Next month’s lit fest is not just about books, as Karen Iley finds out


Those who got involved in last year’s Emirates Airline Literary Festival know there’s a lot more to the annual book fest than just reading. This year’s event, held from March 10-13, promises to be even more interactive, with plenty of ways for kids to get involved thanks to fascinating workshops on creative writing, drama and illustrating.

‘We want to be able to offer children a diverse range of experiences that will awaken their imaginations and unleash their creativity,’ explains festival director Isobel Abulhoul. ‘We think our workshops will sow the seeds for future poets, actors, script writers, teachers and maybe even bookshop owners!’

Little drama queens and kings will bring popular literary characters to life in fun sessions run by Round Midnight, a British-based drama duo, while budding authors and poets should pop along to Alice Kuipers’ creative writing sessions. The author of Life on the Refrigerator Door will lead younger kids on a fascinating journey of words and pictures and share the secrets of good story-telling with older writers. We particularly fancy the illustration workshops run by award-winning illustrator Korky Paul. The man who created the hilarious Captain Teachum will be running four, hour-long sessions, as well as popping into schools for his unique ‘portrait workshops’ where he’ll capture little monsters in their true colours.

The aim of Korky’s workshops is to get kids ‘scribbling’ from their imaginations. The drawer (he prefers that term to artist or even illustrator) will read from one of his books to get the creative juices flowing. There’ll be no copying or tracing or, heaven forbid, colouring in from printed sheets here (if Korky had his way, all colouring books would be banned). Instead, he’s aiming for originality. ‘If kids copy a drawing and don’t get it perfect, they feel they can’t do it,’ says Korky. ‘But I explain to them that what they need is their imagination. Of course they can use an actual object or a photograph, but it doesn’t have to be exact – they should draw it in their own imaginative style. Drawing is so much fun, and the best thing is they don’t have to plug anything in or switch anything on. All they need is paper and a few felt-tip pens.’

Korky will give a demonstration – although he’s not afraid to scrunch up his own paper and chuck it in the bin if he feels it’s ‘rubbish’ – then help kids with pointers and ideas. ‘I’ll show them different techniques, how to colour and so on. The workshops are all about gaining confidence. There are various levels of skill within a group but you want everyone to go away feeling proud about what they’ve done.’ All work will be pinned up on a washing line for the rest of the group to look at. ‘Everyone walks around like they would in the Museum of Modern Art or the Tate Gallery, seeing what their friends did,’ Korky adds. ‘At the end, I do a little review – a critique – and we talk about what we’ve learned.’ From his experience, little nippers are a particularly creative bunch. ‘I wish I had a record of all the kids’ drawings over the years. They go away with the most amazing work.’

All workshops take place at the InterContinental Hotel and cost Dhs100-150 per child. Places are limited. Contact for details. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature runs from March 10-13 and features 40 top authors. See for details.

We’re there!

Throughout the weekend of the lit fest, the Time Out Kids’ Zone will be a hive of activities for kids of all ages. Pop in and shake paws with Elliott, Time Out Kids’ very own furry friend, or join a lively Wriggle and Roar! interactive storytelling session, based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt. Learn some new steps and design a tutu at Angelina Ballerina’s party, or simply enjoy a story about the world’s best-known dancing mouse. There will be explosive scientific experiments from Richard Hammond’s Blast Lab and guest appearances by Spot the Dog and other favourite children’s book characters, and, all events are FREE!
See and next month’s Time Out Kids for more details.

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