Musician Aar Manta sitting in a skatepark. He is male and wearing sunglasses and a dark blue blazer. He is holding a skateboard. Graffiti is on the concrete behind him.

First wave of 2023 acts announced

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival celebrates 25 years. The city’s international celebration of Arab arts and culture returns Thursday 6 – Sunday 16 July.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the UK’s longest running annual festival celebrating Arab art and culture, has today announced the first performances of its 2023 festival programme.

Founded in 1998, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival began with a vision to keep Arab arts, culture and heritage alive.  For 25 years, it has brought diverse groups of people together in Liverpool, increasing public knowledge and understanding of the richness of Arab culture, growing into a platform for Arab artists locally, nationally and internationally.

This year’s festival theme explores storytelling and storytellers – through song, theatre, dance, performance, literature and visual art – by platforming new artists and welcoming back several to celebrate our 25 year journey. Storytelling has a strong tradition in Arab culture. حكواتي Hakawati means storyteller, and describes a person who can draw people in with their tale. In cafes and coffee shops, town squares and parks, people would gather to hear Al Hakawati talk of heroic deeds, of tragic farewells, didactic stories to bring a community together. The stories are ones all listening are familiar with, imparting wisdom or a valuable lesson.

On Friday 7 July the festival launches with a gig by Somali-British singer-songwriter, Aar Maanta, who brings his eclectic music blend and celebration of Somali culture to Liverpool Philharmonic’s Music Room.

As a singer and songwriter, Aar Maanta has embraced a mix of styles including influences from rock and reggae jostling with traditional Arabic and Somali music. Despite graduating with a science degree, Aar Maanta pursued music. He began the Horn 2 Groove recording project which generated his 2009 debut album, Hiddo & Dhaqan. The album merged traditional Somali music with Western influences like house and reggae into a fusion described as Afro-hop. In 2010, the Paris-based radio station StarAfrica recognized Aar Maanta’s achievement in creating this new sound when it named him “A Somali Culture Shaper in London”. Aar delivered an electrifying headlining set at last year’s Family Day event at Sefton Park Palm House, and is back by popular demand.

Musician Aar Manta sitting in a skatepark. He is male and wearing sunglasses and a dark blue blazer. He is holding a skateboard. Graffiti is on the concrete behind him.

Award-winning Syrian composer and musician, Maya Youssef brings her globally acclaimed album, Finding Home, to the Music Room in what will be a stunning and intimate performance with an ensemble of string musicians.

This performance in Liverpool will see Maya bring Finding Home to the city for the first time since its release. Exploring the loss and grief in leaving Syria, the album depicts the discovery of  a place that gives a state of calm and how we can find a sense of home, even when we are far from the place of our birth.

We welcome Arab comedy night Arabs Are Not Funny, which is widely regarded as one of the hottest comedy nights among the Arab community and beyond, at Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio. Produced by Arts Canteen, the event brings leading Arab comedians Esther Manito, Fatiha El Ghorri, Farah Sharp and Talal Karkouti for a hilarious night of laughter and comedy on Saturday 8 July.

The festival’s closing Family Day spectacular returns to Sefton Park Palm House on Sunday 16 July. This free one day event continues to grow in size and ambition, bringing together contemporary and traditional Arab cultural music, dance and family activities, along a programme of authentic food and drink. It is one of the most notable events in Liverpool’s cultural calendar, providing a platform for different communities to come together in a joyous summer celebration.

The full festival programme, which includes a range of new commissions, performances and community events from leading Arab artists, will be released in the coming weeks.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is an annual event, part of a year-round artistic and education programme celebrating Arab art and culture. This year’s festival takes place Thursday 6 – Sunday 16 July 2023.

The festival brings 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 key aspect of LAAF’s work, promoting curiosity and learning through arts development. Liverpool Arab Arts Festival brings artists from around the world to Liverpool, as well as providing a platform for those closer to home, as it allows people to experience and enjoy Arab culture.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) is part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation 2023-26. LAAF is supported by Liverpool City Council and Culture Liverpool through the Culture & Arts Investment Programme. Its work actively contributes to the delivery of the strategic objectives of the City Plan for Liverpool.

LAAF receives additional financial support from the British Council, The Al Omar Family, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, Youth Music, The Granada Foundation and Qatar Foundation International.