Literature is an important part of any culture, says Emirates Literature Festival CEO

Isobel Abulhoul discussed the festival's evolution into the UAE's premier literary event while speaking with Arab News. (AN photo)
Updated 20 February 2018

Literature is an important part of any culture, says Emirates Literature Festival CEO

DUBAI: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The 10-day festival kicks off in Dubai on March 1 and will once again welcome tens of thousands of literature lovers through its doors to meet more than 180 authors from 47 different countries. Last year, roughly 44,000 visitors attended the event.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the press conference announcing this year’s edition, the festival’s director, Isobel Abulhoul, discussed the festival’s evolution into the UAE’s premier literary event, winning a number of awards. It has, she said, been a rollercoaster ride.
“I’ve been on the rollercoaster for the last 10 years and I’m still whizzing around at great speed,” she said. “Organizing an event of this size, thinking about different languages, thinking about our audiences, is a very complex composition and so we have to break it into tiny, tiny bits. Organizing a live event is all about details.”
It has become slightly easier over the years, Abulhoul explained, as the organizers have come to better understand the requirements of the audience.
“The most important thing is choosing authors who are not just wonderful writers but also performers,” she said. “Then, the audience have an amazing experience: It’s live, it’s happening, it’s conversation… It’s a kind of package deal.”
Abulhoul is aware that a literature festival may seem somewhat out of touch with the digital world ­— as reading and writing become less common pastimes. But she is also aware of the festival’s potential value.
“Literature is important in any culture,” she said. “It is a challenge in today’s busy world, because of technology and all the distraction, but we are succeeding. We are creating writers. We support the Emirati writing community and the expat (writers) living here.”
She said that, aside from book lovers, the festival also targets those who don’t yet read for pleasure.
“We believe if they come to the festival and meet great writers, listen to their live sessions and enjoy them, then they are more likely to pick up their books,” Abulhoul explained. “This can be the key that unlocks reading for them. And that is what we have been doing for the last 10 years: Getting more and more people into reading for pleasure.”
To help with this, the festival also organizes education programs, which include education days, student sessions and authors visiting schools. Student competitions for poetry, short stories and reading are also held, in both Arabic and English. Last year, more than 25,000 students across the UAE took part in the various programs.
Ultimately, Abulhoul said, the festival offers something that just cannot be found in the digital realm: A live experience.
“It’s a unique opportunity. It’s happening live. It’s a contrast to spending our lives on our laptops in the virtual world,” she said. “This is not the virtual world. This is the real world.”


ICESCO announces prizes in Remote Culture initiative 

Updated 02 April 2020

ICESCO announces prizes in Remote Culture initiative 

  • Remote Culture is part of the “ICESCO Digital Home” initiative launched to support member states' efforts in fighting COVID-19

RIYADH: The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) has announced the creation of three awards for students in three cultural areas as part of its Remote Culture initiative.

The first prize is $6,000, the second is $4,000 and the third is $2,000, in addition to certificates of appreciation, in the fields of short story writing and painting, the organization said.

National committees in member states will communicate with educational institutions to invite students to take part in competitions, and will select three works of each category to be sent to ICESCO by the end of June 2020.

The organization then will form a specialized international jury to choose the best three works in each branch.

The initiative is part of the “ICESCO Digital Home” initiative launched to support member states' efforts in combating the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and to find alternative solutions to ensure the sustainability of its educational, scientific and cultural work.

The new ICESCO initiative includes remote training and capacity-building for heritage frameworks, where the organization will be preparing and broadcasting a series of videos through its website as of April 15.

The videos include training programs in physical and intangible heritage, and documentation of cultural heritage using artificial intelligence techniques and risk-, crisis- and disaster-management in heritage sites and museums.

They will also introduce techniques for registering heritage sites on the lists of Islamic world heritage and world heritage, rehabilitating endangered crafts, promoting the general principles of managing museums in the Islamic world and protecting underwater cultural heritage.

The initiative also offers an invitation for remote reading to take advantage of ICESCO's digital libraries and other sites available.