• LAAF 2017 acts announced



First events announced for LAAF 2017!

Organisers have now announced the first wave of nationally and internationally celebrated artists and performers coming together for what they describe as Liverpool Arab Arts Festival's “most vital edition to date”.

The diverse programme embraces both brand new work and the return of festival favourites, including an ambitious installation by an American-Iraqi artist, a performance in Sefton Park’s iconic Palm House by a Sudanese singer-songwriteran “armed resistance fighter turned artist”, a one-woman show about Somalia and the violence of empire, and the recreation of a Tunisian streetscape in Liverpool.

This year, LAAF takes on the theme “The space between us”, which responds to Liverpool’s city-wide 67-17: 50 Summers of Love season, a series of events and performances inspired by the golden anniversary of the Summer of Love and the release of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

The theme was inspired by the opening line of ‘Within You Without You’, a track released on the Sgt Peppers album, reportedly inspired by George Harrison’s interest in the metaphysical space that prevents us from recognising the natural forces uniting the world. The programme explores those constructs, boundaries and ‘spaces’ between us.

Family Events

LAAF will be punctuated by fun-filled, free events for all the family. Starting at a special event on Tiber Square on Lodge Lane, LAAF will host a joyful public celebration of Eid, thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, with a colourful programme of cultural entertainment, cuisine, crafts and art, taking place throughout the day. 

LAAF will also take over the World Museum for a Saturday extravaganza, where people of all ages can discover the creativity, captivating stories, and fascinating traditions of the Arab diaspora, with live performances presented in response to World Museum’s renowned ancient Egyptian collection. 

And the grand festival finale sees the return of LAAF’s most popular annual event. LAAF Family Day in Sefton Park Palm House. Regularly attended by thousands of people of all ages and culture, Family Day brings an Arab extravaganza to the famous city park, with a programme of international music and dance acts, an Arabian souk, delicious cultural cuisine, and family friendly activities.

Alsarah and the Nubatones will play LAAF Family Day at Liverpool's Sefton Park Palm House


And first to be announced on the bill for LAAF Family Day is Alsarah and the Nubatones, led by Alsarah, the Sudanese born singer songwriter, described by the Guardian as “the new star of Nubian pop”.

Alsarah’s “East African retro pop” is inspired by Nubian “songs of return”, and her and the band’s shared experiences of migration. Alsarah was born in Sudan, before relocating to Yemen to escape the ever-stifling regime in her native country before civil war broke out in Yemen. She abrubtly moved to the US in 1994 and now resides in Brooklyn, New York. 


World-renowned Palestinian singer, musicologist and broadcaster Reem Kelani returns to Liverpool for an intimate concert in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall’s Music Room. Recognised as one of the world’s foremost researchers and performers of Palestinian music, Kelani will captivate with the exhilarating power of her live show, interwoven with her inimitable, humorous, and poignant storytelling between songs.

Visual Art 

LAAF will present an ambitious restaging of acclaimed visual artist Wafaa Bilal’s 168:01, in partnership with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and Open Data Institute, and as part of the forthcoming exhibition at FACT, The New Observatory, (22 June 2017 – 1 October 2017). The exhibition brings together an international group of artists whose work explores new and alternative modes of measuring, predicting, and sensing the world today through data and other observational methods.

168:01, is an installation comprised of white shelves filled with blank books, a “library” that doubles as a system of exchange, inviting audiences to replace some of the 70,000 texts that were destroyed by looters at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad in 2003.

Wafaa Bilal’s 168:01 brings an installation of an austere white library to FACT


Chatha dance company’s Sacre Printemps!, a dance piece and installation presented by LAAF in association with London’s Shubbak festival, is inspired by the hopes and pressures of building a new civil society. “Sacre” will bring a visceral live streetscape of today’s Tunisia to Open Eye Gallery’s Winter Garden Space, as dancers jostle, fight and compete among over 30 cut-out sculptures. 


Unity Theatre will stage two theatre productions in partnership with Liverpool Arab Arts Festival. Crows Plucked Your Sinews, a Dervish production, written and directed by Hassan Mahamdallie is a critically acclaimed one-woman show, with live music. Based on real events and featuring the epic lyrical tradition of Somalia, it is a unique exploration of the violence of empire and the poetry of resistance. The performance will be followed by a discussion event with Hassan Mahamdallie and members of the company.

And here I am, by award winning writer Hassan Abdulrazzak (Love, Bombs and Apples) is a bitter sweet, dark political comedy based on performer Ahmed Tobasi’s true story. A Developing Artists Production presented in association with Shubbak Festival, the show chronicles Ahmed’s transformation from armed resistance fighter to artist, and his journey as a refugee in the West Bank to Norway and then back again.


LAAF returns to PictureHouse at FACT in partnership with Arab British Centre, who will present films selected from their 2016 Safar film festival programme, which was curated by Rasha Salti.

As I Open my Eyes Leyla Bouzid’s brilliant directorial debut, is the story of a young woman at a crossroads, she has to decide whether she wants to pursue her passion for music or fulfil her mother’s wish and enrol in medical school, and explores the rarely probed universe of Tunisian youth on the eve of the revolution.

This Little Father Obsession, a bold and compelling hybrid film by Selim Mourad and a disarmingly honest interrogation of the hold of patriarchy in Lebanese society. The film begins with Selim Mourad staging a portrait of his own nuclear family, in which he claims a place on his own terms while he contends with the fact that he will never father a family due to his sexuality. Being a Gay man in Lebanon makes starting a family impossible, This Little Father Obsession brings into sharp focus, this reality.


Bluecoat will play host to a series of Literature events, developed in association with Comma Press, a Manchester publishing house, with an aim to identify and commissioning writers working across the Arab world. Dates and titles will be announced soon.

To see the latest information about Liverpool Arab Arts Festival follow @arabicartsfest on Twitter or arabartsfestival on Facebook, and use the #LAAF2017