No Doubts About This Dress: An Afternoon In the Presence of the Great David Walliams @ Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015
Yesterday afternoon the 900-member audience at the Cultural and Scientific Association in Al Mamzar, Dubai, had not an iota of doubt regarding the dress being referred to by key speaker at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature's first session for 2015, the amazing David Walliams.
A celebrated British comedian, David Walliams is also an actor, an author, and a television presenter. He swam the English Channel for UK’s Sport Relief in 2006, and the Strait of Gibraltar in 2008. By the end of 2014 Walliams having sold over 4 million books, is described as "the fastest growing children's author in the UK". His books have been translated into 40+ languages and sold over 4 million copies in the UK alone. Both 'Ratburger' and 'Demon Dentist' won the UK's National Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year. Although incomparable in many ways, he is often compared to Roald Dahl when it comes to his books.
Back to dresses. Far away from the one dress that continues to be all the rage in the media at the moment, this dress being discussed on this windy, yet cloud-free, sun-kissed, Dubai afternoon was one belonging to the main character in David Walliams’ first book ‘The Boy in the Dress’ about 12-year-old cross-dresser, Dennis, who lives at home with his father and older brother John. The author addressed the mainly young audience about the ‘magical world that difference creates and the need to celebrate all our differences whether it be our feelings, our religions, or our household situations’ referring in particular to Dubai as a leading example in how diversity celebrated creates this wonderful opportunity for residents, both old and young, to experience and share different cultures and ideas ensuring a brighter, more positive future.
Lightening the mood, David Walliams regaled his captivated audience with tales drawn from his own life experiences. He told how his sister dressed him up in a bridesmaid’s dress and fur hat and paraded him up and down their neighbourhood street when they were young; not so far-fetched to believe considering David’s appearances as one of the ‘laydees’ in the comedy show ‘Little Britain’. At one point of his ‘confessional’ (his word not mine), he announces that as a kid he wanted to be ‘Wonder Woman’ when he grew up. As you’d expect, the news was received not only with raucous laughter but pockets of applause as well. The crowd clearly adored him.
David’s latest release, is a book titled ‘Awful Auntie’. It is about mean Auntie Alberta and her Great Bavarian Mountain owl ‘Wagner’ who will stop at nothing to get rid of Stella Saxby, Alberta’s niece and the sole heir to Saxby Hall. But as it turns out, Stella gets very unexpected and very spooky help that might just be what she needs to get herself out of her unfortunate predicament. To the delight of the young crowd, David chose to read an excerpt of the book that included ‘fart’, ‘knickers’, ‘stink bombs’ and ‘owl pee’. Asked by session moderator and interviewer Fiona Lindsay whether he deliberately chose to shock readers with such words, he happily and cheekily answered with a simple ‘Yes’. More laughter ensued after which he went on to read an excerpt from his endearing book 'Gangsta Granny', the beautiful story about a young boy and his thieving granny who sets out to steal the Crown Jewels from the Queen of England. See the 2013 BBC One trailer HERE.
However, if yesterday afternoon was all about David Walliams and his books, it was also about the audience in equal measure. It was heart warming to see in whichever way I turned, the faces of a crowd come together by the love of reading. There was not one hand free of one of Walliams’ titles and the children were well informed about most, if not all, of the various characters conjured up from Walliams’ imagination. The young audience had many intelligent, funny and well- articulated and informed questions to pose to the author that were delivered with admirable confidence; of the type that indicate prolific readers were in the house.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature takes place in Dubai from 3-7 March at the Intercontinental Hotel in Festival City. Tickets are still available.