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Worldwide recognition for LAAF 2017

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival has always had a global outlook – and in 2017 the festival was given a global platform in a television coup for organisers.

LAAF, the UK’s largest festival of Arab culture, was featured in a special package by CNN, created for its Inside The Middle East platform, and broadcast to around 100 million homes across the world.

The film followed Egyptian contemporary dancer Aly Khamees’ journey from his home city Cairo to perform in the heart of World Museum Liverpool’s acclaimed Egyptian collection, as part of choreographer Zosia Jo’s piece Ancient Modernity.

And it helped get across the festival’s message, underlining LAAF’s commitment to giving artists from the Arab diaspora a voice, and bringing the best of Arab contemporary culture to a new audience, challenging perceptions and expanding understanding between cultures.

Speaking to CNN, LAAF team leader Anne Thwaite said: “The arts scene in the Middle East is probably one of the most exciting that I’ve personally experienced. And what really gives a depth and core to the meaning and the feelings that are coming through is the artists’ life experience and how they portray that, and how they’re reaching out to get those messages to audiences.”

Aly Khamees himself uses his life experiences in his work, in recent years living through the Arab Spring and witnessing the revolution in Egypt at first hand, expressing his thoughts and feelings through his devised dance sequences.

He explained on the film: “The revolution changed me a lot as an artist, as a human being.

“The revolution made the think out of the box.”

This year’s festival, a nine-day celebration of Arab music, theatre, dance, visual arts, literature, film and food, explored the theme ‘the space between us’ – both physical and cultural, responding to the city-wide 67:17 50 Summers of Love season.

Ancient Modernity was one of two contemporary dance pieces showcased during the festival, with the other being a work from Tunisia, Sacre Printemps, inspired by the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

CNN spent time in Liverpool, filming on the city’s World Heritage waterfront and in venues including Bluecoat and World Museum, as well as in Central Library, where film-makers highlighted As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, devised and performed by Palestinian refugee Basel Zaraa, who told them: “I think it gives us an opportunity to show our art outside the Middle East. And to show it to a different culture.”

Taher Qassim, chairman of LAAF, said today: “Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is committed to supporting inspirational artists and their work – and being featured by CNN was a brilliant way of getting that message out to a wider audience. A worldwide audience!

“The film, which was shown several times on the network, was also a great shop window for this wonderful city, and the willingness of its people to engage with so many different cultural experiences.”

You can watch the CNN film 'Liverpool Arab Arts Festival' online here.

You can watch the CNN film 'Cairo's emerging contemporary dance' online here.

You can watch the CNN film 'How a revolution changed the dancing career of one Egyptian' online here.