A prime feature of this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair currently underway at Expo Centre Sharjah is its ‘Guest of Honour’ programme. An inaugural activity for the 36th edition of the fair, the UK is the first body to be invited to participate in this honorary role. The programme forms part of the British Council’s UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration – a season of arts and events in the UAE aimed at building audiences, creating new collaborations and strengthening relationships.

Tony Mulliken UK & International PR for Sharjah Book Authority is one of the driving forces for the UK being invited as Guest of Honour at this year’s SIBF. Nasher caught up with him for quick comment on the programme.

“Firstly, I should say that I am totally in love with this region. I’ve been working on the Sharjah book fair for eight years and have been coming here for nine. In my role, we bring out hundreds of writers from the UK for the fair – what we are doing under this programme is to add on some special ones. We’ve tried where possible to bring out authors who haven’t been here before so that they go back to the UK with an ambassadorial role and tell everyone about how great Sharjah is. They’re not just sitting at the UK Guest of Honour stand looking pretty, they are getting involved in an array of discussions and activities designed to show the best of the UK.”

“This programme has come about in part as a thank you from Sharjah for our efforts in building the profile of the emirate in the UK. One of my other clients is the London Book Fair, which has a tremendous relationship with this fair. This was a great chance to show the brands that put the ‘Great’ in ‘Great Britain.’ I want to say a huge thank you to His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and to Ahmed Al Ameri (Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority) for their incredible support with this activity. It’s like coming home when I walk through the door of the book fair each year. Even my hotel – I’ve stayed in the Hilton all the time I’ve been coming here – every time I go back there it’s like coming home. It’s all jolly hard work, but it doesn’t really feel like it. I get up in the morning and I’m tired from doing long days but I am enthused by the crowds and the atmosphere.”

The authors, writers and celebrated media personalities flying the flag for at SIBF 2017 as part of its Guest of Honour programme include Mark Billingham, creator of London-based detective Tom Thorne; Mark Ellis, author of the DCI Frank Merlin series; Nicola Cornick, bestselling historical romance writer, Peter Frankopan, Oxford University Professor, renowned historian and best-selling author of ‘.The Silk Roads: A New History of the World’ and Alexandra Shulman, former editor of British Vogue. SIBF concludes its 11-day programme on November 11.