Category: News

Yemen in Conflict: The role of popular literature in conflict resolution

The next poetry workshop will be hosted by Ahmed Alkhulaidi at: Channel View Centre Jim Driscoll Way Grangetown, Cardiff, CF11 7HB.

The workshop will take place on Saturday 16th November 2019 from 14:00 to 16:00.

We encourage anyone who is interested in poetry and spoken word to come along and get involved in the local workshop. Spaces are limited to twelve participants, so be sure to sign up soon. If you require further information or are interested, please send an email to Taher Qassim at [email protected]

About the project

The University of Liverpool and the University of Leeds, in collaboration with the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, are looking for people who are passionate about Yemen, its poetry and spoken word. We are producing a series of poetry workshops throughout the UK, working with the Yemeni community. The work created from these workshops will be used as part of a multimedia exhibition that will launch at the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in 2020.

The workshops will be hosted by a local poet from each city in which the workshop will take place. The poet in that city will use works collected from Yemeni poets concerning the topic of conflict and its resolution as an inspiration to start the workshop. The poet and the project lead will facilitate the session to encourage responses from participants attending the workshop, using the spoken and written word to create new bodies of work. In this way, the work produced locally, nationally and internationally will create a dialogue about the situation in Yemen through poetry and spoken word.

A youth-led exhibition speaking out against the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) will be opened by TV and Radio 1 presenter Maya Jama on Tuesday 5 November at Liverpool John Moores University.

The exhibition, curated by members of Savera UK Youth was initially created to be displayed at the National FGM Centre’s annual seminar, which took place  in London on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6th February).

The exhibition, comprising photographs, collages and poetry created by members of Savera UK Youth, will now be shown in the Peter Jost Building on Liverpool John Moores University’s Byrom Street campus for one day only (5 November, 2:30pm – 5:30pm).

The event will be opened by the Savera UK Ambassador Maya Jama and Savera UK Youth will also welcome guest speaker, Payzee Mahmod, a survivor of FGM, child marriage and honour based abuse (HBA). and former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England and charity Patron, Nazir Afzal OBE.

Since losing her sister, Banaz, in a tragic honour killing in 2006 Payzee has dedicated herself to campaigning to eradicate HBA and child marriage. Payzee became a Survivor Ambassador for the Safeguard Futures, Ban Child Marriage campaign with IKWRO.

Speaking ahead of the event, Payzee said: “As a survivor of FGM I am committed to raising awareness about this and other harmful practices which contribute to honour based abuse.

“We must challenge these practices and eradicate them on every level through education and training. In order for us to achieve this we must recognise and understand the complexities of honour based abuse.”

Following February’s event, Savera UK Youth members decided to expand the exhibition in order to engage more young people and provide an opportunity to learn more about FGM. The upcoming show will now include live performance art and the performance of a specially-written song, alongside the young people’s poetry and visual art.

The initial pieces for the exhibition were first created during three sessions in which Savera UK Youth members spoke to a survivor of FGM Babs Cessay about her experiences and also representatives from Savera UK, to learn more about the harmful practice.

Savera UK Youth members also participated in a sessions with photographer, Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson, who shared tips for using disposable cameras, so they could interpret their understanding of FGM through photography.

Working with AB, the young people curated an exhibition of outstanding images that represented their feelings about FGM, carefully naming the collection. The participants also worked with artist Joanne Tremarco and poet Kiara Mohamed add further elements to the exhibition.

Joanne assisted in the creation of collages and stop motion pieces to further express and illustrate youth members’ feelings around FGM, while Kiara helped them to create poetry around the topic.

The thought-provoking exhibition will shine a spotlight on the often hidden subject of FGM and aims to educate people – in particular younger generations – about FGM and the impact it has on those affected.  It also seeks to empower people to speak out and challenge harmful traditions that violate human rights.

The event will take place during this year’s UK Parliament Week, which engages people from across the UK with Parliament, explores what it means to them and empowers them to get involved.

Savera UK Youth Advisory Board Chair, Ayomide Folarin, said: “We want to use our exhibition to educate other young people about FGM and encourage them, regardless of background or gender, to speak out against this harmful practice.

“We are looking forward to showing our work and meeting other young activists who share our mission to make a difference and raise issues that matter to young people.”

Speaking ahead of the event, Maya Jama said: “The work that Savera UK Youth members have put into this exhibition is truly exceptional and I am proud to be supporting them in raising awareness around FGM.

“Seeing FGM through the eyes of people who are just like them and beginning to better understand its impact is such an effective way to educate the younger generation and encourage them to speak out.”

Afrah Qassim, Founder of Savera UK, added; “This exhibition highlights that culture can be beautiful, but harmful practices that violate human rights, such as FGM, have no place in any culture.

“We are overwhelmed by the outstanding and thought provoking work that our youth members have produced and we are proud of their commitment to speaking out against harmful practices and helping to educate the next generation.”

The #EndFGM project has been funded by the #iwill Programme. #iwill is a UK-wide campaign aiming to get 6 out of 10 young people involved in social action by 2020.

To register for tickets, visit:

Keffiyeh/Made in China

LAAF Board member Zoe Lafferty is directing the UK premiere of Dalia Taha’s debut play Keffiyeh/Made in China at RADA’s Gielgud Theatre.

From 15 October 2019 – 26 October 2019. Book tickets here.

Keffiyeh/Made in China

by Dalia Taha

Translated by Clem Naylor
Directed by Zoe Lafferty
Design co-ordinators Jennifer Perault (costume) and Perdita Vaughan Williams (set)

I’m sure you were flirting with her even in the last 60 seconds of your life.

Nine seemingly unrelated vignettes explore connection and alienation, framed by life in modern-day Palestine. From a Palestinian keffiyeh merchant to a Belgian tourist, conversations and arguments between strangers, friends, lovers and colleagues highlight our collective experience as well as our differences – unearthing and undoing assumptions and stereotypes.

This is the UK premiere of Dalia Taha’s debut play, which premiered in Brussels and later toured the West Bank.

Born in Berlin, Dalia Taha grew up in Ramallah, Palestine. Her other works include Fireworks at the Royal Court and There Is No-one Between You and Me. She has also published two collections of poetry and a novel.

Zoe Lafferty is an associate director at the Freedom Theatre Palestine. Her work has toured major UK and international theatres including the Young Vic, Schaubühne and New York Skirball as well as to refugee camps, community centres, prisons, schools, caravans and on the streets.

Anahid Kassabian, Festival Programmer of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2019, and guests read associated English and Arabic texts and responses from both Shadow and Light and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Held Friday 12 July 2019 at Northern Lights, Liverpool.

Readings include works by Naomi Shihab Nye, Brian Turner, Richard Harrison, Persis Karim and others.

Readers (in alphabetical order):

Amina Atiq
Laura Brown
Anahid Kassabian
Mo Kassabian Svendsen
Mustapha Koriba
Mishaal Omar
Layla Qassim
Taher Qassim
Simon Ryder

Sincere thanks to Beau Beausoleil for his extraordinary work in organising not only Shadow and Light and all Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here projects.

It’s important to us as an arts festival to understand what you, our audience, thought of our events.

Our festival survey is designed to get a little information about you as an audience member and to get your feedback. The information is purely used for evaluation purposes and is not shared elsewhere. The data we generate from the survey helps us understand how our festival is working and is also used to generate funding.

It should only take two minutes to complete. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

Create your own user feedback survey

Juliana Yazbeck performing at LAAF 2019 launch. Photo by Jazamin Sinclair

“Yazbeck is poised on stage. While in stature she is diminutive, she commands the room; her voice is powerful and has a purity and clarity which is absolutely beautiful. She sings in Arabic and English, sometimes switching between the two in the same song.”

A fabulous review of LAAF 2019’s opening event, a spectacular performance from the incredible Juliana Yazbeck.

You can read the full review over on Bido Lito!:

Image by Jazamin Sinclair


Want to know more about our main festival exhibition Shadow and Light? Below is exhibition producer Jack Welsh’s statement and links about the project:

Shadow and Light

An empty basketball court, divided by worn-out floor markings. The tide crawling towards a barren shore. Drying clothes draped over a window frame. A fallen oak tree.

Within the flows and rituals of everyday life, we often take such fragments for granted. These banal encounters may normally not warrant a second look, but, when woven together, they constitute the rich fabric of life. Each contributor to Shadow and Light has willingly interrupted these flows and reflected on their own lives to create deeply personal responses in honour of a stranger they never met.

The catalyst for the project is the list of 324 Iraqi academics and educators murdered during the US-led occupation between 2003-2013. What strikes you is the banal functionality of this document. It compiles the grim – and often minimal – strands of information recorded about these horrific executions. The names of several of the dead are unknown. It is worth remembering that this list was complied before the era of smart phones and citizen reporting; and in a country where infrastructure was all but obliterated.

All contributors share the struggle in how to memorialise a life from a factual nugget about their death. This, frankly, is a near impossible task. Contributors pose questions in order to comprehend: Who were you? Who did you love and who loved you? What was your life like? This questioning, often accompanied by research, or driven by emotive reaction, has shaped deeply personal contributions that are affecting when read together. By providing a glimpse into their own lives, participants are trying to comprehend the sheer scale of loss: imagine living your entire life in fear of death but staying steadfast to your belief in the power of free education for all? What bravery. The awful details of their deaths may be displayed but each contribution celebrates one of these lives and rallies against the injustice of this list.

Both Shadow and Light and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here are projects of hope and solidarity above all else. Many of the participants now feel a kinship with the fallen academic they have chosen to honour. Their memory is now a part of their lives: the distance from Iraq is less than we imagine.

As project founder Beau Beausoleil emphasises, Shadow and Light is not a visual art exhibition but, instead, a creative project in the service of ideas. This exhibition should be read in this spirit, and as one facet of a wider, continuing creative response. The majority of contributors do not identity as visual artists. Once this exhibition closes, the project will continue to grow and more people across the world will take up the task until each name has been fully honoured.

We are not only delighted to host Shadow and Light, we are honoured that Beau granted us permission to use the title of the project as the theme of this year’s festival. With special thanks to Beau Beausoleil, Andrea Hassiba and Anahid Kassabian, and gratitude to Anne Thwaite, all the contributors to the project so far, and Northern Lights and Baltic Creative for hosting the exhibition.

Jack Welsh
Visual Art Producer / Festival Programme Manager
Liverpool Arab Arts Festival

Image: Courtesy of Zoe Lafferty.

Associated activities Shadow and Light: Make a Bookmark Workshop Thursday 11 July | 3 – 5pm | Free drop-in event

Draw, paint, print, write, collage a unique work of art and remembrance, with artist-printmaker Catherine Cartwright and poet/book-artist Ama Bolton, who both have contributed to the exhibition and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. Adults and accompanied children welcome. All materials provided – no need to bring anything.

Readings of Shadow and Light Friday 12 July | 4pm | Free

Join Anahid Kassabian, Festival Programmer of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2019, and other guests for readings of associated English and Arabic texts and responses from both Shadow and Light and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

About Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Street is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic centre of Baghdad bookselling, holds bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and tobacco shops. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. Beau Beausoleil, poet and bookseller and founder of The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, has been working since that day in order to establish a dialogue in solidarity with al-Mutanabbi Street.


The Guardian: Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: artists’ tributes to Baghdad booksellers

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Bookmark Project

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here – Smithsonian Exhibition, Washington, USA, 2016

Arabic Literature feature ‘As long as we need to remember’

Artists’ Book Project with UWE – An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street

2014 reading at the Arab British Centre in London

A reading and exhibition in Exeter, UK, for Absence and Presence, part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project



This year at Liverpool Arab Arts Festival: ‘Shadow and light’ celebrates the life and films of visionary Arab film maker Youssef Chahine, providing UK pemieres of three of his beautifully remastered works ‘Alexandria…why’, 1979,  An Egyptian story’, 1982, and Alexandria again and forever’, 1989,

Ahead of the series, we share a review by Dr Khalid Ali, Film and media correspondent ‘Medical Humanities’ journal, and founder of ‘Egypt Medfest’, who will also be taking part in the Q&A following the first film, ‘Alexandria… Why?’ 

“Over the course of 57 years, Youssef Chahine (25th January 1926- 27th July 2008) established himself as the most celebrated Egyptian and Arab film auteur (1). In 1997 he received a lifetime achievement award in Cannes Film Festival for his contribution to film as a director, producer, script writer and actor. After studying film in Pasadena, he made his first feature film ‘Baba Amin’ in 1952 at the age of 23. His early career was notable for trialling several film genres from socially-aware dramas ‘Son of Nile’ 1951 (, ‘The Blazing Sun’ 1954 (, to historical epics such as ‘Jamila, the Algerian’ 1958 (,_the_Algerian) , and ‘Saladin, the Victorious’ 1963 ( In ‘Cairo Station’ 1958 (, he proved his acting talent as Qinawi, the sexually-frustrated newspaper seller obsessed with Hannuma, the station flirtatious drinks seller.

Chahine always challenged conventional storytelling styles in Egyptian cinema. However, his most bold statement as a visionary artist materialised in the ‘Alexandria’ film series: ‘Alexandria… Why?’, ‘An Egyptian Story’, and ‘Alexandria Again and forever’. Using his life story as an inspiration, the films follow his journey from a young wide-eyed adolescent ‘Victoria College’ pupil in Alexandria eager to study film in the USA to an international award-winning film maker.

 ‘Alexandria… Why?’ starts his journey with film in 1942 at the height of WW2; Yahia (his fictionalised alter-ego fascinated with Shakespeare’s Hamlet) is surrounded by an extended Christian family; a resilient mother, a dignified idealist father, a strict old-fashioned grandmother, and a romantic sister. The richly detailed characters include school friends from Muslim and Jewish faiths and their families highlighting the cosmopolitan status of war-afflicted Alexandria. Regular Allied forces air raids deepen the Egyptian’s hatred for the British occupation that they root for Adolf Hitler to win Al Alamein battle and free Egyptians of British rule. The socio-political scene is closely observed; drunken British soldiers roaming the streets of Alexandria, one of them has a same-sex affair with a wealthy Egyptian aristocrat, a Jewish woman falls in love with a Muslim activist, while war lords are making money from trading in arms.

‘An Egyptian Story’ begins with Yahia as an established director who is still struggling to operate within the stifling Egyptian movie-industry in 1973. His chain-smoking habit, and explosive temper cause him to suffer a serious heart attack in a film set. He flies to London for an emergency heart bypass operation. In a story line reminiscent of Bob Fosse’s 1979 ‘All That Jazz’ (, a fantastical sequence is played in court with Yahia defending himself against all sorts of accusations from his mother, sister and wife. Chahine does not shy away from portraying himself as a selfish egocentric artist. He moans ‘’no one understands me’’, but what is worse is that he starts to wonder if he can still understand those around him. His inner child appears in court to blame the adult Yahia for stifling his creative outlets. Juxtaposed with the highly charged emotional court scenes, we see Yahia travelling to various film festivals from Cannes to Moscow suffering a series of frustrations in losing out in best actor and director award categories in films such as ‘Cairo station’.

‘Alexandria again and forever’ opens with a melancholic song and a tribute to ‘Hamlet’:

‘’To be or not to be, that is the question

Is it nobler to suffer in patience the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune

Or take up arms against a sea of troubles

By opposing them, we can end them

We can die or sleep.’’

Adopting a semi-realist style, Chahine documents the Egyptian actors’ 1987 sit-in and hunger strike against a corrupt union law passed by the Parliament to allow the actors’ union lead to nominate himself indefinitely. In a parallel storyline, the film follows Yahia’s disappointment in Amr (a fictionalised character for Mohsen Mohy Eldin, an actor who was adopted by Chahine in four films before Mohy Eldin ended their artistic collaboration, mentoring relationship and friendship). Yahia finds a new muse in Nadia (Yousra) a feisty actress dreaming of playing ‘Cleopatra’. Yahia and Nadia fight and argue over director’s tyranny, freedom of speech, and ‘Alexander, the Great’ in elaborate dance musical numbers. Chahine here plays the role of Yahia himself, and in the process ‘exorcises demons of a love-hate relationship with Mohy Eldin’. In one scene, he exerts a violent revenge against the actor who betrayed him, but at the same time acknowledges the right of actors to exert their own identity and vision in the film-making process.

Chahine’s Alexandria film series is far from a self-centred, narcissistic exercise by their maker; in these films he explores themes of heritage and legacy, cultural and sexual Identity, memories and nostalgia, artists alienation from the audience, and Egypt’s role in pan-Arab nationalism. Chahine’s beloved Alexandria holds centre stage as an influential character in all stories. Constantly questioning and challenging norms, Chahine defied stereotypes and pushed the boundaries in portraying and analysing the human experience.”



Image courtesy of Misr International Films

LAAF’s own Laura Brown has written a considered article for Bido Lito! to mark the launch of Palestine +100 during the festival.

What does the future look like if you fear you won’t exist? With the launch of Palestine + 100 – a new collection of short stories by Comma Press which invites ten Palestinian authors to look ahead to 2048, 100 years after the Nakba – at Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in July, Laura Brown asks if we see the privilege in our ability to think it will always be better tomorrow.

You can read the full article here:

Book tickets for Palestine +100 on Tuesday 9 July here:

Yasmin Ali

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and OUTPUT gallery are delighted to announce that Yasmin Ali has been selected for a solo exhibition during the festival.

Exhibition by Yasmin Ali

Evening reception: Thursday 4 July, 6-9pm
Free admission

This year, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival has teamed with OUTPUT gallery to platform a local artist and support them in producing a solo exhibition of their work here at the gallery. Selected from an open call, Yasmin Ali is an artist and curator of Somali heritage, born and raised in Liverpool. Her work focuses on the exploration and celebration of diverse identities. She works with a variety of mediums such as photography, poetry and film. This is Yasmin’s first exhibition with OUTPUT and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival.

OUTPUT gallery is accessible via four steps. A wheelchair ramp can be requested by pressing the bell outside our front door. OUTPUT shares bathroom facilities with the Kazimier Gardens next door who have recently fitted a wheelchair accessible bathroom that can be used during their opening hours. It also has an agreement with the Premier Inn for gallery visitors to use their accessible facilities.

32 Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4BE
Open 11am-6pm daily