Author: Jack Welsh

We at Liverpool Arab Arts Festival stand firm in solidarity with those protesting against racism, anti-blackness, white supremacy, and state violence against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rodney King and all those who have been attacked and murdered before and since. Alongside calling for justice abroad, we must do everything within our power to ensure racial justice and equality within our own communities and workplaces as well.

Our remit is to bring the best of traditional and contemporary Arab arts and culture to diverse audiences here in the UK and internationally. We are proud to collaborate with an incredibly diverse range of artists through our work, which includes black artists who are from or have heritage in the Middle East and North Africa*, who face discrimination at home and abroad. We are asking how we can build upon the work we do to actively fight racism and anti-blackness in the UK, the Arab world, and anywhere our work reaches. We have set up a team within our board whose active role is to ensure our festival is continually thinking about and acting on these questions, not just now but into the future.

*With knowledge that there are numerous ethnic and racial groups in the region, and that there is a lot of complexity around how people describe themselves

Below is a list of articles that we have found interesting both in articulating our own experiences as well as helping us learn and further our understanding:

Anti-Blackness In The Arab World And The Violence That Doesn’t Get A Hashtag

Putting Afro-Arabs On The Map: The British-Sudanese Artist Reimagining London As An Afrabian Enclave

Palestinian Actress Maryam Abu Khaled Slams Arab Racism In Viral Video

Black Iraqis Say George Floyd’s Death Sheds Light On Their Own Centuries-Long Plight

Bookmark This: Are Acronyms Like Bame A Nonsense?

Black Arab women tackle racist beauty ideals and stereotypes:

Too Black to Be Arab, Too Arab to Be Black:

Black Lives Matter in the Arab world too

How to be an alley

Francesca Leigh, 5 Tips for Being an Ally:

Evelyn from the Internets, How To Be an Ally:

We’re absolutely delighted Liverpool Arab Arts Festival has been shortlisted for Arts Organisation of the year at LCR Culture & Creativity Awards 2020.

The awards night takes place on 19 February, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate those delivering culture across Liverpool City Region. It has been a challenging year for the sector, but ingenuity, courage and more than a little determination has brought some fantastic events and programmes to audiences.

Arts Organisation of the Year

We have been nominated alongside two excellent arts organisations

  • Writing On The Wall
  • 20 Stories High
  • Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF)

You can find out more about the awards:

Enter the #DressItUp Competition for the Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards 2020

The Book of Ramallah
6pm (UK), | 8pm (Palestine) Thursday 25 February 2021
Watch via LAAF Facebook Page / Comma Press Facebook Page

Join Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and Comma Press for a journey to Ramallah, as we reflect on the latest title in Comma’s series on ‘Reading the City’.

Edited by Beirut-born, Palestinian novelist, Maya Abu Al-Hayat, who lives in Jerusalem and works in Ramallah, this anthology explores the city in all its countless contradictions. The Book of Ramallah features stories from ten established and emerging Palestinian writers, including Anas Abu Rahma, Liana Badr, Khaled Hourani and Ahmad Jaber.

Ramallah is the cultural, commercial and governmental hub of the West Bank and the stories explore its defiance in resistance against the occupying forces, alongside its frustration and division by its secrets and conservatism. Characters fall in love, have affairs, poke fun at the heavy military presence, but also see their aspirations cut short, their lives eaten into, their morale beaten down by the daily humiliations of the conflict. Through humour, and precious moments of intimacy, however, we glimpse life inside this city of refuge; an image of hope abiding even under the eye of a merciless occupation.

The conversation event will discuss the book and the city, with readings from writers Ameer Hamad and Ibrahim Nasrallah, alongside editor Maya Abu Al-Hayat.

Author Biographies

Ibrahim Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were evicted from their land in Palestine in 1948. He spent his childhood and youth in a refugee camp in Jordan, and began his career as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. After returning to Amman, he worked in the media and cultural sector until 2006. To date, he has published 15 poetry collections, 21 novels, and several other books. In 1985, he started writing the Palestinian Comedy covering 250 years of modern Palestinian history in a series of independent novels. His works have been translated into English, Italian, Danish, Turkish, and Persian. Three of his novels have been shortlisted or longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) – sometimes referred to as the ‘Arab Booker’ – and in 2018 his novel The Second Dog War won it. In 2012 he won the inaugural Jerusalem Award for Culture and Creativity, and his novel Prairies of Fever was chosen by The Guardian one of the ten most important novels written about the Arab world.

Maya Abu Al-Hayat is a Beirut-born Palestinian novelist and poet living in Jerusalem. She has published two poetry books, numerous children’s stories and three novels, including her latest No One Knows His Blood Type (Dar Al-Adab, 2013). She is the director of the Palestine Writing Workshop, an institution that seeks to encourage reading in Palestinian communities through creative writing projects and storytelling with children and teachers. She contributed to, and wrote a forward for A Bird is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry.

Ameer Hamad is a poet, short story writer and translator, who has published his work in numerous magazines and websites, including Beirut Literature Magazine and the New Arab website. He was born in Jerusalem in 1992, graduated from Birzeit University, with a major in Computer Science and is currently working on his first collection of short stories. 

Buy the Book of Ramallah:

This event will be streamed on Liverpool Arab Arts Festival Facebook Page

You can also watch on Comma Press Facebook Page 

Poster from A Girl from Mogadishu

A social activist and survivor of female genital mutiliation (FGM) will join speakers from Savera UK and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) for an event ahead of UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

On Thursday 4th February, global gender-based violence activist, Ifrah Ahmed, will join director, Mary McGuckian, Savera UK founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim and LAAF’s volunteer festival programmer, Professor Anahid Kassabian, for a panel discussion based around the Pembridge Pictures film, A Girl From Mogadishu, which was based on Ifrah’s recorded testimony and directed, produced and written by Mary McGuckian.

The ticketed panel event, which will discuss Ifrah’s story and the issues it raises around FGM and gender-based violence, will be chaired by Savera UK Patron and former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England, Nazir Azfal OBE.

Winner of the Cinema for Peace Women’s Empowerment Award at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, A Girl From Mogadishu is a powerful and inspiring film is based on the true story of global gender based violence activist, Ifrah Ahmed, who will join Mary McGuckian, Savera UK’s Afrah Qassim and LAAF’s Professor Anahid Kassabian for the event.

Fleeing war-torn Somalia in 2006 for the United States, Ifrah is trafficked to Dublin, Ireland where she applies for asylum. A traumatic medical examination reveals the extent of her mutilation as a child.

Traumatised by the memory, she channels the experience into a force for change and emerges as a formidable campaigner against female genital mutilation at the highest political echelons in Ireland, Europe and globally.

Starring Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away with Murder) as Ifrah Ahmed and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) along with Orla Brady (Picard, Rose Plays Julie) and Somali icon, Maryam Mursal the film boasts an original score by Nitin Sawhney and its title track also features Quiet by Milck, the unofficial anthem of the 2017 USA Women’s March.

A screening link to the film will be provided to all registrants ahead of the event – Talking FGM: An afternoon with Ifrah Ahmed the “Girl from Mogadishu” – which will also act as a fundraiser for Savera UK, with fifty percent of all proceeds f rom ticket sales being donated to the charity, which supports survivors and those at risk of harmful practices like FGM, forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse.

Speaking ahead of the event, Afrah Qassim said: “A Girl From Mogadishu is a powerful telling of Ifrah’s incredible story. It addresses so many issues faced by those at risk of FGM and other harmful practices, here in the UK and across the globe, while also highlighting the power of speaking out against these practices.”

Professor Anahid Kassabian, from LAAF, added: “Film has the power, almost more than any art form, to help communicate what people are experiencing and the challenges they face in a way that inspires empathy and understanding. This is how we build change. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact this film has, and the conversation that comes from it.”

To buy tickets to the event click here

Listing information

Event: Talking FGM: An afternoon with Ifrah Ahmed the “Girl from Mogadishu”
Description: Online panel event discussing the Pembridge Pictures film A Girl From Mogadishu and wider issues around FGM and gender-based violence. A screening link will be provided to all registrants ahead of the event.
Date: Thursday 4th February, 2021
Time: 2:30pm – 4pm
Location: Online, registration essential
Tickets: £10 (£5 from each ticket sale will be donated to Savera UK)
Booking Link here

Job Opportunity: Marketing & Communications Manager

LAAF is seeking to recruit an experienced Marketing & Communications Manager to develop and manage marketing and PR for the organisation. The postholder will be a key part of a small senior management team and will make a dynamic contribution to realising LAAF’s overall vision. They will be responsible for instigating and delivering projects that align with strategic marketing goals, and for increasing awareness of LAAF in the UK and internationally.

Salary: £10,800 (£27,000 per annum pro rota at 2 days per week)
Responsibilities: Temporary/contract marketing freelance workers, interns, apprentice and volunteers.
Contract: Initial 12-month part-time contract.
Location: Office is based in Bluecoat, Liverpool. Remote working will be considered. Post holder will be required to attend occasional meetings in Liverpool and be available throughout core festival period in July, and during out of festival events which require marketing and PR support.

How to apply:

Please download the LAAF Marketing & Communications Manager Job Description and Equal Opportunities Form

To apply, please email the following to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Marketing & Communications Manager application’:

  • A covering letter (maximum 2 sides of A4) demonstrating your suitability to the role in relation to the Responsibilities and Knowledge, Skills and Experience.
  • Your CV
  • Contact details of 2 referees, one of whom should be a current employer
  • Completed Equal Opportunities form

LAAF is actively committed to widening access in the arts to support people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and skills. We particularly welcome applications from ethnic communities currently under-represented in the arts.

Closing date: 12pm, Wednesday 17 February 2021.

Interviews will be held via Zoom w/c 22 February 2021.

Liverpool Friends of Yemen will be holding a digital vigil for peace in Yemen on Wednesday 9 December 2020.

Speakers and performers include:

  • Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan and Shadow Foreign Secretary
  • Paula Barker, Labour MP for Liverpool, Wavertree
  • Kim Johnson, Labour MP for Liverpool, Riverside
  • Saba Ahmed
  • Najib Alhakimi
  • Amina Atiq
  • David Harrison
  • Adam Kelwick
  • Sally Theobald
  • Taher Qassim MBE

The event will be held on Zoom and streamed live on Liverpool Friends of Yemen’s Facebook page.

Register for the event here:

Between Two Islands

We’re really pleased to support Ali Al-Jamri’s excellent new project Between Two Islands:

Between Two Islands – Poetry Writing Workshops for Bahrainis in Britain

Between Two Islands Arabic Version

What does it mean to be Bahraini in the UK? How does it effect our relationship to our homeland? What are the things we crave, the truths we have discovered, the things we have had to create for ourselves? Some of us see our time in the UK as temporary; some of us are as British as we are Bahraini. But for all of us, the British isles are our home today.

This project, funded by Arts Council England, is a first of its kind: a creative writing space for Bahrainis living in Britain.

Through poetry, we will unlock our creative voices. Each week, we will explore a different aspect of poetry, from form and function to editing and performance.

Beginners are welcome and encouraged to join – no experience necessary!

The workshops will run over six weeks in January/February 2021. They are for you if you are:

  • aged between 18 and 81
  • a Bahraini who immigrated to the UK for work or study, was born to immigrant parents, or came to the UK as a refugee
  • an English or Arabic speaker
  • interested in writing and creative arts

They will be led by Ali Al-Jamri and Amina Atiq.

Ali Al-Jamri is a Bahraini and British poet and writer. He was a semi-finalist in BBC Words First 2020, and his translation of “The Desire of Life” by Abu Al-Qassim Al-Shabbi was published by Modern Poetry in Translation. His a notable contender in the Bristol Short Fiction Prize.

Amina Atiq is a poet, performance artist and activist from Liverpool’s Yemeni community, one of the oldest Arab communities in the UK. A BBC Words First 2019 Finalist and Young Associate for Curious Minds, she is currently a Poet in Residence for Queensland Poetry Festival 2020-21 and working on a new online project, Yemeni Women on the Frontline.

To join, complete our registration form by Wednesday 30 December.

Further information:

  • The workshops will be conducted over 6 weekends in January and February 2021.
  • We ask that participants commit to the full six-week programme.
  • Workshops will be conducted via Zoom due to pandemic measures. This may be reviewed.
  • To be inclusive, we offer a participation fee and travel cost reimbursement. We value your time and want to make this event as accessible, particularly if you have childcare, study and work responsibilities to juggle.

We would like to thank the Arts Council England for funding our project as well as partner organisations, mentors and supporters at the Arab British Centre, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Young Identity Manchester and Commonword and the community centre Dar Alhekma for making this work possible.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) is inviting artistic proposals for our 2021 festival.

The devastating impact of climate change is being felt across the world. Global warming is fuelling extreme weather events, rising sea levels, intense heat, natural disasters, environmental degradation, food and water insecurity, mass migration, and conflict.

These consequences are already daily experiences for many within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Our 2021 festival will respond to how climate change is impacting MENA communities who are already experiencing the destruction of their environments and land due to conflict and colonialism.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted a proposal. Applications are now closed. We will be in touch with all applicants by mid January 2021.

Monologue Workshop

Monologue Writing from Lived Experience

Delivered by Laura Hanna and Isley Lynn with Jess Edwards

For Long Acre Arts, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and Traverse Theatre

Saturday 12th December 2020, 11:00 to 19:00

Hosted on Zoom

Free to attend

Intended for all curious writers developing their craft in writing theatrical monologues, writer Isley Lynn and actor/writer Laura Hanna share their experience through the development of their current project, REVOLUTIONS.

Isley and Laura are old friends and collaborators, and Isley was inspired by Laura’s stories about her training in pole dance and how that intersected with her Egyptian heritage. The result, many conversations and many years later, is REVOLUTIONS, a play we hope to premiere in 2021. Fictional, but rooted in Laura’s lived experience, the monologue weaves together spoken text, movement, and pole to tell the story of Angele – a mixed heritage Egyptian-British woman who starts to learn pole for her own pleasure.

Hosted on Zoom, the day is structured around three topics. Come to as many as you like, and feel free to dip in and out throughout the day. There will be space in between each session for unstructured, private writing time.

In Session One (11:00 – 12:30) we’ll introduce our ways of working, and do some warm up exercises. We’ll encourage you to work from personal material, but don’t feel limited by that – feel free to weave your experience with your imagination.

In Session Two (14:00 – 15:30) we’ll explore writing exercises to help create distance between you and your subject matter, so it can be told like any other story.

In Session Three (17:00 – 19:00) we’ll be inviting you to share the work you’ve made over the course of the day on a voluntary basis. We’ll also hold a Q&A, hosted by REVOLUTIONS director Jess Edwards.

Now, more than ever, untold stories are important and necessary. It can be both therapeutic and political to tell your own story. Through sharing our craft and our approach to dramatising stories, we hope to enhance your abilities to write and stage your work. We hope to inspire you and we  look forward to being inspired through your collaboration.