Abu Dhabi Festival founder Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo: ‘It’s not enough to say I want to build bridges with culture’

The Festival founder took time out from the preparations to reflect on the event’s growth, and the 20th anniversary of Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation, which she also heads.
Abu Dhabi Festival founder Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation
Abu Dhabi Festival founder Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation

The Abu Dhabi Festival is once again gearing up for a packed two weeks of performances, including recitals, orchestral music, ballet and theatre.

Festival founder Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo took time out from the preparations to reflect on the event’s growth, and the 20th anniversary of Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation, which she also heads.

“You know, culture doesn’t happen just like that,” she says. “It is born out of a choice and commitment. And this is what I and Admaf believed in when we began 20 years ago.

“It’s not enough to say I want to build bridges with culture – you have to first believe that culture is essential for our civilisation and for the development of our thinking. This is not only for the UAE but for all Arabs. It’s about making our presence felt on the international cultural map.”

What was the thinking behind the theme of this year’s festival, Pledge for Culture?

It is about renewal. By making a pledge for culture, that means we are doing it through education and cultural reach locally, regionally and internationally. But it is not just about us, the theme is also about asking everyone to join us in making that pledge as well.

And you know what? It is getting easier for people to do that, now people see the success of the festival. It now means something to them. If people come, and bring their children, to, lets say, the ballet show of Carlos Acosta (on April 25 at Emirates Palace), they are also making a pledge for culture. That can also be taking them to a movie, or a painting club at school, or by investing in their creative talent – these are all pledges, too.

The biggest draw this year is the Abu Dhabi return of in-demand Chinese pianist Lang Lang. How big a coup was that?

That right. We are very happy that Lang Lang is coming here – and that his show is already sold out. But that’s not the only thing he is doing. He will be visiting students, giving workshops and talks. All of the artists that we have invited have been amazing.

As well as the performances, they have all been very excited about helping us in our educational programme.

They do it because they love the interactions, because a lot of them don’t know about the region and for many this is their first visit.

This is our chance to tell our stories to them.

The festival will also host The Little Prince, the debut musical by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, son of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. How did that come together?

It all comes from making the effort to connect with others. Nicholas contacted us and we met in London. He said he had this wonderful project that he wanted to work together on.

He was so committed, determined and passionate about his work that we felt like we had to do it. It was really as simple as that.

Why did you choose France as the country of honour for this year’s edition?

It is a culmination. We have been working with the French authorities for years and years. It just felt like this is the right time to do this for the festival, because the Louvre is opening soon. We have both been working together to open the doors of culture and understanding and this is the year to celebrate that.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Published: April 9, 2016 04:00 AM

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