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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Bloomsbury, Qatar Foundation end publishing agreement


Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Seven years after first announcing their partnership, British publishing house Bloomsbury and Qatar Foundation have decided to part ways, making way for the new HBKU Press.

The two groups announced the split late last week. In a statement, Bloomsbury Qatar called the move a “realignment” and an “evolution.”

It added that the goal of the partnership had been “to enable knowledge transfer to QF to have a self-sufficient publishing company,” continuing:

“We are now handing over to the strong local team we developed having completed this mission, who will continue to publish on the foundations established. QF now has the tools, knowledge and experience to take the reins and fully run its publishing house.”

The ending of the agreement follows in the footsteps of similar splits, most notably that of Tribeca Enterprises and the Doha Film Institute in 2013, as well as QF and Rand Corp.

Publishing legacy

Bloomsbury, which shot to fame after publishing the widely acclaimed Harry Potter series, and QF initially formed their agreement in 2008.

At the time, Qatar had no central publishing house, aside from a few printing presses that moonlighted as publishing houses for independent and self-published authors.

Black Book of Arabia
Black Book of Arabia

While here, Bloomsbury helped with the publication of over 200 titles, resulting in awards for represented authors, and the establishment of dedicated writer’s residency programs.

Fiction aside, the publishing house was also tasked with creating a culture of academic publishing in Qatar.

A subsidiary, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals, launched the Middle East’s first open access academic research platform, QScience.com, with the goal of providing free, peer-reviewed research journals covering everything from law to medicine to education.

Represented authors like Omani writer and illustrator Ibtihaj Al-Harthi found success with the publication house, after her work Mah and Me, an exploration of life and loss seen through the eyes of a young grandson, won the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature just last month.

Mah and me
Mah and me

Under the new mandate, all works undertaken by Bloomsbury Qatar will be assimilated into the newly formed HBKU Press, which will assume the former’s charge of creating a “unique local and international platform for Arabic and English language literature, literacy, scholarship, research, discovery and learning.”

DFI-Tribeca split

Other organizations, like DFI and New York-based Tribeca Enterprises have announced similar splits in the past couple years.

At the time, the two said that they were parting ways because their partnership had outrun its course, after Tribeca had successfully helped Qatar kickstart a local film industry.


The Doha Film Institute
The Doha Film Institute

However, despite the amicable split, Tribeca’s celebrity co-founder Robert De Niro said in a recent visit Qatar that he was “disappointed” the partnership had ended.

Speaking at the opening of Nobu Doha, another one of his ventures, he continued:

“That, unfortunately, came to an end. I wish it hadn’t. I was disappointed when that finished. To keep things going you have to show the world and the public you are willing to continue it on and on, that it is not just going to go away but that it is a tradition.That is what we wanted Tribeca to be about. That’s what all festivals which have been around for 20, 30 or 50 years are about.”

Since parting ways, DFI has gone on to create the Ajyal Film Festival and the Qumra Festival.

Both differed vastly from the star-studded DTFF in previous years, that saw A-list actors like Robert De Niro and Salma Hayek walk the red carpet, but very little representation of local filmmakers on screen.

The Ajyal and Qumra festivals have worked to correct that, focusing exclusively on honing local talent through workshops, guided panels, screenings, and a dedicated Made in Qatar segment.


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