Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and festival director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, tells us everything we need to know!
We can’t wait for the Literature Festival to return in 2016. What can families expect next year?
We have a number of exciting new events planned for next year. With an international festival of this size, it is important to provide something for everyone, young and old, and we believe our young fans, in particular, will be delighted!
Tell us about the children’s authors. Who will be attending?
We have previewed some of the fabulous children’s authors coming next year. It’s a long list and more will be announced at our official launch on October 20. Lucy Hawking, daughter of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, has created a wonderful series of science books that are tailored to young minds, and Nick Arnold will bring his science series Horrible Science and the Wild Lives to the festival, as well. We have Bob the Builder creator Curtis Jobling confirmed, as well as illustrator and author of Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child. And our festival favourites, Sahar Naja Mahfouz and Maitha Al Khayat are returning. They are a huge draw for our regional audiences. Award-winning author and illustrator Petr Horacek, is also a paper engineer and the amazing pop ups he creates as part of his stories captivate all of us. Some of his best known titles are The Mouse Who Ate the Moon and the recent A Surprise for Tiny Mouse.
What activities/events will be taking place during the festival?
We have a whole host of activities as always, from the ever-popular Time Out Story Corner to the themed tea parties that were a huge hit at the last festival. There will also be the usual engaging sessions, panels and workshops. 2016’s festival will be over twelve days for the first time, starting in March, with a new ‘Spotlight on the Emirates’ week. We are putting together a wonderful and
What is the target audience for the festival? Is it a great family day out?
Our festival was shortlisted for the Time Out Dubai Kids Awards 2015 award for Best Family Friendly Day Out, and one of our main aims is to cater to younger audiences and enlighten them about the written word. It is really important to let young people discover that reading is a really pleasurable experience.
Countless thousands of children enthusiastically attend each year, meet their favourite authors and discover new ones, take part in various competitions, perform as part of the Fringe events, and just have so much fun, whilst the parents are entertained too! Our children’s authors hold a plethora of sessions and workshops exclusively for children, on a variety of subjects, from writing to illustration to drama. The students’ competitions have gone from strength to strength. We receive thousands of entries for our poetry and story-writing competitions. The prize-giving ceremonies for both the Taaleem Award, given for best original poetry, and the Oxford University Press Short Story Competition are held during the festival, while the final rounds of Chevron Readers’ Cup and Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center Qasidah par Coeur competitions also take place at the festival. This certainly adds to the buzz!
What are usually the most popular books, stories or parts of the festival?
Books are something very personal and the aim of the festival is to not only bring the audience authors they know and love but to also introduce the audience to books they may have never read before.
Our weekend sessions are always popular as we see whole families come down and spend the entire day with us. It’s the best way to experience the literature festival.
Why did you decide to extend the festival in 2016?
This year the number of authors wanting to attend the 2016 festival made us realise that five days just wouldn’t be enough to pack in all these incredible writers travelling to the Middle East from the corners of the globe. It is also important to try and avoid clashes in terms of the programme sessions, giving our wonderful festival-goers the chance to meet even more of the attending authors and join in all the celebrations.
Do you think it will continue to grow year after year?
We have been incredibly lucky to have won Best Festival in the Middle East three years running. Each year, the festival team strives to create exciting, intelligent and inclusive events for the multicultural communities that live in the UAE and the wider region. Books are available on every conceivable subject, and the team listens very carefully to the invaluable feedback that audiences give us: about which writers they would like to meet, which genres and topics are the most popular, and which are the top events.
Do people travel from various Emirates to attend?
Absolutely! We have visitors from all over the world, with larger numbers of GCC families each year. This is the largest literary festival of its kind in the Middle East so it is no surprise that people flock to attend.
How many people attended the Festival in 2015?
We had over 37,000 visitors which was a record number. Many events sold out within days, so visitors will have more choice of sessions in 2016.
Emirates Airline Literature Festival, March 1-12, 2016. www.emirateslitfest.com.