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The Manchester Festival of Palestinian Literature was conceived during conversations with my tutor, Michael Schmidt, following a trip I made to Palestine in 2004. It would never have happened were it not for his inspiration during the first year of my MA at the Writing School at MMU. All of us at the festival hope that this event serves to demonstrate what a dynamic and inquisitive environment a Writing School can be.

MFPL is a completely new event, and to have been blessed by such an array of literary stars from both the Arabic and English-speaking worlds is testament in part, I believe, to a desire to break down the immense barrier which exists between English reading and Arabic writing. We hope our exciting line-up of events affords many ways of extending interaction between British readers and Arabic writers.

We hope also that MFPL offers a chance to further our understanding of Palestine, its culture and people. Palestine is a country under military occupation which has been in conflict with Israel since 1948. Occupation, war, exile and dispossession inevitably underscore Palestinian existence. Palestinian literature, as we have discovered, inherits one of the oldest and most elegant literary traditions on the planet ­ the Arabic poem ­ and infuses it with a most profound and unique expression of the will. All of this mighty, beautiful literature has been produced in the spirit of profound struggle. The occupation continues. We hope that MFPL offers new ways of understanding the Palestinian situation in its many contexts.

I would like to thank the English department at MMU for their enthusiasm and co-operation in hosting this event, Arts Council England and our other vital sponsors for their support, Chris Gribble, Cathy Bolton and all at Manchester Literature Festival, and our Event Manager Maria Ruban who has worked tirelessly to make this festival happen ­ and likewise everyone who has supported the festival this year.

Danny Moran