Your guide to Abu Dhabi’s Semi Permanent: from Mark Ronson’s DJ set to high-tech artwork

The three day event aims features some of the world’s most successful creatives

English-American producer Mark Ronson will perform a DJ set at Abu Dhabi's Semi Permanent Middle East festival. Empics Entertainment
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

You can't limit creativity.

It's for this reason Semi Permanent Middle East offers a gamut of experiences, from musical performances and film screenings to exhibitions and a restaurant pop-up, featuring some of the most innovative names in their respective fields.

Self-dubbed as the region's first creativity festival, the event’s key sessions take place from Thursday to Saturday in Abu Dhabi's Manarat Al Saadiyat.

The line-up includes Grammy Award-winning music producer and DJ Mark Ronson, experimental artist Daniel Arsham and Lebanese illustrator Nourie Flayhan.

Speaking to The National, festival curator Mitchell Oakley Smith says the aim is to provide both an intimate and inspiring experience.

“We’ve gone from being able to have 5,000 people in a room to having less than 500, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make something that’s exciting and memorable,” he says.

“We discovered quite the opposite: that we could craft a series of incredibly intimate experiences that bring audiences even closer to the talent, and offer a range of touchpoints and a dynamic mix of programming.”

Here are five things you need to know about Semi Permanent Middle East.

1. There will be insightful discussions

Get inside the minds of some of the world's most successful creatives through a series of In Conversation sessions.

The opening day features a top line-up of discussions, with Ronson providing an insight into his hit-making formula and collaborations with the likes of Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars.

US graphic designer and creative director Brian Roettinger will also be on hand that day to shed light on his work designing album artwork for pop stars Jay-Z, Florence + The Machine and Kesha.

Friday will have sessions by acclaimed US photographer Ryan McGinley whose show-reel includes shoots with celebrities Beyonce, Billie Eilish and Brad Pitt.

Closing the second day is a discussion with Arsham, whose work in sculpture, architecture, drawing and film had him collaborate with the likes of fashion brands Adidas and Dior Men, in addition to car manufacturer Porsche.

2. It will feature edgy and immersive artworks

Semi Permanent will feature a number of exhibitions throughout the event.

The La Rosa Social Club is a pop-up space by filmmaker and artist Aaron Rose.

Premiering in 2016, the exhibition has toured both Europe and the US with an "art bar" concept featuring custom furniture, visual art lining the walls and various objects including paintings and sculptures.

Turkish-American visual artist Refik Anadol will bring his epic digital installation Quantum Memories to Manarat Al Saadiyat.

Shown on a large LED screen, the exhibition utilises cutting edge Google AI technology and features up to 200 million processed images of nature and landscapes.

The last day of the festival is dedicated to the screening of Mau, a documentary on the career of renowned Canadian designer and visual artist Bruce Mau. The sessions begin at 11.30am.

3. Mark Ronson will play a DJ set

The festival will feature DJ sets by two seasoned acts.

On Thursday night, Ronson will perform a sold-out show at the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island featuring hits, vintage funk and soul tracks.

He will be joined by Danny Greenpeace, the UK spinner and Dubai resident who is a veteran of the UAE music scene with various festival performances including Sole DXB.

4. You can eat Michelin quality food

Get ready for a slice of contemporary US cuisine with the acclaimed New York City restaurant The Flower Shop making its regional debut with a pop-up at the festival.

Known for its modern take of comfort food, including fried buttermilk chicken, bucatini and meatballs, and fish and chips, the restaurant appeared in New York City's Michelin Guide for three years running.

5. Health and safety measures will be in place

In addition to social distancing and mandatory wearing of face masks, entry to Semi Permanent Middle East requires attendees over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated, and provide a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of the event.

Semi Permanent Middle East will take place from Thursday to Saturday, October 14 to 16, at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Doors open at 9am. Tickets are from Dh200 available at

Updated: October 11, 2021, 1:38 PM