Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2011 Opens

Guests at today’s Opening Ceremony for the 3rd annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature were treated to a memorable display of music, dance, poetry and song, at the breathtaking 850-seat theatre at the Cultural & Scientific Association at Al Mamzar. 

A cast of more than 500 performers took to the stage during the ceremony, including the Emirates Choir, the Emirati Youth Choir, the Massed Primary School Choirs of Dubai, as well as 2011 festival writers Michael Morpurgo, Roger McGough, and Dha’en Shaheen.  In the audience were many of the 130 authors who are participating in this year’s festival, as well as senior Government officials, diplomats, representatives from major businesses and educational institutions, and leading lights from the local cultural scene.

“What a fitting way to launch the 2011 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and the 130 programmed events which will take place over the next five days,” said Isobel Abulhoul, Festival Director, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.  “It is time for Dubai to get ‘face to face’ with 130 Award-winning authors and thinkers and I can’t wait to take my seat in the audience.”

The Opening Ceremony began with a magical performance of “The Pearl Divers’ Song” by the Emirati Youth Choir.  Their performance took the audience back in time to when Dubai was a small fishing village on the edge of the Arabian Gulf, and brave pearl divers collected oysters from the sea bed.  The choir was accompanied by local musicians and a pair of spectacular aerial performers dressed in traditional pearl diving costumes. Their ‘aerial dance’ imitated the long, slow, graceful dives and elegant movements of the traditional pearl divers. 

2011 Emirates Lit Fest participants, Dha’en Shaheen and Roger McGough recited poems written specially by them for the opening ceremony.  Dha’en’s poem was entitled “The Knight of the Tribe” and Roger’s, “Take Comfort”.

Michael Morpurgo, one of this year’s children’s authors, has seen his most famous book, War Horse, become a hugely successful theatre production.  During the Opening Ceremony, Michael shared some incredible behind-the-scenes footage from the War Horse theatre production, as well as explaining the inspiration behind his classic story. Kevin Dunleavy continued the War Horse theme with a solo performance of the production’s soundtrack, “The Year Turns Round Again”. The piece began with his haunting solo voice, accompanied only by accordion, and then built to a stirring climax with trumpet and strings joining in with a full orchestral backing.

The Emirates Choir, led by Musical Director Stuart Squire, and made up of Emirates employees, performed the Beatles’ classic “Paperback Writer” and “Into the West”, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

The Opening Ceremony was brought to a rousing close with the first public performance of this year’s Festival anthem, “The Mystery”.  The anthem was composed by Emirates steward and former music teacher Yousef Khan and was performed by the 350 local primary school students who make up the Massed Primary School Choirs of Dubai.

“The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is peerless; it captures the imagination and resonates with people of all ages and cultures,” said Sir Maurice Flanagan, Executive Vice Chairman, Emirates Airline and Group. “As an airline which connects people and cultures across 110 destinations, helping connect the people of Dubai with burgeoning talent and literary stalwarts alike, has been very rewarding. The Festival is an invigorating platform for book lovers to get an insight into the creative process of authors whose craft and imagination take us on an incredible journey, and creates fictional worlds through which we all can travel.”

Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, said: “The colourful opening ceremony of the 2011 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is a fitting tribute to our cultural heritage and the cosmopolitan population of Dubai, which marks the true essence of our city’s identity. The show also demonstrated how the different disciplines of the arts have flourished in the Emirate over the years, drawing upon its unique literary scene, especially rich in poetry and theatre. The Festival, which brings together authors from around the world is a strong declaration on the literary culture of Dubai, and further establishes the city’s status as a regional hub for culture and the arts.”

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in partnership with Emirates Airline and Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

For more information, contact [email protected] or visit www.eaifl.com.