Category: News

For Liverpool Arab Arts Festival’s digital festival, we are delighted to present newly commissioned poemfilms (video works combining poetry and film) by Olivia Furber, Mariam Al-Dhubhani and Diyala Muir, created in response to original poems by contemporary Yemeni poets Ahmed Alkhulaidi, Amina Atiq and Hamdan Damaag.

You can watch the poemfilms, and read an essay by Deryn Rees-Jones, on the Yemen in Conflict project page – please click the image below:

This year’s digital festival means you will be able to watch festival events on a variety of different platforms online. This guide is intended to help you know where to watch events and enjoy our programme.

As you’ll know, many physical venues like theatres, galleries, art centres, cinemas and concert rooms are closed in the UK because of COVID-19. This has meant that, for a festival like LAAF that is hosted in these venues for our ten-day annual festival, moving to a digital programme has allowed us to continue to celebrate Arab arts and culture.

Moving to a digital programme doesn’t necessarily just mean putting every event in a video platform and allowing everyone to see it. Planning this festival has allowed us to consider what elements we love about Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and what elements of those strengths we can replicate online.

Each year, we plan our festival commissioning artists and planning performances and arts events with them, but we also work to secure a venue that fits both the artist, their audience and the work they are performing.

Even though we are digital this year, we have tried to bring this approach to our festival. Not every event works in the same space, and this is as true for digital platforms as it is for concert venues.

Our music programme, for example, will take place on Facebook and you can watch it through our Facebook page. For other events, like our film programme for example, artist rights mean we cannot make those freely available, so you have to register to watch them.

For other events, like literature events or readings, we like when we have a gathering of people getting the feel for an event, being able to participate. For these events we will be doing them on Zoom as Webinars. Other events will be available via YouTube.

To find out how to watch each event, you find out at the top of the event. If you register, you will be sent a link to the platform you will be able to watch the event – a Zoom link, a link to a video or film etc.

We have been working with artists based all over the world for this festival, and as you know, internet quality varies vastly across the world. We are also working in different timezones. This has meant that, for some events, it’s been necessary for us to record in advance. We weighed this up against the disappointment of an artist’s internet dropping out mid performance and felt, on balance, we wanted to ensure the work would be seen. The artists will still be there to answer questions and enjoy the event with the audience where they can, internet allowing!

If you have any questions or queries, please contact us at [email protected]

Celebrating Arab art and culture, musicians from the MENA region bring their sound to Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in July 2020, as the digital festival launches its programme from Liverpool.  

The festival launches on Thursday 9 July with Moroccan musical collective Walead Ben Selim and Widad Broco/N3rdistan. Between rock, trip hop, electro, oriental-beat with world influences, this quartet mixes with ease digital power, ancestral Arabic poetry, the targeted singing intermingling here and there with the melodies of a Qanoon and African Keys. Without falling into the trap of ethnic-electro this firey sonorisation serves as an engine to this group producing the most highly musical journey of the moment. 

Hailing from one of the most musically rich cities in the Levant, Hello Psychaleppo is the brain child of Aleppian electronic music producer and visual artist Samer Saem Eldahr who brings an intimate live performance to Liverpool Arab Arts Festival on Friday 10 July.

Both of these events are in partnership with Marsm UK.

After wowing the crowds at the closing of last year’s Family Day, the festival welcomes back Daraa Tribes as the celebratory closing event on Saturday 18 July. A fusion of ancestral tribal music and Saharan Blues, Daraa Tribes comes from the oasis town of Tagounite in the Daraa River Valley of Morocco, with each member originating from a different tribe, bringing with them diverse music traditions to create an eclectic style only to be found in the oases of the North African Sahara.

Founded in 1998, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival takes place each year in arts and cultural venues across Liverpool. In 2020, a digital programme of performance, music, film and conversation will see artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers connect virtually from their homes in Ramallah, Kuala Lumpur, London, Beirut and more.

The Festival programme includes performances from artist-in-residence, spoken word poet and activist Lisa Luxx, renowned Arabist and author Tim Mackintosh-Smith, an event in partnership with independent publisher Comma Press connecting writers in Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem in ‘Writing the Palestinian City’ and a film programme celebrating female directors in today’s Arab world. 

Each of the music events wil be available to watch live on Facebook.

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.

We are working through the various resources available, and we are compiling a list that we will share with you and add to, including those that have been shared by other brilliant organisations. We are reflecting upon how we can meaningfully engage. We recognise there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and that true allyship is a lifelong commitment to learning and continual improvement.

*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

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival connects digitally for 2020
The annual cultural festival returns 9-18 July

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the UK’s longest running annual festival of Arab arts and culture, returns in July, connecting artists and audiences from across the UK and beyond in a digital festival. Featuring artist-in-residence, Lisa Luxx; cultural and social activist, playwright, and performance poet Dayna Ash; renowned Arabist Tim Mackintosh-Smith; award-winning, Palestinian-American author, poet, translator, artist and educator, Ibtisam Barakat; an exploration of Writing the Palestinian City, and a celebration of Arab Cinema, the festival will be online, for the first time in its history, from 9-18 July.

The first waves of 2020 events is available here.

Established in 2002, the festival takes place each year in arts and cultural venues across Liverpool. This year’s digital programme will see artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers connect virtually from their homes in Ramallah, Kuala Lumpur, Liverpool, Beirut and across the world.

The first wave of programme to be announced includes:

Artist in residence, spoken word poet and performer Lisa Luxx brings her unique voice to the festival. British-Syrian, she reflects on identity, sexuality, belonging and gender. Lisa will appear with prominent cultural and social activist, playwright and performance poet, Dayna Ash, in Grinding Saffron; a night of poetic lesbian sisterhood. The event will reflect on LGBTQ+ culture, both online, in lockdown and within Arab society and communities.

Renowned Arabist Tim Mackintosh-Smith joins the festival to discuss his acclaimed book Arabs: 3,000 Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, delves into language and culture to narrate the evolution of modern Arab identity. The historian, who for many years lived in Yemen, will be joined in conversation with Irish novelist and collaborator, Denyse Woods.

In partnership with the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award, described as the ‘Arab world’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize’, Ibtisam Barakat will deliver a special workshop encouraging participants to explore and develop their writing skills. Barakat won the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for illustrated children’s book Al-Fatah Al-Laylakeyyah (The Lilac Girl.)

Writing the Palestinian City, in partnership with Comma Press, brings together three writers, whose work includes both fact and fiction set in and about Gaza, Ramallah and East Jerusalem, to explore the issues, challenges and opportunities of writing about Palestine. Talal Abu Shawish (The Assassination of a Painting, Goodbye Dear Prophets, Middle Eastern Nightmares), Maya Abu Al-Hayat (No one Knows his Blood Type) and Mazen Maarouf (Jokes for the Gunmen, Our Grief Resembles Bread) join Ra Page from Comma Press for a discussion.

In a celebration of Arab Cinema, LAAF, in partnership with BBC Arabic Festival, shares a programme of short films from Female Directors in Today’s Arab World. Each short film by Dina Naser, Katia Jarjoura, Yassmina Karajah and Mariakenzi Lahlou, take us through the effects and consequences of war on individuals and their families; and the hope for freedom. Sheyma Buali, BBC Arabic Festival Director, will chair a special discussion with the selected filmmakers.

The award-winning feature documentary Jaddoland follows filmmaker, Nadia Shihab, as she returns to her hometown in Lubbock, Texas, to visit her mother, an artist originally from Iraq. Touching and challenging, the film is an intimate portrait of a mother through a daughter’s eyes, which raises questions about what we call home.

Yemen in Conflict is a national partnership between LAAF, the University of Leeds and the University of Liverpool exploring how Yemeni literature and poetry can be safeguarded, and how it can further the understanding of the situation in Yemen. An online exhibition will premiere poemfilm commissions by artists Olivia Furber, Mariam Al-Dhubhani, Diyala Muir and Noor Palette, created in direct response to original poems by contemporary Yemeni poets Ahmed Alkhulaidi, Liverpool-based Amina Atiq, Hamdan Damaag and Abel Hakim Al Qadi. This will be accompanied by an essay by writer and poet Deryn Rees-Jones and a selection of material from a series of national workshops held with Yemeni communities in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool and Sheffield throughout 2019.

For some events, please register and you will be sent a link to the event.

The second wave of festival events will be announced later in June.

Jack Welsh is Liverpool Arab Arts Festival Programme Manager:

“LAAF has always been committed to delivering its annual festival, which attracts audiences from Liverpool, the UK and across the Arab world. The past two months have shown vital art and culture is to connecting people in these challenging times. As the UK’s longest running Arab art festival, a digital programme means we can support artists and performers from across the Arab world and bring them into the homes of our audiences. While we would love to host festival events in the city – like our Family Day at Sefton Park Palm House – it is important, now more than ever, that art and culture shares the experience, stories, and reflections from people and places across the world.”

Mustapha Koriba is Chair of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival Board:

“The mission of our festival is to bring diverse cultures together, and to increase the appreciation of Arab culture and art on a local, national and international level. This year, while it is delivered online, we are still eager to be able to provide a platform for the art and artists we care so passionately about.”

For more details on festival events go to Audiences members can register for events taking place online. While all events will be free, we would welcome any donations from our audiences. All donations received during the festival period will go towards supporting artists in the next year.

Notes to Editors

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is an annual event, part of a year-round programme celebrating Arab art and culture. The founding purpose of the festival is to bring diverse cultures together, with a vibrant celebration of visual art, performance, music, dance, film, theatre, literature and more. Connecting communities, schools and colleges is a stimulating aspect of LAAF’s work, promoting curiosity and learning through arts development.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. It is funded by Liverpool City Council and Culture Liverpool, with support from Al Omar Family, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, The Granada Foundation and Qatar Foundation International.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

A selection of high res images, with image credits, is available here

A highlight reel of LAAF’s 2019 festival:

For images, interviews and further information contact Laura Brown [email protected], 07739321279

Image: Lisa Luxx courtesy of Maria Klenner

100% of your donations will go towards artists and commissioning new work from artists for Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in 2021.

This year, as the festival moves online, we have taken the decision to make our digital programme freely accessible, but we do request donations in lieu of ticket fees.

Each year, we work to keep our tickets affordable, keeping them under £20. In 2020, all the donations we receive will go towards artists, for new commissions in 2021.

We believe that it’s important we continue to support artists, especially during this time. We believe passionately that not only should everyone have access to the arts, but that everyone should have access to being an artist.

Artists matter. Their work matters. We will always put artists first.

You can donate via Paypal here or contact us via [email protected]


Amina Atiq

With LightNight unable to happen across Liverpool this year, #LightNightatHome brought many exciting artists, organisations and cultural activities directly into people’s homes.

The theme for the festival this year was – aptly – Home, with the festival asking what will Home mean when we emerge from this crisis? 

We were pleased to support Amina Atiq in presenting a new adaption of her one woman show ‘Broken Biscuits’ exploring a 1970’s Yemeni – British household to untangle what it means to belong. Listen to the audio on YouTube:

Writer & voice: Amina Atiq
Commissioned by DadaFest
Supported by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival
Sound engineer: Brian Roberts
Singing by Gran-ma Hayla

We’re delighted to be hosting Sylvia and Zayd for Parent and Baby Dabke.

It’s free and will be held via Zoom. Anyone who wants to attend will have to sign up beforehand.

Come have fun and learn some basic Dabke steps for you and your little one. Whether you’re a parent or carer, it’s a perfect activity to do together, to get active, learn a new skill or just burn a little energy on a Saturday morning.

Dabke is a traditional Palestinian folkloric dance. This digital workshop will teach you some basic steps, and have a little fun. It’s designed especially for little ones and their parents, so no dance experience is required.

All ages welcome including sling babies.

Read more and sign up for the event here.

The Ahmed Family

As Ramadan begins, our minds go back to LightNight 2019.

LightNight is an annual arts and culture festival in Liverpool, which sees hundreds of events take place in venues across the city centre. The free culture crawl sees thousands come onto the city’s streets to explore the work of artists, performers, producers, creatives and musicians.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and Liverpool Arabic Centre held a special event at Liverpool Town Hall, welcoming people into the Arab home, with culture and performance. With dancers and traditional food, it was an evening of celebration.

It was especially important as it took place during Ramadan, and we were privileged to be included in the breaking of the fast with our friends who came to the event. This is a time of year when we are so often together to break the fast, so it is difficult for those in isolation during this period.

Our friend, Neda, brought this lentil soup to share with us all. When we asked for the recipe, we received a video of the family making the soup for us, and we wanted to share it with everyone. It’s easy to follow and the ingreidents are also easy to find. If you want to add more to it, like perhaps chicken, you can.

Food brings us together. Watch below and try the recipe yourself. And thank to the Ahmed Family for welcoming us into their kitchen.

Food and recipes are an important part of every culture, Arab families have their own special recipes they share, favourite ingredients and ways of cooking. We’re hoping to bring a glimpse of more dishes cooked in Arab homes in the coming weeks.

This is just one of the films we have on our YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe to our playlists here.

We’re thrilled to be this week’s guests for The Arab British Centre’s excellent Friday Hangout series.

Sign up for the session via the Arab British Centre website. 

Arab British Centre - Friday Hangout

Join us at our fifth Friday Hangout, this time co-hosted by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival!

Our Friday Hangout series brings together people interested in Arab culture for an online chat over their lunch breaks, wherever they may be currently ‘locked down’. Five weeks in, we’re delighted that so many people have taken part in our informal sessions, all inspired by our team missing our lunch-time conversations whilst working from home.

This Friday, we’ll be joined by some of the wonderful people behind Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF), who this week announced that they will be moving their annual festival online in light of the Covid-19 crisis. We’ll be chatting to Festival Manager Jack Welsh, who is leading their online transition, as well as dancer Jamila Boughelaf, dancer and co-founder of Hawiyya Dance Company, whose Dabke-inspired performance Curfew is one of the festival’s key events this year.

LAAF has been at the vanguard of Arab cultural programming in the UK for nearly 2 decades. Established in 2002, every July the festival brings a thrilling celebration of Arab culture to venues across Liverpool, showcasing a packed programme of visual art, music, dance, film, theatre, literature and special events.

Hawiyya Dance Company is an all-women’s collective who explore identity, culture and resistance through dance. The culturally diverse group uses folk dance ‘Dabke’ and contemporary dance to create narrative works that explore themes such as resistance, oppression, displacement, social justice, individual and cultural identity.

Join us on Friday as we chat to Jack and Jamila about the unique challenges festivals and collectives are facing in the current circumstances, what ‘going digital’ actually means for large-scale creative programming, and more about Curfew and the work that the Hawiyya Dance Company is doing with the local community in Liverpool.