Center, Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), Elmo, 3DB, Prolab, Scriptor, Apex.

Authors include:

Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, Abdulsalam Haykal, Dr. Afra Atiq, Afra Mahmood, Major Ali Al Suwaidi, Ali Bin Tamim, Ali Sparkes, Alia Al Shams, Allison K Williams, Ameera BuKadra, Amin Maalouf, Andy Fieldhouse, Annabel Kantaria, Arqam, Arthur de Oliveira, Ashley Green, Asmaa Seddiq Al-Mutawa, Avni Doshi, Bashayer Arif, Ben Bailey Smith, Bolu Babalola, Camil Karam, Clare Mackintosh, Dana Dajani, Danabelle Gutierrez, Derek Owusu, Ebtisam Al-Beiti, Edward Brooke-Hitching, Elif Shafak, Fatima Albreiki, Ghaith Hassan Alhosani, Dr Habib Al Mulla, Hafsa Lodi, HE Hala Badri, Hamad Al Hammadi, Heather Grace, Hisham El Kheshen, Houriya Altaheri, Huda Hamed, Immanuel Kim,  Isabel Thomas, Jay Jayamohan Jessica Jarlvi, Johannes Els, Jojo Chappell, Julia Johnson, Lemn Sissay, Luigi Bonomi, Maitha Al Khayat, Malala Yousafzai, Mark Fiddes, Max of Arabia, Michael Lynes, Mimi Nicklin, HE Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, HE Mohammed Al Murr, Mohammed Al Marzooqi, Mounir El Hayek, Nafea Alyasi, Nasser Iraq, Obada Takla, HE Omar Saif Ghobash, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Padmini Sankar, Priyanka Pradhan, Ranganath Subramoney, Rehan Khan, Dr Rupy Aujla, Saba Karim Khan, Sam Copeland, Sanaa Chabbani, Sarah Almehairi, Satyarth Nayak, Sav Akyüz, Selim Batt, Sultan Al Ameemi,Talal Salim Alsaabri, Taleb Alrefaei, Thomas Erikson, Victoria Montgomery Brown, Walaa Kamal, Zayed AlMarzooqi, Zeina Hashem Beck, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will return in 2022.

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© Press Release 2021

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