Hay Festival Abu Dhabi launches Schools and University Outreach Programmes

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi's Programme for Schools is made possible thanks to the support of the Ministry of Tolerance, the Ministry of Education, Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge, the British Council and Institut français and the Festival's local education partner, Early Starters UAE



Hay Festival Abu Dhabi (25 – 28 February 2020), supported by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance,  has teamed up with literary organisations, education entities, universities and schools across the city and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to deliver its Programme for Schools and University Outreach activities. In addition, it will provide free tickets for students in higher education and under 25s.

An outstanding selection of poets, novelists, scientists and entertainers will deliver keynote lectures, bespoke workshops and small-scale courses in Arabic, French, Tagalog, Hindi and English. The line-up includes poets Adonis, Yang Lian, Volker Braun, Pierre Joris, Serge Pey and Zuleikha Aburisha, authors William Dalrymple, Jokha Alharthi, Bernardine Evaristo, Kapka Kassabova, Hallie Rubenhold and Miguel Syjuco, young adult fiction writer Jenny Valentine, children’s authors Andy Stanton, Onjali Rauf,  Maitha Al Khayat, Philip Ardagh, Gerald and Daphne Mercer and Ed Vere, environmentalist Noura Al Khoori, diplomat Tom Fletcher, novelist and politician Shashi Tharoor, scientist Christophe Galfard and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, journalists Nik Gowing and Rym Ghazal, as well as authors Jamal Al Shehi, Dawn Metcalfe, Sarah Bahar and 14 year-old Emirati author and innovator Dana Alblooshi.

Around the world, Hay Festival offers outstanding activities dedicated to young people. Each edition firmly roots itself in the surrounding communities and brokers meaningful partnerships with local schools and institutions. Through its outreach programmes, young people are given extraordinary opportunities to express themselves and learn about literature and creative writing from world-leading speakers and authors. Examples include the Growing Up Reading Programmes Hay Festivalito and Hay Para Leer promoting children social inclusion, which Hay Festival has been running through 14 consecutive years with its partner Plan Internacional in Latin America, and its interactive Scribblers tour for young creative writers reaching 4,052 pupils in Wales. In 2019, Hay Festival welcomed a total of 223 schools, 113 primary schools and 110 secondary schools, from England and Wales to the Programme for Schools.

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi’s Caitlin McNamara commented: “We are delighted to announce the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi inaugural Programme for Schools and University Outreach Programmes. Opening inspiring and creative opportunities for young people is a core part of our mission and we look forward to welcoming thousands of pupils and students together with their teachers. We believe that unique experiences like these are an exciting part of the learning process, and we look forward to taking these young people on a journey of discovery.”

Programme for Schools

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi’s Programme for Schools will inspire and entertain thousands of local students aged 7-16 years at Manarat al Saadiyat on the mornings of Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th February 2020.

Authors and the Festival team look forward to welcoming over 70 public and private schools from across Abu Dhabi to free events that aim to enhance enjoyment of reading for pleasure and offer students new perspectives and ideas. Each morning, between 9am and 12.15pm, these specially curated sessions will offer students opportunities to engage in author-led workshops and activities, followed by a one-to-one opportunity to interact with authors during book signings in the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi Bookshop.

“Our pupils had such an amazing experience at Hay Festival. Most of them are reluctant readers and it was so exciting to see how engaged they were listening to authors, asking questions and meeting them in the bookshop. We are so grateful for the opportunity to take them to such an event for free. The trip will remain etched in the memories of our pupils forever” – Teacher, Hay Festival Wales 2018

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi’s Programme for Schools is made possible thanks to the support of the Ministry of Tolerance, the Ministry of Education, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Education and Knowledge, the British Council and Institut français and the Festival’s local education partner, Early Starters UAE.

Yasmine Badran, Founder of Early Starters UAE, observed: “Abu Dhabi schools are hungry for this sort of exposure to international and local literary content. This has been long awaited and the response from schools has been astonishing. Hay festival is definitely going to be synonymous with literacy in Abu Dhabi.”     

Hay Festival Schools Days programme overview

Over a period of three days, school children will be interacting with international and local authors. Sessions include teenage prodigy Dana Alblooshi, passionate about space and women’s issues, who will host sessions about her new book 13 Amazing Arab Women, celebrating stories of 13 women who have inspired her. Much-loved children’s author Andy Stanton will talk about his hysterically funny book Mr Gum – who hates children, animals, fun and corn on the cob. Additionally, the children will have interactive readings and open discussions with Ed Vere, Onjali Rauf, Philip Ardagh, Jenny Valentine, Noura Al Khoori, Maitha Al Khayat, Jamal Al Shehi, Rym Ghazal, Gerald and Daphne Mercer, Dawn Metcalf and Sarah Bahar. Students will also get a chance to meet authors from the adult's programme such as Miguel Syjuco for a session in Taglish, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy as well as politician and novelist Shashi Tharoor in Hindi.

University Outreach

High-profile literary guests from Hay Festival Abu Dhabi 2020 will also participate in special workshops and lectures with students, faculty and university staff at local universities including Zayed University, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). The free university sessions will run on campuses on the afternoons of Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th February 2020 in Arabic, English and French.

Alongside this, they are delighted to be collaborating with NYUAD's Office of Social Responsibility on a three-day creative writing workshop by British author Jenny Valentine for university domestic workers and other community members who work at the NYUAD campus. Participants, who already write in their spare time, will be offered paid time off to work on a creative writing piece, and final materials will be published on Hay Festival International Writers' Blog.   

University Outreach overview

Tuesday 25 – creative writing workshops and sessions with students from NYUAD

Award-winning writer for Young Adults Jenny Valentine will start her three-day creative writing workshop for 15 women who work as domestic staff on NYUAD campus.

Wednesday 26 – creative writing workshops and sessions with students from NYUAD

Jenny Valentine will continue her creative writing workshops for NYUAD domestic staff and multi-award-winning author Kapka Kassabova will speak with NYUAD students.  

Thursday 27 February 2020 – sessions with students from Sorbonne, Zayed University and Emirates Diplomatic Academy                

Poets Adonis, Yang Lian, Volker Braun, Pierre Joris, Serge Pey and Zuleikha Aburisha will have a round table discussion about creative writing with students from Sorbonne. That same day, Cambridge physicist Christophe Galfard will come to speak to students on the mind-bending science of our universe in line with his book The Universe in your hand: a journey through space, time and beyond.

The students of Zayed University will embark on conversations with Shashi Tharoor, whilst NYUAD students will have sessions with Baillie Gifford Prize winner Hallie Rubenhold and Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo.

Former BBC World News presenter Nik Gowing and former UK Ambassador Tom Fletcher will be sharing insights about politics, international relations and global leadership in relationship to his Thinking the Unthinkable Project with young diplomats-to-be from the Emirates Diplomatic Academy. 

For children, teenagers, students and families who haven’t taken part in these programmes, Hay Festival Abu Dhabi’s main programme will offer plenty of opportunities for young audiences and their parents, such as the BBC Arabic Film Festival Film screening session Children After War on Thursday 27 February about how war has affected young people, as well as sessions on Friday 28 February with children’s writers Philip Ardagh and Ed Vere about their books The Secret Diary of John Drawbridge and How to be a Lion, respectively, and a talk from Jenny Valentine on Talking to Teenagers.            

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi - Main Programme

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will feature a range of award-winning writers, journalists, historians, filmmakers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days. The festival spotlights the latest ideas in the arts, sciences and current affairs, with over 20 nationalities and 7 languages represented. The programme reflects the diversity of communities in Abu Dhabi itself, including writers from all around the Middle East, North Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, China, Nigeria and Europe. Film screenings in partnership with BBC Arabic News will reflect current social and political situations in the Arab world, while live performances of music and poetry will open and close the festival, and a welcoming free-to-enter festival site with a dedicated bookshop will extend the reach of the festival to a wide audience.                

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About Hay Festival


Hay Festival is an independent, mission-led and non-profit organisation that invites the finest writers and liveliest minds to create conversations about the world as it is and as it might be, inspiring people of all ages to shape the world of tomorrow. The Festival is a catalyst for change. It hosts agenda-setting conversations and performances that could not happen anywhere else and offers bespoke, site-specific programming that addresses contemporary themes and issues its audiences care about – including science, philosophy, religion, politics, gender, economics and the arts. Hay Festival explores local literary traditions, old and new, and supports the next generation of writers by publishing significant anthologies of new writing from around the world. Hay Festival welcomes people from all walks of life. Each edition firmly roots itself in the surrounding communities and brokers meaningful partnerships with local businesses and institutions. Hay Festival breaks down barriers and mixes people. Year on year, it returns in people’s lives and creates a space for conversations, connections and friendships to thrive. It offers outstanding activities dedicated to children of all age groups, families and young people. Since its first edition in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, in 1987, Hay Festival has programmed 125 sustainable Festivals globally, attracting more than 4.5 million people to events in 30 locations. Stephen Fry is its president.

Coming up…

  • Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, UAE (25-28 February 2020)
  • Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye, Wales (21-31 May 2020)
  • Hay Festival Europa28, Croatia (3-5 June 2020)
  • Hay Festival Querétaro, Mexico (September 2020)
  • Hay Forum Dallas, USA (September 2020)
  • Hay Festival Segovia, Spain (September 2020)
  • Hay Festival Arequipa, Peru (November 2020)
  • Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye Winter Weekend, Wales (27-29 November 2020)
  • Hay Festival Cartagena, Colombia (January 2021)
  • Hay Festival Medellín, Colombia (January 2021)

About the Ministry of Tolerance  

The Ministry of Tolerance aims to achieve a compelling spectrum of objectives. Through a focus on tolerance, it seeks to facilitate the empowerment of individuals, enabling them to work cooperatively and collaboratively for economic and social development. This brings about greater personal and community safety, security, peace and prosperity, thereby resulting in more sustainable, harmonious and happy societies.

True to the teachings of Islam, the UAE recognises and embraces diversity in all its forms. The UAE Ministry of Tolerance draws on its inspiration from the core values of peace and this inclusive ethos, and are expressed in a variety of ways. These ways include respect and empathy for the many variations in which difference and diversity take shape, compassion for those hindered by their own differences, a positive curiosity about difference and diversity, and the generosity of spirit to reach out to, rather than fear, those who are different.

© Press Release 2020

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