Dubai, 3 June, 2015: Title-holder Emirates Airline Festival of Literature was voted the region’s Best Festival at the Middle East Event 2015 Awards for the third year running. The competition was especially tough this year, with Zayed Heritage Festival, Ajyal Youth Film Festival, Sharjah International Book Fair, Dubai Food Carnival and Yasalam 2014 also nominated in the category.
An elated Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, stated, ‘We are a small team of dedicated people who all share a passionate desire to bring celebration to reading and inculcate a love of literature across borders, languages and cultures. Our heartfelt thanks must go to the amazing writers who bring the whole event to life in such a magical and exciting way.
‘2015 was our best Festival yet, and we already have our thinking caps on for 2016, but it is going to be a hard act to follow!’ she continued. ‘With the support of our sponsors, especially our title sponsor Emirates Airline, and our partners Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, we will strive to take another step up the literary ladder. The festival goers have taken the Festival to their hearts, and the buzz they create is unlike anything I have ever witnessed.’
The Festival, completing its seventh year, is considered to be the region’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word. The event took place at the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City from 3 to 7 March with more than 37,000 people in attendance for over 200 talks, debates and workshops held by 130-plus authors from around the world.
The event opened with a sold-out session with multi-award winning children’s author David Walliams. Over the next five days, the Festival welcomed a host of best-selling writers, including award-winning children’s author Michael Morpurgo, who entranced the audience at the War Horse Concert, where he shared the stage with the life-size War Horse puppets, presented by The Handspring Puppet Co. and Janni Younge Production, renowned author of the Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson, whose sessions sold out within days of going on sale, adventurer Charley Boorman, poet Imtiaz Dharker, John Dougherty and David Tazzyman, the writer-illustrator duo behind the hilarious Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face, Angry Arthur illustrator Satoshi Kitamura, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith and David Mitchell author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks. This Festival’s annual Orwell Lecture was delivered by famed Egyptian writer Nawal El-Saadawi.
Along with new events such as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, old favourites, the Murder Mystery Dinner, Desert Stanzas, sponsored by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and the International Women’s Day Panel, returned to much acclaim. The Festival’s 2015 Women’s Day panel featured a cornucopia of international talent including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Bettany Hughes, Jenni Murray, Anita Anand and HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid al Qasimi.
The Festival’s Education programme continued its efforts to promote reading and literature among youngsters through the many school visits by authors as well as several engaging workshops aimed at students. The Festival Fringe, held alongside the main events, was once again a huge success, giving talented young performers in the country a platform to display their talents.
Entries for the ever-popular writing competitions, the Taaleem Poetry Award and the Oxford University Press Short Story Writing competition, also increased and the inclusion of a brand new age category for the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center Qasidah Par Coeur Competition was a great success. The Chevron Readers’ Cup attracted participants from across the Gulf, a tremendous achievement for such a young competition.
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