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Press release

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 has hosted the first in a series of Festival Debates (Riwaq Al Fikr) to nurture the intellectual appetite of the city

25th Mar 2010

Abu Dhabi Festival begins Festival Debate series with an international panel of cultural pioneers

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 has hosted the first in a series of Festival Debates (Riwaq Al Fikr) to nurture the intellectual appetite of the city.  Called ‘The Festival Effect’ and hosted by BBC World’s Nima Abu Wardeh, the debate on 21 March attracted around 30 leading cultural players from the UAE and around the world. They were there to interact with four pioneers of leading festivals from around the world on the role of festivals.

Making up the distinguished panel were Mrs Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, Waldemar Dabrowski, Chairman of the CHOPIN 2010 Celebrations in Poland, Alex Poots, Director of the Manchester International Festival and Peter Scarlet, Director of the Middle East International Film Festival. Ms Abu Wardeh questioned the panel on a number of subjects including the role of festivals, audience development, programming, social inclusion, as well as Arabic and Gulf participation. During the debates, the panelists shared their unique experiences with the gathered audience.

Mrs Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo said during the debate:

“It does not matter who and why people get involved with festivals. What is important is the result. The endgame should be about festivals helping people to come together, accepting our differences and contributing to living peacefully together. Forging genuine and sincere bonds and creating better understanding and knowledge are most important.”

She also added that:

“There is energy in Abu Dhabi around the cultural agenda and our festival brings everyone together built on our chosen theme of respect. A new chapter is being written here and we’re writing it together. If just one person starts to think differently after a performance or experience, that is success for me.”

Alex Poots talked about how festivals started in the last century:

“Festivals like those in Edinburgh started in Europe post World War II to help find harmony through culture. Festivals continue to be an important platform for creative people to have a voice. In our festival in Manchester, we have a wide range of artists from ballet to rap.  In every genre there are good and bad artists. We only want the best people in their field. That way we can attract the widest audience.”

Waldemar Dabrowski talked about his experience of Abu Dhabi during the debate:

“Abu Dhabi fascinates me. It is one place in the world where energy is being concentrated and the level of ambition is impressive.”

About the ‘Festival Effect’ he said:

“Festivals are just one part of culture. But they are a time that can intensify the focus on the arts. For many it is the first time they may come to a cultural event and if we can make sense of it for them, they will return.”

Peter Scarlet who comes from the US originally talked of why he moved to Abu Dhabi:

“In Abu Dhabi, culture is being taken seriously. Here we are on the cusp of a future unlike anywhere else in the world.

In some of the more provocative moments of the evening, Peter added:

“Not all festivals are good. All festivals should stand for something like all those represented here tonight.  But we should get rid of those festivals that spring up for cynical reasons – perhaps with a dose of ‘festicide’!”

The second Festival Debate will take place on 27 March at 7.30pm. Entitled ‘Prologue to an Opera – The Met’s Live Broadcast’ panelists will include Professor Michael Beckerman, Chair of Music at New York University, Michael White, Correspondent with Opera Now and James Conway, Executive Director of the English Touring Opera. The event will be chaired by HE Zaki Nusseibeh, Adviser Ministry of Presidential Affairs & Deputy Chairman, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage 

The third and final debate of the Festival will take place on 4 April at 6.30pm and will address the subject ‘The Art of the Emirates’. Panelists will include Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, artist Azza Al Qubaissi, Bashar Al Shroogi, Director of Cuadro Art Gallery and Antonia Carver, Editor of Bidoun.

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 is held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and runs until 7 April. This year’s Festival is a feast of arts and culture with more than 90 events over three weeks, fusing world-class performances in traditional, classical and jazz music, drama, fine arts, and ballet and rich community and education programs.