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- Event brings to an end six days of literary entertainment celebrating words in every form
- Sessions live-streamed to almost 100,000 students throughout UAE
- Desert Stanzas honoured by Royal visit
- Record number of Emirati authors showcased in programme
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature drew to a rousing finale today with a session featuring an exceptional night of music, poetry and readings in support of Dubai Cares’ programmes for child refugees across the region. The event capped six days of literary entertainment featuring a record-breaking 206 authors from 43 countries and a strong contingent of home-grown talent, the largest number ever featured at the festival. The Festival’s opening event, Desert Stanzas, an atmospheric evening of world poetry in the desert, was honoured with a visit from Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, while His Excellency, Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan attended the launch of 30 children’s picture books in Arabic and English, written and illustrated by emerging Emiratis, collaboration between the Ministry of Tolerance and the Emirates Literature Foundation.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qassimi, Vice President of the International Publishers Association gave a key note speech at the Festival’s publishing day and HE Noura Al Kaabi attended the Faith in the Modern World panel, as well as contributed a chapter to the possibilities book which was launched at this year’s Festival. Festival director Ahlam Bolooki said “We are truly privileged to have the support of leaders who lead by example when encouraging the community to engage with the world of books”.
For the first time ever selected festival sessions were live-streamed to almost 100,000 students at 284 schools from each of the seven Emirates.
The Festival took place at the InterContinental, Dubai Festival City from 4-9 February 2020. It is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
“It fills us with great pride to present this home grown, yet truly international Festival, which grows significantly in depth and substance each year,” said Ahlam Bolooki. “This Festival is our responsibility to our community and to the world, a safe place for dialogue, an opportunity of kindred spirits to connect, and most importantly a place to dream big. And this edition definitely delivered that, and was a very special one.”
“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.”
Many sessions were sold out, including explorer Ranulph Fiennes and mountaineer Chris Bonington, award-winning novelists Esi Edugyan and Fatima Bhutto, visual artist and children’s book illustrator Oliver Jeffers andfrom the UAE space programme, Hazzaa AlMansouri fresh from his first venture into space. The BOSH! Vegan supper, Murder Mystery Dinner featuring Killing Eve creator Luke Jennings, and The Poetryhood Presents were also sold out, as was a special pre-festival event with naturalist Jane Goodall.
The closing evening (9 February) encompassed the best of the Festival, featuring an inspiring selection of performances from poets and writers and the premiere of a song, Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo composed to celebrate the extraordinary story of refugee Nujeen Mustafa, who took part in the evening. All proceeds will go to Dubai Cares.
The fun-filled programme for children featured more free family fun events, up 50 per cent from last year, including an interactive session with Magic Phil, one of Dubai’s best-known entertainers and a hit with all his young fans, and the Festival Fringe showcasing drama and music from schools and community groups around the region.
The Festival saw the launch of a ground-breaking book, Tomorrow I Will Fly, written by the inmates of the Penal and Correctional Institutions in Dubai. There was also a dedicated Publishing Day, where global industry experts held sessions, masterclasses and workshops on key aspects of publishing, and a conference for directors of international literary festivals which attracted 30 participants for the four corners of the world.
This year 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 which included participation by students of determination.