The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opened on Tuesday night with an evening celebrating stories and words.
Terry Wogan recalls his rise up the career path in Dubai
Hundreds packed the Al Mamzar Theatre in the Dubai Cultural and Scientific Association to listen to charming tales from the Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan, who hosted an hour-long session during which he warmly recalled his childhood and detailed his rise from working in a bank to becoming one of British television's most-loved personalities.
While his broadcasting career was a talking point, Wogan spent most of the evening detailing his Irish roots, which he investigated in his BBC documentary series Terry Wogan's Ireland last year.
With anecdotes and quips aplenty, Wogan spoke of growing up in the Irish city of Limerick as the son of a shop manager and studious fly-fisher.
"He loved to fish, but for my father it wasn't about the fishing. I think this is the case for most fishermen; it's not the fishing but the getting ready for it," he said.
"And I would sit there watching the corned beef sandwiches curl in the end, waiting for him to fish. Because to tie the flies, that's what he really wanted. And then, as the sun would go down behind the hedges, he would cast his first fly. As darkness would be setting in, he would get us on the bicycle – put me on the handle bars – and would go home to my mother who couldn't cook to save her life."
Wogan said his move to banking and then radio was a way to take more personal responsibility, after deeming his parents spent enough money on his education.
He was surprised he was one out of the hundreds of applicants asked to attend an audition to be a radio announcer for the fledgling Irish broadcaster RTÉ.
"I lied to the bank manager and told him I was going to the dentist," Wogan recalled. "And I went in there for the audition and they offered me announcer training. You see, they used to train announcers then, they don't anymore, that's why you get so many idiots, really, in news."
When asked to describe his most challenging broadcasting moment, Wogan recalled his early years with RTÉ. He remembered how all announcers at the time would have to read the news in a locked studio "in case some illegal organisation would charge into the studio and tear the news from you".
Describing himself as a "delicate child", Wogan began his 30-minute news broadcast only to discover his nose bleeding.
"It was half an hour of news reading, you were locked in, nobody else knew what was going on … the steady patter of blood on the script. That was certainly something I will never forget," he said.
The evening's second session was dedicated to poetry, with readings from an eclectic array of poets from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and India: four international poets read pieces from their published collections and, in one case, debuted a new work.
The Afro-Guyanese poet John Agard urged the crowd to participate in his poem Alternative Anthem, a humorous dissection of why the English love tea.
"Put the kettle on! It is the British answer to Armageddon," he roared.
"Never mind the taxes rise, never mind the trains are late. One thing you can be sure of, it's not whether you lose, it's not whether you win, it's whether or not you plugged the kettle in."
With more than 100 authors from 25 countries, the festival continues at the InterContinental in Dubai Festival City until Saturday. Highlights from tonight's programme include the Emirati graphic novelist Qais Sedki discussing the Arab world's growing fascination with Japanese manga comics. The Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Steve Coll will also discuss his experience covering Afghanistan.
For all event details, go to www.emirateslitfest.com