Monday, 30th March - More than 20,000 people attend inaugural literary festival; authors acclaim it '… a triumph'

Preparations begin for EAIFL 2010

March 30th, 2009: Plaudits and praise have been heaped upon the region’s first major literary festival which took place in Dubai earlier this month. The Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) took place over four days and was attended by more than 20,000 people across the main author and Fringe programmes. The Festival was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA).

Top authors attracted sell-out audiences for many events including an evening of Arabic poetry. The main author programme took place at the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City. For many of the authors this was their first opportunity to meet their fans in the Middle East and the strength of engagement and interest from the audiences came as a very welcome surprise. Read More

Friday, 27th February - Announcement of International PEN/EAIFL debate

The line-up of panelists taking part in a debate organized by EAIFL in partnership with International PEN on February 28th is now confirmed.

The debate will explore the issue of censorship and the different cultural preconceptions which we hold regarding the acceptable limits of freedom of expression. It is to be held at 9am on Saturday February 28th at Al Khayma Ballroom 3, the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City.

The panelists are... Read More.

Thursday, 26th February - Inaugural EAIFL Launch Event

26th February, 2009: The inaugural Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAIFL) opened to a spectacular start as 65 international authors joined government authorities, local dignitaries, and guests at the official launch held in the Event Centre, Dubai Festival Centre. EAIFL is being held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Art Authority (DCAA) until Sunday 1st March.

Speaking at the launch, Isobel Abulhoul, Festival Director of EAIFL, welcomed authors and guests with a paean to the magic of books, and the many ways they touch lives. “Literacy and literature are intrinsically interlinked, and it is the reason we are all here today: to celebrate the written word in all its forms. Books can take us to many places, educate us, and create wonderful experiences.

“This is a historic moment for Dubai – and I invite all of you to savour the moment,” she said to assembled guests. Read More

Tuesday, 24th February - Dubai poised for literary feast

Top authors are set to gather in Dubai this week for the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL), escalating the buzz surrounding the event. EAIFL will be held between 26 February and 1 March 2009, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA).

As leading literary figures fly in from around the world for a fascinating programme of literary debate, discussion and fringe activities, Dubai will turn a new page as it further establishes itself as a hub for international events. Read More

Saturday 21st February - Statement on Additional Event

Isobel Abulhoul, Festival Director, EAIFL

"I am delighted that Margaret Atwood has re-confirmed her support for the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) at which authors from more than 20 countries will be present. We are naturally disappointed that Ms Atwood can not now attend the Festival in person after the unfortunate chain of events over the past week initiated by a series of misleading and incomplete press reports.

One of the positive outcomes from this is that PEN International has accepted our invitation to stage an event in partnership at the Festival on Saturday 28th February. This event will explore the issue of censorship and cultural preconceptions about the acceptable limits of freedom of expression. All authors attending EAIFL, many of whom are PEN members, are being invited to participate. The event will be facilitated by Eugene Schoulgin, International Secretary of PEN International. I am personally in touch with Margaret Atwood and her office about how best she can be involved in this event."

Other Coverage:

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Statement from EAIFL - 18th February 2009

Comment from Isobel Abulhoul, Director of the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature:

Margaret Atwood’s decision to withdraw – especially at such late notice – from the forthcoming Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature is, of course, regrettable.

The ambition behind setting up the festival is fuelled by our heartfelt belief in actively engaging and helping to bridge the gap between East and West; a belief that authors felt important when agreeing to visit our festival.

We are very disappointed and not a little surprised that it has taken so long for anyone to reconsider their position -- particularly if this reconsideration is linked to Geraldine Bedell’s position which, while communicated to her last September, has come to the public’s attention only now and around the publication of her novel.

In organising any literary festival, wherever it is in the world, one has to take decisions regarding the target audience. In the time that has elapsed since issuing provisional invitations and in confirming attendance, Dubai has not changed its social mores, culture or laws.

Decision-making may be informed by a number of factors and in many cases can be driven by simple attendance imperatives. I would hope that anyone informed and interested in the differing cultures around the world would both understand and respect the path we tread in setting up the first festival of this nature in the Middle East. Indeed, I have been absolutely delighted by the response to our initiative.

Our invitation to Margaret Atwood was issued in all good faith and in tribute to her internationally acclaimed literary pedigree. We have tried to contact Ms Atwood asking her to reconsider as we would like to speak directly with her to share the full picture. We very much hope that she may attend a festival in the future as we continue to have great respect for her work.

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Statement from EAIFL - 17th February 2009

Isobel Abulhoul, Director of Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature:

We would like to clarify the situation regarding EAIFL and Geraldine Bedell. The overwhelming response to the Festival has delighted us as well as taking us by surprise; we have been greatly encouraged by the support of some of the world’s leading literary figures. As Festival Director, I have inevitably had to make the final decision on which authors we should include in this inaugural year.

I have lived in Dubai for forty years. Based on my knowledge of who would appeal to the book-reading community in the Middle East, and having read 150 pages of Ms Bedell’s manuscript I knew that her work could offend certain cultural sensitivities. I did not believe that it was in the Festival’s long term interests to acquiesce to her publisher’s (Penguin) request to launch the book at the first Festival of this nature in the Middle East. We do, of course, acknowledge the excellent publicity campaign being run by Penguin which will no doubt increase sales of her book and we wish Ms Bedell the very best.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to welcoming 66 star authors from more than 20 different countries to Dubai next week.

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Festival of literature tickets go on sale

January 25th, 2009: Tickets for the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) go on sale today, bringing the first event of its kind in the Middle East ever closer.

The festival, which runs from February 26th to March 1st at Dubai Festival City, has attracted some of the world’s top authors from across the globe. These authors will be joined by a select group of authors from and resident in the UAE.

Special EAIFL “boarding passes” have been created for entry to the activities, taking book lovers on a journey of discovery and bringing them face to face with their literary idols.

“When we began approaching authors to attend the Middle East’s first literary festival we could never have dreamed of securing such an incredible collection of global literary talent,” said Isobel Abulhoul, Director of EAIFL.

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