LitFest spreads out

The dates for the 2021 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature have been announced, along with a first tranche of authors. The 13th LitFest will be spread over three locations and three weekends, starting 29 January and ending on 13 February, with some activities and exhibitions remaining open throughout the whole period.

So for the first time, there’s a serious bid to escape from Festival City and involve other relevant institutions – specifically, the Jameel Arts Centre and Alserkal Avenue. The aim, apparently, is “to bridge the gap between art, creativity and literature to support the cultural community”; and since the gap surely isn’t particularly wide, it’s a bit of a no-brainer to set up this kind of relationship.

The Jameel hosts the first weekend, 29- 30 January, with workshops, masterclasses and literary-themed exhibitions (among them a survey of Arab comic books). The library and its associated programming and research activity is of course a key element of the arts centre.

Alserkal has the 12-13 February weekend “to celebrate film, food, creativity and all the good things that stem from literature”; there have been successful specialist book exhibitions in the Alserkal community, notably for art and photography, but it will be interesting to see what Alserkal’s rather clever programming team can put together this time.

Festival City provides the venue for the middle weekend, 5-6 February, with the mix much as before – talks by authors, some workshops and panel sessions, and much opportunity to buy books.

We don’t yet know exactly which authors will be featured – the LitFest people say their Twitter feed will have the first notifications – but it will be interesting to see whether there’s much fallout from the Caitlin McNamara accusations in terms of Western authors declining invitations.

Meanwhile, there’s still time to enter LitFest’s key competitions. The Writing Prize (formerly the Montegrappa Writing Prize) for undiscovered novelists closes 19 December, so you still have a couple of weeks to polish your prose – you need the first 2,000 words of the opus and a 400-word synopsis. More information here.

Montegrappa is still on board, with a letter writing competition (which makes more sense for a maker of fine writing instruments) that has categories for the young as well as adults. You have 200 words to handwrite a letter to an author suggesting a change to one of their books (good luck with that).

And the deadline for our favourite of the contests, the School Librarian of the Year Award, has been extended – you now have until 14 March to nominate, with the  awards to be presented in June.

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