Lemn Sissay and Chris Gardner: Abu Dhabi International Book Fair launches a new online series with renowned authors

The events will be streamed on the book fair’s YouTube channel

Lemn Sissay will talk about his recently published memoir, 'My Name is Why'. Aida Muluneh
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Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has launched a virtual series of author talks.

The annual literary gathering, which scrapped its 30th event last month to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, has teamed up with the Emirates Literature Foundation to hold a series of online discussions featuring speakers from various creative fields.

Some of the big names include Chris Gardner, whose memoir became the 2006 Academy Award-nominated film The Pursuit of Happyness, and revered British-Ethiopian poet Lemn Sissay.

The series will run until Monday, June 15, and host up to eight personalities on Abu Dhabi International Book Fair's YouTube channel in various formats, including live Zoom sessions and pre-recorded talks.

At the time of writing, the times for two sessions had been announced (listed below) with a further six to be unveiled soon.

"These fun and informative virtual sessions will strengthen the reputation of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and ensure that we continue to engage our diverse audience, which includes readers, writers, artists, families and publishing industry professionals," said Abdullah Majed Ali, executive director of Dar Al Kutub, the literary wing of Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.

“Though we are sadly unable to hold an event this year, using technology in this way keeps the fair’s platform alive and supports our strategic objective to elevate Abu Dhabi as a regional capital of culture and intellectualism.”

Isobel Abulhoul, chief executive of the Emirates Literature Foundation, says these sessions are intended to inspire, and she hopes whole families will tune in.

“Literature has the power to change us, to change how we feel, and helps us adapt to any situation in which we find ourselves,” she said.

“When books are brought to life by authors, magic can happen. While we are physically distanced from each other, what could be better than sharing the experience of one of these wonderful sessions with family or friends?”

Here is what is coming our way:

Anthony Geffen: A Life in Documentary Filmmaking (Tuesday, May 5 at 5pm)

One of the world's leading documentary filmmakers, Anthony Geffen will deliver a pre-recorded talk that sheds light on a storied career that has won him more than 50 international awards, including several Baftas and Emmy Awards.

Through his company, Atlantic Productions, Geffen has directed or produced a number of high-profile wildlife productions, such as Galapagos in 2006 and the acclaimed 2016 miniseries David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef.

He is currently working on a documentary exploring the wreckage of the Titanic.

Chris Gardner: The Pursuit of Happyness (Sunday, May 10 at 10pm)

Most people know the Academy Award-nominated film The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith, but did you know it was based on a memoir? This session offers the chance to hear the true rags to riches story from Chris Gardner himself.

The US author and motivational speaker will discuss his journey from being a single dad on the poverty line to a high-powered business executive. In these uncertain times, his advice on reaching our potential is much-needed.

Other key confirmed speakers: 

Lemn Sissay

The British-Ethiopian author and broadcaster is a perennial favourite of UAE literature festivals, thanks to his electrifying sessions. The official poet of the 2012 London Olympics will read a selection of his much-loved works, in addition to discussing his recently published memoir, My Name is Why.

Shahad Ameen

This is one for aspiring filmmakers, as the Saudi director will discuss the regional film landscape. Ameen will also share her experience of directing her acclaimed 2019 debut feature Scales, a dystopian drama about a rebellious woman fighting deadly traditional practices used in her fishing village.

Eric Broug

Learn the history and intricacy of Islamic art with this esteemed specialist. Eric Broug has published several books for professional and aspiring artists interested in Islamic geometric designs. His titles include Islamic Geometric Patterns, released last year, and 2016's Islamic Design Workbook.

John Hudson

When you hear the British television presenter and ex-military man describe his adventures, it will make you appreciate the comforts of staying at home. The survivalist will discuss many of his hair-raising escapades and provide advice on how to make good choices in high-pressure situations.