The Abu Dhabi Festival 2011 delighted more than 25,000 people during its impressive three-week calendar of events, according to Festival organizers, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation. Offering more than 120 events over 16 days, the 2011 Festival, now in its eighth year, saw audience numbers swell from previous years. Presented 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, the Festival brought together 400 of the world’s best musicians, dancers and artists in a multi-national celebration of over 20 nationalities ensuring Abu Dhabi was strongly positioned as a hub for artistic innovation and cultural exchange.
Her Excellency Mrs. Hoda I Al Khamis Kanoo, Artistic Director and Founder of the Abu Dhabi Festival, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the Festival this year which has been such a great success. This is the Festival of the people of Abu Dhabi and the fabulous audience figures emphasise the important role it has played in bringing people from across the country together to celebrate the unique spirit of harmony for humanity created by the arts and culture. I am particularly thrilled that more than 10,000 young people were able to get involved in our education programme. One of our central aims is to nurture the creativity and cultural awareness of this generation and the next.”
The Festival featured classical music, ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, opera, theatre, performance arts and visual arts amongst its packed programme. Committed to offering new ways for people to engage in the arts, the Festival hosted the futuristic Zaha Hadid Pavilion, the extraordinary and intimate chamber music hall, which this year became the de-facto home for Arabic music and reinforced the Festival’s commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of the region.
A unique performance space, the Zaha Hadid Pavilion provided the perfect location for a series of performances that explored the meaning ‘Arab creativity in the architecture of the future’ and the spirit of ‘Harmony for Humanity’ which pervaded the whole Festival in 2011. Some of the Arab world’s most-exciting performers and artists, including young Emirati opera singer, Sara Al Qaiwani, Macadi Nahhas, Soumaya Baalbaki, and Oussama Rahbani amongst others performed in the Zaha Hadid Pavilion.
As part of the festival’s thriving community programme celebrating the spirit of ‘Bilad Al Khayr’ – ‘The Land of Blessings’ events and activities were held in communities across the seven Emirates. The programme, which partnered with 15 different community partners including the UAE University, Al Ain, Shelter, Al Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah, Department of Municipal Affairs, Western Region Municipality in Mirfa, Ghayathi and Madinat Zayed Western Region Council, Desert islands Education Centre, Ministry of Culture in Madinat Zayed and Emirates Marine Environmental Group. The programme was packed with musical performances, drama activities, lectures and hands-on workshops that support the key aim of introducing people to the arts and celebrates the UAE’s cultural assets.
Meanwhile the first of the Festival Debates – ‘Riwaq Al Fikr’ - “Culture & Diplomacy” explored the role of art and culture in diplomatic dialogue between nations whilst the second discussed the transformational effect of music on children with special needs in a session entitled ‘Music & Special Needs: Bringing Out The Brilliance’.
Over 60 educational institutes participated in this year’s festival with 32 from Abu Dhabi, 14 from Dubai, 5 Universities and 9 Music & Dance Schools making it one of the most successful festivals for student engagement. The diverse schedule of education-driven activities offered children and young people access to workshops, music symposiums, lectures and performances.
Young Artists’ Day, an annual feature of the Abu Dhabi Festival, saw individual and group performances from some of the most talented youngsters of their generation and an evening performance of an original composition, developed with the support of the inspirational cellist and educator Matthew Barley and his ensemble group Between The Notes. The students, drawn from 20 different nationalities were specially selected by Matthew Barley to participate in a performance of original work.
Members of the Young Media Leaders programme, an Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation initiative, had a strong presence during the festival and gained invaluable practical experience and exposure in the process of journalistic reporting, photography and videography. Two editions of the mynews newsletter were published during the festival and received an overwhelmingly positive response from readers.
As part of the Festival’s celebration of Bilad Al Khayr – The Land of Blessings, proceeds from the Festival in 2011 will be shared with Ewa’a Shelters for Women and Children and Al Ghadeer, a UAE Red Crescent micro-financing initiative that seeks to power underprivileged women using indigenous arts and crafts.