Image Credit: Rabab Khan/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s annual celebration of the written and spoken word, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, has announced its strongest ever line-up for its 10th anniversary event, which takes place from March 1-10, 2018.

To mark this milestone occasion, an exclusive list of 25 unmissable sessions will be released from today at a special Early Bird discount offer of 15 per cent.

Bestselling international authors David Walliams, Alexander McCall Smith, Shashi Tharoor and 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) winner Mohammad Hasan Alwan are just some of the renowned names who are now on sale.

The Early Bird list also includes Anthony Horowitz with a new Alex Rider novel; the prolific Jacqueline Wilson, talking about her latest book Wave Me Goodbye; explorer Levison Wood, with tales of his adventures along the Silk Route and veteran journalist Kate Adie. Following his sell-out sessions last year, the UAE Ambassador to France, His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash returns, this time in conversation with former British Ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher.

The big events

This year’s landmark event features some of the biggest names in the poetry world, taking the stage for a truly unique performance. ‘For the Love of Words’ celebrates the power of poetry across cultures, within the magnificent setting of Dubai Opera.

This exceptional evening presents a once in a lifetime gathering of the best UK and UAE contemporary poets including Khalid AlBudoor, Nujoom Nasser AlGhanem, spoken word artist Afra Atiq, UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, John Agard, Imtiaz Dharker, Roger McGough, Grace Nichols, Lemn Sissay and World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker.

Other highlight events include the chance to join food legends Madhur Jaffrey and Ken Hom at their exclusive Festival dining experiences, and an invitation to come along to the Festival’s Richard and Judy Book Club. Hosted by Britain’s beloved broadcasters and book champions, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, the couple will introduce their pick of Festival authors and discuss the novels guaranteed to get book lovers buzzing.

Page to screen

Saroo Brierley, whose story inspired the Oscar-nominated film Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, will talk about his life and introduce a special screening of the film, in partnership with Dubai International Film Festival. The programme also features columnist and author Cheryl Strayed, whose book Wild was adapted to the Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon; bestselling author of the soon-to-be-released film Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan; and James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner series, on which the hit films are based.

In addition, there is a rare chance to see Andy Weir, via live video link from the US. His debut novel, The Martian, was a runaway hit in 2014 and later adapted to a blockbuster film by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain.

Tickets for other Early Bird sessions include Nnedi Okorafor, whose award-winning novel set in Africa, Who Fears Death, is being adapted for television by HBO and George RR Martin; brilliant horror writer Joe Hill and his Locke & Key comic series co-creator Gabriel Rodriguez; and Rhianna Pratchett, writer of the Tomb Raider video game reboot and daughter of legendary science-fiction author Terry Pratchett.

Palestinian author Ibrahim Nasrallah, nominated for an IPAF for Time of White Horses; Syrian author of No Knives in the Kitchens of This City, Khaled Khalifa, shortlisted twice for an IPAF; and acclaimed Indian author Chetan Bhagat discussing his latest novel, One Indian Girl, about the impact of societal expectations on women in India, are also featured in the early release.

The Early Bird Discount offer ends November 24, 2017. For the full list of First 25 sessions, and the complete line up of 2018 authors, visit: emirateslitfest.com

Speaking at the event, Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said: “When we started 10 years ago, none of us could have foreseen the enormous positive impact the Festival has had on the literary scene in the region. Thanks to our patron His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Festival has been able to blaze a trail and become a Festival of international standing, attracting authors from across the globe.

“In our first year 65 authors attended. Since 2009 more than 1,000 bestselling authors have visited Dubai, helping to share our passion for reading, opening the door to other worlds and building an appreciation of different genres, viewpoints and cultures. More than 20,000 students benefit through our Education Programme each year; the Festival has helped launch the international publishing careers of eight locally-based debut authors, and has received numerous awards.

“All this could not have happened without our partners, supporters and sponsors, most notably Emirates Airline, our title sponsor, who have helped make all this possible.”

The Storytellers

More tickets for this diverse and entertaining programme go on sale in January. These include many award-winning authors from both the Western and the Arab World such as Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Spanish author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind; Iraqi author Muhsin Al-Ramli (The President’s Gardens); Man Booker 2017 nominated authors Kamila Shamsie (Home Fire) and Fiona Mozley (Elmet); and Ahmed Saadawi, author of the IPAF winner, Frankenstein in Baghdad, which will be published in English for the first time in 2018.

Real-life storytellers include Jane Hawking, whose autobiography Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen chronicles her life with renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, Chief Business Officer at Google’s [X] Mo Gawdat who will inspire audiences with his story of engineering a path to joy through his book Solve for Happy; and Andrew Morton, the writer of the definitive biographies of Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, and many others.

Also confirmed is Nobel Peace Prize winner and social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, in conversation with Arun Gandhi, a socio-political activist, author and grandson of Mohandas Gandhi; doyenne of British broadcasting, Jenni Murray and the renowned expert on the history of Imperial rule in India, William Dalrymple. Reflecting the international nature of the event, the Festival welcomes, amongst many others, the critically acclaimed Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov, Icelandic poet Sjon, international bestselling Afghani-American writer Nadia Hashimi, Filipino business guru Francis Kong and food writer and multi-award-winning author of numerous Middle Eastern cookbooks Clauda Roden.

Children’s blockbusters

Fun and frolic abounds in the children’s programme, which this year includes Festival favourite and author of The Grunts, Philip Ardagh; award-winning Kiran Millwood Hargrave with her smash-hit debut, The Girl of Ink and Stars; and King Flashypants himself, Andy Riley.

Legendary illustrators Tony Ross, Korky Paul, Guy Parker Rees and Jon Klassen will be bringing a range of hillarious characters to life, from The Little Princess and Winnie the Witch, to dancing giraffes and sneaky shapes

A special guest this year is the much loved presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin, who has entertained generations of youngsters with her TV programmes and books. In addition the Festival is thrilled to welcome, by video link, The Tiger Who Came to Tea writer Judith Kerr, celebrating 50 years since the publication of this classic story

Ali Sparkes, talking about her The Shapeshifter series, award-winning Jordanian author Taghreed Aref Najjer, The Black Dot author, illustrator Walid Taher and Emirati writer Noura Al Khoori are all featured in the programme.

Those who are ‘wild about animals’ can enjoy listening to ecologist Tom Moorhouse, the critically acclaimed MG Leonard, with her Beetle Boy stories, Holly Webb, author of the Animal Stories series, and animal trainer Julie Tottman, revealing secrets from the Harry Potter film set.

Young Adult authors include Linda Davies, Young Bond author and comedian Charlie Higson and appearing by video link, creator of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl and his criminal empire, Eoin Colfer.

Suspense and Intrigue

Gritty drama, intrigue and a dash of peril are always a big draw at the Festival and this year will be no exception, with crime writers Mark Billingham, discussing his standalone novel Die of Shame and providing an update on Detective Inspector Tom Thorne’s exploits; the Queen of Icelandic crime fiction, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir; and Peter James, with the latest instalment in the Roy Grace series.

For the full list of First 25 sessions, and the complete line up of 2018 authors, visit: emirateslitfest.com