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Emirates Literature Foundation to launch new publishing house at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

19 Jan, 2022

The Emirates Literature Foundation announced today the launch of a new independent publishing house, ELF Publishing. With an initial focus on fiction, the publisher will begin accepting submissions for consideration during the Month of Reading, in March 2022. 

The announcement was made at a press conference to reveal the final plans for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which is taking place at Habtoor City hotels from 3-13 February 2022. Now celebrating its 14th year, the Festival has been a catalyst for boosting the popularity of reading in the UAE by bringing readers face to face with their favourite authors.  

Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation said: “ELF Publishing is the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle of the entire ecosystem of literature. It continues a proud tradition of literary endeavour. It is amazing to see what has been achieved in the last 50 years in the UAE in terms of literature and for a young country, we have certainly been punching above our weight.” 

The UAE has an impressive track record of championing literature, through the pioneering work of HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi; the establishment in the Emirates of both the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the Sharjah World Book Fair, both influential globally; HH Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi’s prominent role in the industry as President of the International Publishers’ Association; and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, recognised as one of the leading international literature festivals in the world.

 “This new venture augments these amazing achievements,” continued Abulhoul. “It’s time that the world of publishing gave more attention internationally to the stories coming out of this region and our aim is to shine a spotlight on the talent that flourishes here. We want to find the undiscovered stories that deserve to be read in today’s ever-changing world, whether from Emiratis or expats. What we are not is a vanity publisher. We will be selecting the stories that we believe deserve to be read, operating in the traditional way, with books chosen on merit.”

As a new publisher, the Foundation will be accepting manuscripts for consideration from March 2022, with a focus on fiction across all genres. Titles will be published in Arabic and English, and in translation. Initial offerings will include the second anthology of stories from Voices of Future Generations Middle East, Young Voices of Arabia 2021, which will be launched at the Festival in February 2022. Among the first authors signed to the publishing house are Ebtisam Al Beiti and Julia Johnson, both of whom will be appearing at the 2022 Emirate Airline Festival of Literature. Julia Johnson, an established children’s writer in the region, is teaming up with Maitha Al Khayat, who will create the illustrations for Julia’s new book, in what ELF Publishing hopes will be the first of many collaborations in the region. 

Stories about the region from Emiratis and expats will be encouraged, and there will also be a particular attention on capturing the stories of times gone by and preserving the oral history of the region in written form.  

Ahlam Bolooki, who is the Managing Director of ELF Publishing, in addition to being Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, explained: “The launch of the publishing house is a natural progression for us,  completing the journey that began with the first festival in 2009, which has seen us go on to support readers and writers in the region with a myriad of initiatives, such as our education programme and student competitions, our writing courses, the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize, and First Chapter: the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship, the School Librarian of the Year Award, the prison project ‘From the Inside Out’ , Voices of Future Generations, and Kateb Maktub, our partnership with Wikipedia. All of these initiatives have made a significant improvement in the number of readers in the region, and starting from the premise that there are no readers without writers, it is now time to continue this symbiotic relationship with the Festival by turning our attention to authors, looking forward to the next 50 years of literary success.”

Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand for Emirates Airline and Emirates Literature Foundation board trustee said: “Emirates has been part of the festival’s journey since the very beginning, connecting the people of Dubai, the UAE, and the rest of the region to writers and thinkers from all over the globe, whose work cuts across cultures, genres, topics and almost every conceivable taste. The event is important for Dubai’s cultural landscape, and the work now being done to launch the ELF publishing house will provide a platform, and more importantly, will help connect local voices to the world, and help people across the region to engage with themes, stories and narratives that are close to their hearts. Emirates is also a staunch supporter of the International Publishers Association and their work to grow the publishing ecosystem around the world. Through our support, IPA are reaching more audiences to build capacities, foster greater cultural dialogue and exchange of ideas. All of these initiatives are in line with Emirates’ objective to support events and organisations that enrich the lives of people in the communities that we serve, and support culture and arts to help creativity flourish further.”

Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), commented: “Literature plays a fundamental role in the UAE’s soft power and creative economy. This new publishing initiative will expand upon the national literary world and support the government’s mandate to develop a knowledge-based society, promoting a cultural and creative environment and enhancing a thriving sustainable ecosystem that will support Dubai’s economic growth and its stature as a global arts and culture hub, in line with our vision to make the emirate a global centre for culture, and incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent as well as within the framework of our sectoral priorities to make culture and art accessible everywhere to everyone, attracting talents from all over the world to live and work in Dubai, the city of the future.” 

Organisers also announced key safety measures, which include thorough sanitisation, limiting close contacts, and checking vaccination or PCR status of all adult attendees on arrival.  

Among the top names appearing at this year’s festival will be Gary Vee, Nadiya Hussain, David Walliams, Iman Mersal, Indra Nooyi, Azza Fahmy and HE Omar Saif Ghobash, who will be launching his first novel. The ‘As Seen on Screen’ strand is proving to be very popular, with Bridgerton author Julia Quinn, House of Gucci author Sara Gay Forden, Chernobyl 1986 author Serhii Plokhy, and Ken Arto, animator of Demon Slayer, all live in-person to discuss bringing their work to worldwide attention via the spotlight of film and streaming channels.

The Festival will begin with a dedicated Emirati Day on Thursday 3 February. Special events will include dinner with Italian masterchef Alessandro Borghese, and a not-to-missed Dickensian feast; electrifying performances from some of the world’s most accomplished spoken word artists; and some of the top international authors of 2021 such as Brit Bennet and Lucy Foley, who had huge best-sellers with their novels The Vanishing Half and The Guest List.

It will also feature experts from the worlds of science, history and art; acclaimed and popular crime writer Mark Billingham; actor Ben Miller, who starred as Lord Archibald Featherington in Bridgerton, with his latest children’s book; YouTuber Ahmed El Ghandour, aka Al Da7ee7; and master thriller writer David Baldacci who will be joining the Festival virtually. 

As always, there will be a vibrant and interactive programme to keep children entertained, as well as workshops for all ages covering poetry, creative writing and storytelling, drawing and illustration.

The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the custodian of Dubai’s cultural and creative sector.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

To buy tickets and for the full list of authors, visit www.emirateslitfest.com

The Festival will comply with all current Covid-19 regulations, and visitors will be asked to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR taken within the previous 72 hours.

For the full list of authors, visit emirateslitfest.com/authors

More information about the Emirates Literature Foundation can be found online and year-round news of #EmiratesLitFest on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The Foundation also has two podcasts; the Best of the Emirates LitFest, and the Boundless Book Club. 

 
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