Line-up including Malala, Amin Maalouf, and Elif Shafak announced for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2021
- Impressive programme includes literary greats Elif Shafak, Amin Maalouf, and Lemn Sissay
- Festival returns with exciting mix of live and virtual sessions
Dubai, UAE, 29 December 2020: Nobel prize winner Malala and authors Elif Shafak, Amin Maalouf, and Lemn Sissay are among the top names announced by the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature for its 2021 event (29 January-13 February). The uplifting programme features a mix of live appearances and virtual sessions embracing literature, art, science, current affairs, film, food, and performance. Many sessions will also be livestreamed for those who are unable to attend, or miss out on tickets.
In addition to these and other big names, the Festival will be featuring fresh voices and new talent, with many sessions under the 2021 Festival theme, ‘Change the Story’, defining the spirit of the current times. Audiences will be kept safe with the implementation of comprehensive Covid measures, but the entertaining and thought-provoking programme of literary talks, news-worthy debates, poetry events and workshops will be the same beloved festival formula, engaging readers and non-readers alike.
Ahlam Bolooki, festival director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said: “The world has shifted since the 2020 Festival, and we have all been changed by the events of the last year. Although circumstances have meant that some of the usual elements of our Festival are not possible for 2021, we are thrilled to be able to stage live sessions again.
“I believe the programme we have curated captures the zeitgeist of the world at the moment. We’re looking forward to a better future, and a more hopeful, more accepting and more empathetic world. We all want to make more positive choices in our lives, while being entertained and having some fun. The New Year brings a new beginning. I hope it enables us all to ‘Change the Story’ for 2021, and our Festival to bring a big dose of optimism for the future.”
The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture.
Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “We are delighted for the return of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in just a few weeks’ time. More than ever, culture and creativity that generates thoughtful conversations, feeds knowledge and brings people together has never been so important during these extraordinary times. The blend of physical events and virtual sessions led by some of the most prolific authors and cultural figures of our time will help bring ideas and learnings to new audiences, and serve the Festival’s loyal community. We are proud to support the festival and help bring so many influential voices to Dubai, as the city continues to safely deliver and host local and global events. Dubai’s strong vision for the future continues to underpin its efforts to bounce back stronger, and we will continue to support its growing appeal as a destination for people to gather and engage for a myriad of events.”
For the first time the Festival is expanding its programme across the city to cover three weekends, with fellow arts and cultural institutions; Jameel Arts Centre, which will host the first weekend 29-30 January, and Alserkal Avenue, where the Festival concludes 12-13 February. The big middle weekend takes place at the Festival’s home, the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. All three weekends will have the same lively, engaging LitFest appeal featuring an exciting and interactive mix of family fun and stimulating discussions, bringing together new ideas, dynamic performances, food, films and books of all genres with inspiring Arabic, locally based and international authors and speakers.
Dubai Culture and Art Authority will be sponsoring the ‘Spotlight on Emirati Talent’ strand on Thursday 4 February, featuring sessions on publishing, translation, cinematography and more, including the talented Hamad Al Hammadi and Obada Takla in a session celebrating the magic of page to screen.
Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority said: “We have supported the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since its launch in 2009, and it has become one of the world’s leading international literary festivals. It is the Arab World’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word that consolidates our absolute belief in the importance of awareness and cultural exchange among different nations and peoples. Through our sponsorship of the activities of this festival, we seek to highlight Emirati cultural talents and allow them to learn about the innovations of their counterparts from around the world. Our partnership with this event stems from the presence of many commonalities that bind us together, specifically our common endeavors aimed at positioning Dubai as a global centre for art and culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent. We also seek to create an effective cultural movement to enhance Dubai’s position as a leader on the world’s cultural map as well as to support the National Literacy Strategy 2016-2026.” Badri added: “We are absolutely confident that such initiatives and events will help establish generations who would make reading a daily habit.”
Tickets go on sale exclusively to Foundation Friends for 24 hours on 13 January 2021, before the general release 14 January 2021.
Ticket prices start at AED 60 for adult sessions, AED 40 for children’s sessions, and AED 100 for a digital pass to watch live-streamed sessions from home. A minimum of 10 top sessions will be streamed live from the big Festival weekend at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City.
Taking to the stage in Dubai will be the incomparable Malala, the inspiring activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate, telling her story, her mission and her vision for the future. Elif Shafak, one of the most influential novelists writing today, will be exploring her writing and the importance of bridging the gap between the East and West, while the internationally acclaimed authour and jounalist Amin Maalouf will be dicussing his timely work Adrift: How Our World Lost Its Way, examining recent history, the reasons why civilisations have drifted apart, and how this impacts global threats.
Jameel Arts Centre will be kicking off the festival extravaganza with a programme which includes Booker-nominated novelist Avni Doshi, and more.
One of the hottest tickets in town will be for the closing event at Alserkal Avenue, featuring the vibrant performance poets Lemn Sissay, Afra Atiq, and award-winning Palestinian actor and writer Dana Dajani. Also at Alserkal Avenue will be acclaimed Egyptian writer Ahmed Mourad.
Avni Doshi, whose debut novel Burnt Sugar was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, will also appear at the InterContinental with another novelist whose debut work has received international acclaim. Derek Owusu, a British author of Ghanaian descent, won the Desmond Elliot Prize for That Reminds Me (the first novel published by Stormzy’s #Merky Books). They will be comparing notes on their writing journeys in this session, which will be livestreamed to the Bergen International Literary Festival in Norway, as part of their ‘Literature Live Around The World’ segment. This showcase of sessions from other prominent international literary events will be screened at Alserkal Avenue on Friday 12 February.
Despite the current travel restrictions affecting some countries, the programme has not lost any of its international flavour. Insights into Korean literature and cinemawill be provided by Immanuel Kim, the translator of Friend by Paek Nam-nyong, one of North Korea’s most popular writers, and the only “state-sanctioned” novel to receive an English translation.
The Nigerian-British writer Oyinkan Braithwaite will be in Dubai to talk about her smash-hit novel My Sister the Serial Killer, which was shortlisted for numerous international awards and won the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller.
Author and screenwriter Satyarth Nayak will be celebrating the phenomenon of Bollywood star Sridevi: The Eternal Screen Goddess, hailed as the first pan-Indian female superstar who empowered a whole generation of audiences, as he journeys through her life from child star to one of the greatest movie luminaries who forever changed the narrative of Indian cinema.
Bolu Babalola is a London-based author and pop culture writer and commentator. She breathes new life intomythical love stories and folk tales from around the world, retold in vivid prose and will be taking part in the ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ panel discussion on the delicate balance between fact and fiction.
The programme also features the hugely popular Emirati singer Arqam Al Abri, who’ll be bringing his own brand of soul to the Festival.
The World Around Us
Psychologist, philosopher, sailor and navigator David Barrie will be joining the Festival virtually to reveal the wonders of animal navigation in this educational session for the whole family. He’ll be discussing the amazing ways animals – from birds and bats to sea turtles and shrimp – find their way with heritage expert Major Ali Al Suwaidi, ‘the UAE’s last pearl diver’, and what this means for conservation and research with UAE wildlife.
Living our Best Life – Health and Wellbeing
Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan is the star of two highly acclaimed BBC fly-on-the-wall series, Brain Doctors and Children’s Craniofacial Surgery. He’ll be discussing the challenges of life and death decision-making in his poignant, heart-breaking, and often funny memoir and also taking part in a panel considering the dangers of the anti-facts movement. With fearmongering, disinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories drowning the science, a panel of medical experts will take a scalpel to the mass of confusing data on topics from fad diets to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Rupy Aujla, founder of “The Doctor’s Kitchen” and author ofbestselling books The Doctor’s Kitchen and Eat to Beat Illness, will be promoting the medicinal benefits of eating well, creating healthy recipes and explaining the clinical research behind them.
Wellness writer and social media activist Talal Al Buhairi will be discussing acceptance of others and a range of social topics which he examines in his book, We Will Stay Here. Enhancing mental health through writing is the goal of campaigner Heather Grace, who maintains that writing is an essential part of dealing with trauma and a tool that helps her navigate her bipolar affective disorder. Her workshop offers the chance to learn how to employ your own writing in self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Also appearing will be Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, the Co-founder and board member of the Malala Fund, which champions girls’ rights to education all over the world
Behavioural specialist, leadership coach and author Thomas Erikson, author of the runaway bestseller Surrounded by Idiots, will be giving insights into how we can communicate more effectively with our colleagues, even when, as he identifies in his latest book, we are ‘Surrounded by Psychopaths.’ He will be joined by self-development author, editorial cartoonist and public speaker Sherif Arafa to address the challenges of cross-cultural communication and the always challenging art of getting on with people.
Bringing her knowledge of how to make companies smarter and faster is Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of one of the world’s leading digital media knowledge companies, Big Think. She’ll be expanding on some of the strategies she shares in her book, Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur.
In a year which has seen dramatic changes to the world of business, Dubai-based Andy Fieldhouse, author of Amazon bestseller Getting Teamwork Right, and Mimi Nicklin, empathy advocate and the internationally bestselling author of Softening the Edge, explain how to adapt to the new working environment and build more empathetic cooperative workplaces.
Focus on the Arab World
Fiction from the Arab world features two Egyptian novelists who have had work longlisted forthe International Prize for Arabic Fiction Prize. Hisham El Kheshen, author of the best-selling novel Graphite, is at the Festival with his latest novel Lebon’s Friendship andEgyptian novelist Rasha Adly, who has been longlisted twice for IPAF, with her most recent book, On the Edge of the Night. Kuwaiti writer Abdullah Al Busais will be in conversation,discussing psychology and philosophy within fiction, and the impact of conflict on character.
There is also Omani author Huda Hamed, Lebanese novelist Mounir El Hayek, and Nasser Iraq, an Egyptian novelist and short story writer whose book Azbakeya won the Katara Grand Prize for Arabic Novel in 2016. The programme also features Alawiya Sobh, Lebanese author of four novels, including An Taashak Al-Hayat (To Love Life), which was longlisted for Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature.
Walaa Kamal is an Egyptian writer and translator who has published several books including My Days with Cairokee, his account of his time on the road with this famous Egyptian band. In ‘Social Stereotypes – How the Digital World is Changing your Reality’ he’ll be joined by Talal Al Buhairi and Max of Arabia as theytake a look at tradition through a modern lens and assess how social media corrupts our perception of the real world. Al Buhairi will also examinehow the media handles crisesand the impact news and social media reporting has on the community’s experience of a life-changing event.
The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority Emirati Focus Day ‘Spotlight on Emirati Talent’ will feature HE Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture, on developing Dubai as a creative hub, and a discussion between HE Hala Badri and HE Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri on UAE’s ‘Golden Visa’ for creatives. There will also be panel discussion on ‘Translators Going Global’, an examination of the importance of the translation sector in the region, a look at the role of Literary Salons play in the community, a discussion on the current state of publishing in the region, poetry recitals, a workshop on writing poetry and much more.
The Festival will welcome two literary greats, Abdul Ghaffar Hussain and Mohammed Al Murr, in a wide ranging and fascinating conversation.
Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s most renowned legal personalities, giving us a glimpse of different attitudes to cuisine with his book My Journey to the World of Restaurants.
Poetry is always a hugely popular and cherished part of the festival and this year will be no exception with performances by Amal Al Sahlawi, Shamma Al Bastaki, andZeina Hashem Beck.
YA and Children’s programme
Top YA author Ali Sparkes will be in Dubai, as will Sam Copeland, a real treat for middle graders and the author of the hilarious and phenomenally popular Charlie Changes Into a Chicken. He’ll be at the Festival with his new book, Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything.
Ben Bailey Smith, aka Doc Brown, is a British actor, rapper, comedian and screenwriter, and creator of the BAFTA-nominated CBBC comedy 4 O’Clock Club. There’ll be mischief and mayhem as he brings his hip character from I am Bear and Bear Moves to Dubai, conjured up by bold illustrations from Sav Akyüz, as they invite everyone to join in the dance moves of this hilarious purple bear.
‘Are cats liquid or solid?’ Is just one of the silly questions asked by award-winning scientist Isabel Thomas who shows that when it comes to science, silly questions can lead to serious science, in her highly interactive sessions guaranteed to be gallons of fun.
Festival favourite Julia Johnson will be bringing her latest book The Pearl Diver’s Son to the Festival, as will Maitha Al Khayat. There is also Syrian writer and director Obada Takla, who has published many stories for children including I am an Emirati Child and Puppets’ Girl which won the My Book Awardin 2017. The prolific Sanaa Chabbani is a Lebanese writer for children and young adults whose titles include The Battle of Antara Bin Shaddad, the Scheherazade’s Story series and most recently An Unexpected Visit is also featured, along with YA writer Zayed AlMarzooqiand Ameera BuKadra, an Emirati author for children and young adults. Magic Phil will be bringing his own brand of festival fun to Alserkal Avenue.
The Festival is a fierce champion of locally based writers and this year is introducing a new feature, the LitFest Launchpad, giving UAE-based authors a chance to launch their latest book to audiences. As always there will be creative writing workshops and chats and advice from industry professionals such as publisher Allison K Williams, author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book.
The Emirates LitFest Writing Prize, formerly known as the Montegrappa, is a highlight of the year for aspiring writers in the GCC, and the winners will be announced at the big Festival weekend at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Judged by respected UK literary agent Luigi Bonomi, the competition has put many previous finalists on the road to publishing success.
The education programme featuring children’s authors will be available to schools from 7 February, while the finals of the schools and competitions will take place in March, with prize-giving events for the winners.
Due to social distancing, there will be fewer tickets available for every session, so early booking is recommended. Tickets will be required for each session, including free sessions, to ensure visitor number restrictions are adhered to.
The Festival will be fully compliant with all Covid-19 prevention regulations and guidelines from the Dubai Health Authorities. Observing social distancing measures across all three venues will be paramount, along with Covid regulations such as mandatory masks and temperature checks. See full details on the Emirates LitFest website.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
For the full list of authors, visit emirateslitfest.com/authors