The region’s biggest literary event celebrates its 10th year with more than 150 stars
Emirates Lit Fest line-up: David Walliams, Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Kate Adie
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has announced the line-up for its landmark 10th anniversary event, which will take place in Dubai from March 1 to 10.
The programme features an eclectic selection of authors, from poets, comedians and celebrity chefs to philosophers, wartime journalists and daytime television hosts among the 150-plus guests announced so far.
Tickets for most events will go on sale in January, but in a break with tradition to mark the festival’s milestone birthday, 25 specially selected sessions have gone on sale immediately, with a 15 per cent early bird discount. Among the pick of the guests at these sessions are British comedian and author David Walliams, 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction winner Mohammed Hasan Alwan and veteran journalist Kate Adie.
Walliams is perhaps best known for his work on cult British sketch show Little Britain. However, he has written 12 children’s books, four of which have already been adapted for TV by the BBC, with more adaptations planned. Walliams has also published an autobiography, and is also currently writing an animated feature film with film-maker Edgar Wright (Baby Diver, Shaun of the Dead).
Saudi author Alwan has published five novels to date, including last year’s A Small Death, which won him this year’s IPAF. The novel tells the story of the life of Ibn Arabi, one of the most divisive figures in Islamic thought. To his supporters, the Sufi thinker is one of the foremost spiritual leaders in history. To his opponents, his 12th- and 13th-century writings and philosophy represent heresy. Alwan has also written a non-fiction book – 2014’s Migration: Theories and Key Factors.
Adie will be a familiar face to anyone with even a passing interest in current affairs. She got her big break in 1980, as the BBC’s duty reporter who was first on the scene when the Special Air Service stormed London’s Iranian Embassy. Adie reported live and unscripted to one of the BBC’s largest ever news audiences to widespread acclaim. She would go on to become the BBC’s go-to reporter in times of crisis, reporting from war zones in Libya, Yugoslavia, the Gulf, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. She has been shot and injured in the course of her work, and has published five books based on, or inspired by, her experiences.
Elsewhere, and also with tickets available now, the festival has assembled an impressive line-up of poets for the For the Love of Words event at Dubai Opera, including Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay, British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and World Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker.
Film fans shouldn’t be disappointed, with a Page to Screen section introducing the authors of best-selling novels that have been adapted for the screen. Guests include Cheryl Strayed, whose novel Wild spawned the Oscar-nominated film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon; Maze Runner author James Dashner; a video link with The Martian author Andy Weir; and Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of the legendary Terry, and author of the rebooted Tomb Raider video game.
Children are well catered for, too, with appearances from The Grunts’ Philip Ardagh, award winner Kiran Millwood Hargrave (The Girl of Ink and Stars) and King Flashypants’ Andy Riley, while illustrators Tony Ross, Korky Paul, Guy Parker Rees and Jon Klassen will bring to life a range of characters, including the Little Princess and Winnie the Witch.
An international flavour is provided by writers from as far afield as Ukraine, the Philippines, Iceland and India. If you’re finding the choice a little overwhelming, British daytime TV stars Richard Madely and Judy Finnegan, hosts of the country’s most popular televised book club, will be on hand to pick their favourite works from the line-up and discuss the books with the public.
The festival has grown exponentially every year since it debuted in 2009. Next year’s line-up more than doubles the 65 authors who attended the inaugural edition. Festival director Isobel Abulhoul is proud of the festival’s achievements. “When we started 10 years ago, none of us could have foreseen the enormous positive impact the festival has had on the literary scene in the region,” she admits. “Since 2009, more than 1,000 bestselling authors have visited Dubai. More than 20,000 students benefit through our education programme each year; the festival has helped launch the international publishing careers of eight locally based debut authors, and has received numerous awards.”
For the full list of authors and events, visit www.emirateslitfest.com/authors