Bernardine Evaristo to headline inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi

Bernardine Evaristo to headline inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi

The inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi has unveiled its programme for next month featuring the likes of Booker-winner Bernardine Evaristo and Baillie Gifford Prize-winner Hallie Rubenhold.

It will take place from 25th to 28th February at the cultural centre and theatre Manarat Al Saadiyat alongside other venues across the capital, supported by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance.

The line-up features writers, journalists, historians, film-makers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days. Around 65 participants are taking part in the newest incarnation of the Hay Festival including Evaristo—who won the 2019 Booker Prize jointly with Margaret Atwood— as well as Rubenhold, historian William Dalrymple, and Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka. The climax of the festival will be a 90th birthday gala for Syrian poet Adonis, described by organisers as "the greatest living Arabic poet".

"The programme reflects the diversity of communities in Abu Dhabi itself, including writers from all around the Middle East, North Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Nigeria and Europe. A vibrant programme for schools will welcome over 70 local schools, inspiring and entertaining thousands of local students aged seven to 16 years in Arabic, English, Hindi and Tagalog," organisers said.

Peter Florence, Hay Festival director, said: "Our programme for the first Hay Festival Abu Dhabi brings together some of the most eminent voices in the region, and the world. We have four nights and four days to engage in conversation, to meet and dream, share stories and imagine the world. I believe this is the most exciting time in living memory for contemporary Arabic Literature, and the festival will be a showcase for great writing from across the Arab world, a platform for inspiring voices from many languages, and a meeting place where the world of tomorrow might be shaped."

Cristina Fuentes La Roche, Hay Festival international director, added: "Our return to the Middle East will be marked by an extraordinary range of stories, where discussion of the climate crisis, geopolitics, and advances in science sit alongside the latest works of imagination from leading novelists and children’s writers. As we invite some of the best writers and thinkers from the Arab world and further afield to share ideas and stories, we welcome audiences young and old to join the conversation."

She added: "Our late-night line up of performances will also ensure that the first ever Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an unforgettable party."

The festival aims to establish a long-term presence in the Arabic-speaking world from its newest platform in Abu Dhabi, building on the success of its three editions in Beirut (2009-–2012) and the publication of its anthology of short stories by the best Arab writers under the age of 39, in collaboration with Beirut World Book Capital 2009.

The Abu Dhabi event joins the global family the Hay Festival brand in more than 30 locations worldwide with forthcoming events in Colombia, Peru and Croatia among others, as well as the original Hay-on-Wye.