Middle East’s largest literary event to host 150 authors
January 14 2016 10:07 PM
SPEECH: Isobel Abulhoul speaks at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016’s launch event.

By Anand Holla

Words might fall short to express the scale and heft of this grand gathering that celebrates the power of the written and spoken word for 12 straight days.
Arguably the Middle East’s largest literature event, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016 is all set to host 150 authors who will appear at more than 300 events, as thousands of visitors of all ages and backgrounds are expected to soak in the knowledge, the education, the discussion, and above all else, the love of reading and writing.
From opportunities to meet some of the world’s top author to attending literary debates, listening to readings, participating in workshops and experiencing the exciting fringe and children’s events, the festival will be held at the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, from March 1 to March 12.
With the organisers announcing on Wednesday that the tickets are now on sale — available online via the festival website, ticket prices start at AED50 and many children’s events and activities are available free of charge — UAE’s first literary event of 2016 promises to be a big draw for the region.
This will be the first time that the festival will be conducted over more than five days. Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, explained why.
“We have received a deluge of correspondence from authors around the globe who have heard glowing reports of the festival, Dubai and the UAE, and want to attend,” Abulhoul said, “In order for our wonderful audiences to benefit and be able to see all their favourites and discover new names too, we just had to extend the length of the festival to fit everything in. This new format will give people even more to enjoy and discover and we believe this is the most diverse offering yet.”
The opening segment of the festival is Spotlight on the Emirates. Focusing on the history and rich cultural heritage of the country, poetry, storytelling and exclusive performances by ChoirFest Middle East will be mixed with filmmaking and writing and development workshops.
As part of the global celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare, the Bard takes centre-stage at the festival. Film adaptations and live performance screenings go hand in hand with panels featuring Sulayman al-Bassam, experts on Shakespeare’s language David and Ben Crystal, as well as the international Sonnet Exchanges session and the UAE’s first performance of Steven Berkoff’s Shakespeare’s Villains.
Shakespeare also features in the children’s programme along with a host of renowned children’s authors including Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child, Holly Smale and Nick Arnold. Also, Harry Potter fans will enjoy meeting award-winning illustrator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Jim Kay.
New at the festival this year is the Science strand featuring a diverse range of speakers and researchers from various fields. Astronaut Chris Hadfield, members of the UAE Mars Mission team, brain physiologist Susan Greenfield, The Diet Myth author Tim Spector and a number of wildlife and oceanic writers will come together to make science enjoyable to all.
Moreover, there are new special events to enjoy at the festival this year. Philosopher AC Grayling will discuss the importance of literature at the festival’s first ever Literary Cruise set against the stunning backdrop of the historic buildings lining the banks of Dubai Creek.
Also new to the festival is the Time Travel Dinner, an evening of good food and entertainment. Speakers Anthony Horowitz, Michael Dobbs and Suhel Seth share anecdotes while attendees suggest how we might create a LitFest time capsule.
Returning favourite Desert Stanzas has found itself a new home. As part of the festival’s continuing efforts to focus on the UAE’s heritage, the evening of poetry under the stars will take place at the Al Sahara Desert Camp, which is part of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, teeming with indigenous flora and fauna.
Steadily growing into an eagerly anticipated annual event, the 2015 edition of the festival welcomed more than 130 writers, thinkers and speakers from 30 countries. More than 37,000 visitors attended the festival which had more than 200 one-off sessions and unique events to be experienced and enjoyed in a programme designed for wide appeal.

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