x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Plans to make literature festival year-round

The organisers of an annual literature festival have settled on two possible venues where they can stage events all year.

DUBAI //The organisers of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature are planning to set up a permanent home so they can stage events all year instead of just during the five days of the annual festival.

They have narrowed their search to space in the House of Poetry in Shindagha and a venue at nearby Bastakiya. They aim to choose between the two in time to throw open the doors to Dubai book lovers in September.

"We will have a permanent home, a house of literature where we will be able to host year-round events such as creative writing workshops, gatherings and poetry evenings," said Isobel Abulhoul, the festival director. "We feel there is a real need and a hunger for more of these kinds of things.

"There'll always be the big festival, but we'd like to have more. There are plenty of things we can do throughout the year that will be of benefit to everyone.

"It'll be a place where would-be writers and experienced writers can drop in and meet like-minded people. We hope to have a library of books by authors who have attended the festival. We just want it to be a welcoming place for everyone who's interested in literature in whatever form."

Ms Abulhoul and her team hope to benefit from the fact that many authors transit through Dubai, and plan to arrange for some to stop over and appear in events at the new centre.

"The great thing about Dubai is that it is a crossroads, people often change planes here. If publishers know that we can accommodate them at any time then we can take up any offers that come our way. We could have a session with just one author who is passing through.

"We're also very keen to offer creative writing workshops, we will have writers in residence and encourage students who are interested in writing to come along. We've got masses and masses of plans. The only thing that needs to happen is for us to be given a permanent home, and we've got offers of both venues."

The plan is likely to prove popular with the city's book lovers, according to Jane Wiegand, who runs the Capital Book Club and the Author's Muse website.

"It's a wonderful idea. The more intellectual stimulation we can bring to Dubai the better, and what better way than bringing authors here?" she said. "It'll be a fabulous addition, good for them for starting this.

"I've gone to the festival every year and will keep going. It's like a breath of oxygen in Dubai if you love books."

The annual festival has attracted hundreds of the world's top authors since its debut in February 2009. This year's line-up included Edward de Bono, Benjamin Zephaniah, Lionel Shriver, Roger McGough, Amna al Mansoori, Ibrahim Mohammad Ibrahim and Madhur Jaffrey.

More than 30 authors have already signed up to take part in next year's festival, though the organisers say no names will be announced until October. "We're an international festival and we're hopefully going to expand the number of French authors," Ms Abulhoul said.

"It's easier to get English-speaking authors, but I'd love to have our first Italian and German authors if we can get them, though they'd have to be ones people would want to see.

"The Arab world is very, very important to our festival, and as well as showcasing regional talent we bring in the very big names from all over the Arab world. They are in great demand because of what's been going on in the region, so it just depends on which ones will be free to come."

The event will be held, as in previous years, at the InterContinental Festival City, and gala nights will again be staged at the Dubai Cultural and Scientific Association's venue at Al Mamzar.

"We will stick exactly to that plan because it's worked extremely well and we love having the theatrical experience we can only really get at Al Mamzar.

"We've got some additional venue space at the InterContinental that we can use as it did get a bit crowded this year. The fringe came into its own this year because we moved it into the main festival and that will be expanded.

"We've got somebody dedicated to delivering the fringe and that is where we can showcase locally based talent and education groups and all of that."

The 2012 festival will run from March 6 to March 10.

 

csimpson@thenational.ae