x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

World's top authors arrive to celebrate skill with the quill

The British journalist and former chief news correspondent for the BBC, Kate Adie, was the first on stage.

DUBAI // Hundreds of award-winning authors from the region and beyond are in town for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

The festival, which began yesterday in Dubai and has become an event much talked about within the global circle of writers and publishers, includes panel discussions, masterclasses, conversations, poetry readings and musical evenings open to the public.

The festival director, Isobel Abulhoul, said her goal was to ensure the event, which ends on Saturday, travelled a different route each year.

"Our theme this year is identity," Ms Abulhoul said on the sidelines of the festival's opening ceremony at the Cultural and Scientific Association in Al Mamzar. "We have authors from at least 30 different countries.

"The festival is different every year, and we try to go in various directions by listening to our audience and always aiming to bring them what they want."

The British journalist and former chief news correspondent for the BBC, Kate Adie, was the first on stage.

Adie spoke of some of the highlights of her career so far, as images of her reporting from war zones appeared on a screen behind her.

Her sessions include Women in Journalism, The Roar of the Press, The Squeak of Social Media: Modern Journalism, and Afghanistan: The Future of Women.

The Palestinian poet and writer, Mourid Barghouti, read an excerpt from his poem Midnight, while the Dubai actor and radio presenter, Ibrahim Ustadi, read an excerpt from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

The British author and screenwriter David Nicholls, who wrote One Day, said the Dickens classic changed his life forever when he first read it in 1979. Nicholls adapted the book for the big screen.

"Dickens was a great entertainer," he said.

In attendance were international best-selling authors such as Nicholas Sparks from the US, whose books such as The Notebook, Message in a Bottle and Dear John became big-screen hits, and the British crime writer Mark Billingham.

Those two, together with the Chinese authors Chan Koonchung and Bi Feiyu, will lead a panel discussion on Friday entitled From Page to Screen. They will answer audience questions and share snippets from their careers.

The Dubai Police Pipes Band opened the ceremony along with the Dubai Scouts Flag Bearers for the National Anthem.

Then the Emirates Choir performed Who Will Buy? from the musical Oliver.

The Combined Primary Schools Choir closed the event.

Tonight, Nicholls will speak at Heritage Night at the InterContinental at 7.30.

Sessions by the Egyptian novelist Nasser Iraq and Barghouti begin at 8.45pm at the same venue.

The festival is being run in partnership with the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. Most events will take place at the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City and the Cultural and Scientific Association.

For information on the authors, ticket prices and session timings, visit www.emirateslitfest.com.

melshoush@thenational.ae