Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 April 2020

Dubai arts and culture stalwart receives 10-year 'golden card' visa

Maxine English is rewarded for her long-term dedication to the theatre scene in emirate

Maxine English has received a 10-year visa for her commitment to local culture.  Chris Whiteoak / The National
Maxine English has received a 10-year visa for her commitment to local culture.  Chris Whiteoak / The National

A stalwart of the arts and culture scene has been granted a Golden Card visa, which allows her residency in the UAE for 10 years.

Maxine English, 38, joined the ranks of superstar celebrities like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Novak Djokovic by receiving the accolade.

The Englishwoman, who hails from Newcastle, has been involved in the local arts scene in Dubai for the past 22 years.

During that time, she oversaw productions across the country at iconic venues such as Yas Island, Adnec, Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and the QE2.

“It is amazing to be recognised and I feel so proud,” said Ms English.

“I have been part of the arts and culture scene for more than 20 years and have seen how it has grown into something spectacular.

“It is just overwhelming to be a part of that and when I was told about being awarded the visa my reaction was ‘is this real?’”

The Golden Card visa, which grants long-term residency in the country instead of the usual three-year term, was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai in May last year.

The 10-year visa is usually associated with captains of industry, as it was introduced to encourage business development and attract new talent to the country.

It actually enrages me when people don’t appreciate the local talent that is so accessible in so many different places and is very much part of Dubai’s identity

Maxine English

However, the visa was also available to members of the arts but their selection had to be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.

Ms English said she was asked by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority to submit her profile, which was followed up by a phone call asking her to come into their office.

It was there that she received a letter notifying her that she would be awarded the prestigious visa.

She and her husband James currently run their own company, Park Lane Live, which specialises in hosting and facilitating corporate and theatrical events across the country.

She was also responsible for creating Theatre by QE2, on board the iconic ship now permanently docked in Dubai’s Port Rashid.

Ms English said being awarded the visa was vindication for her decision not to leave the country to study abroad when she was younger, a path many of her contemporaries had chosen.

“I was a Dubai College girl and chose not to leave because I thought so much was happening here,” she said.

“Just look at how much has changed in that time.

“The performing arts scene here is spectacular now.”

She said venues like Dubai Opera were key to promoting the region as a thriving hub of arts and culture.

“The ability for schoolchildren to be able to go somewhere like Dubai Opera is fantastic,” she said.

“The fact that 10 and 11 year-olds were able to go and watch performances of Othello and Les Miserables there speaks volumes about the vision this country has.”

However, she said, it was the strength in depth of the arts and culture scene here in the UAE that was the real symbol of its progress.

“It’s now accessible in so many forms in so many venues,” she said.

“The diversity of options is fantastic and the range of options that are now available for people who want to pursue a career in arts is incredible.

“It used to be the case that arts was seen as a hobby here, something you would do until you turned 18 and decided to get a job in some other sector, but not anymore.”

One highlight that stood out for Ms English, was Al Hamlet, a localised version of the famous Shakespeare play that was performed by Ductac in 2017.

For many people, the image of Dubai is about spending money, fast cars and lavish hotels. It was a perception that Ms English had strong feelings about.

“If you want to just spend your time in Dubai eating in Michelin star restaurants and going to hotels then of course you can,” she said.

“But you would be missing out on so much. The arts and culture scene is so vibrant and prevalent.

“It actually enrages me when people don’t appreciate the local talent that is so accessible in so many different places and is very much part of Dubai’s identity.”

Updated: March 7, 2020 12:58 PM

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