The 14th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature held in February certainly demonstrated how quickly it was able to recover from the effects of the pandemic: more than 105,000 people attended the Festival, either in person or through the online sessions, and ticket sales increased year on year by 184 percent.
Last year was of course affected by Covid, running a pandemic-friendly mix of reduced live appearances and virtual sessions. Twice as many authors appeared in the 2022 edition – a total of 181 of them over the 11 days of the Festival.
LitFest’s competitions also did well. Entries for the student competitions held firm, while the number of entries in the adult competitions grew by 62 percent – helped by the introduction of the First Chapter writers’ fellowship, a year-long writing mentorship programme for aspiring fiction writers that is sponsored by Seddiqi Holding.
Audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive, too, but then it usually is – the LitFest folk know what they’re doing now, and they do it rather well. Two thirds of survey respondents were returning visitors (and of those, one in five had been to ten or more LitFests); 94 percent of visitors were happy or extremely happy with the Festival across five categories – speakers, range of events, atmosphere, interaction for ELF, and venues (this was LitFest’s first time at a new principal location, the Habtoor City Hotels on Dubai Canal).
“It is great to know that our programme reflects the tastes and interests of our enthusiastic and growing fan base”, said Ahlam Bolooki, festival director (right).
“At the Emirates LitFest we are always reinventing the Festival, which keeps our audiences coming back year after year, knowing they will experience new ways of connecting with literature. More than ever, we have had events that brought together different art forms to elevate the audiences’ interaction with literature, from musical poetry duos, to themed dinners with performing arts, to our Fright Night and literary debates.
“Creativity and constant innovation are at the heart of the Festival’s success, and we can’t wait for our plans for our 15th edition to come to life.”
Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, was similarly enthusiastic, commending a “journey of continuous success”, “unique achievements” and “a unique window to advance the literature sector in the emirate and the UAE towards building a sustainable future for future generations.”
As is required these days, he also reinforced the Festival’s strategic value, noting that it “aligns with our vision to cement Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent as well as a global centre for the creative economy”.