Liverpool Arab Arts Festival programme revealed

Organisers of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival have announced the full programme of events.

From 6-14 June, Liverpool will once again welcome a host of international and UK based artists, performers and commentators to showcase the breadth and richness of contemporary and traditional Arab culture. This time, the programme has been selected to the theme Shaping Change: A work in progress, an exploration of how Arab communities worldwide are responding to contemporary changes from within.

Chair of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Taher Qassim MBE said “After lots of hard work behind the scenes, we are delighted to unveil the full programme for this year’s festival. We are confident that we have found the right balance of fun, positivity and entertainment for all the family, whilst opening up opportunities for audiences to consider serious subject matter and challenging work.

We aim to represent Arab culture and Arab people in a positive way, and to harness that curious ability art has to allow one person, with one set of life experiences, to speak directly to the heart of another.”

A whirlwind 9 days of music, dance, visual art, theatre, literature and family days will be tied together with in-depth discussion events, Q & A’s and artists’ talks. Organisers have revealed more information about the keynote discussion event, presented in partnership with Savera Liverpool, Symposium ‘Shaping Change: Women, Culture and Art’, taking place at the Bluecoat on Monday 8 June. The symposium will explore what happens when female creative aspirations breach the boundaries of cultural norms.

Facilitated by Nazir Afzal OBE, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West of England and London, and a tireless campaigner on issues relating to women’s rights, the event will present a mix of moving personal accounts and professional and academic perspectives.

Amani Yahya will reveal her experience as a talented young female Yemeni rapper, brought up in Saudi Arabia and now based in Sanaa, the capital city torn by conflict. Award-winning artist Rachel Gadsden will share her experience of creating cross-cultural visual dialogues with Arab women, many of whom have disabilities.  PD. Dr. Elham Manea is a Yemeni/Swiss Associate Professor specialised in the Middle East. A writer, and a human rights activist, her latest publication is entitled The Arab State and Women’s Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance. Steph Green is a Youth and Community Work Tutor at Oxford and a community practitioner who works with the everyday impact of international, institutional and, interpersonal oppression.

This year’s strong music offer is bolstered by mesmerising Palestinian singer, musicologist and broadcaster, Reem Kelani, an artist for whom independence is an article of faith, musically, spiritually and politically. With a voice described as combining ‘the poignancy of Billie Holiday with the glass-busting power of Aretha Franklin’, Kelani will perform with her band at the iconic St George’s Hall on Friday 12 June. Audiences will experience Kelani’s stunning vocal ability and an illuminating, often moving account of 200 years of the struggle for human rights.

Well known for staging high-energy public celebrations of Arab culture, the festival doesn’t disappoint this year, with three fun family friendly events in the mix. The ever-popular LAAF Family Day makes its way back to Sefton Park Palm House on Sunday 7 June with stalls, workshops, live music, dance, food and fun. A packed line-up includes Mazaj, masters of classical instrumental compositions, regional folk traditions and Arabic and Turkish dance melodies, and festival favourite Abdelkader Saadoun, the Algerian King of Rock’n’Rai. Audiences will also be thrilled by dramatic traditional dance from Nawarra (from Funoon Wa Alwane) alongside performances from the Birmingham Yemeni Musical Group and local young people from the Liverpool Arabic Centre.

On Saturday 6 June at St Anthony of Padua Church Hall is ‘Arabian Nights‘ – a special evening of Middle Eastern food and live traditional and modern Arabic music and dance, including performances from the Nile Band and Michael Hana.

The Big Sunday closes the festival at the Bluecoat on Sunday 14 June featuring an extravaganza of music, dance, literature and food from the Arab world. Boundary breaking percussionist Simona Abdallah, who also performs at the World Museum on Saturday 13 June, returns with her fusion of ancestral Arabic rhythms, House, Electronica and World music. Al Awadhel Band will entertain audiences with traditional music from Yemen, while Egyptian singer/songwriter Nadya Shanab fronts world fusion band Aziza, blending Arab and Western sounds.  There will also be a vocal performance from the young people of Liverpool Arabic Centre.

Elsewhere, both traditional and contemporary dance enthusiasts are well catered to. Audiences will enjoy a kaleidoscope of movement and colour at ‘Club Orientale’ on Tuesday 9 June at the Unity Theatre, while the Museum of Liverpool Atrium hosts Performance 55 – the first creation by mesmerising Moroccan choreographer and dancer Radouan Mriziga, on Saturday 13 June.

LAAF continues to strengthen its film strand, with a series of short films from The Yemen Peace Project and a selection of films from BBC Arabic Festival 2014 shown at FACT and the Bluecoat over the course of the festival, with introductions, panel discussions and Q & A opportunities at the screenings. A double bill at FACT on Saturday 6 June includes family drama ‘Giraffada‘ in which we follow ten-year-old Ziad – a loner who prefers the company of giraffes Rita and Brownie to that of his bullying schoolmates. This is followed by short film ‘The Big House’ directed by Musa Syeed.

The Silent Voices exhibition at the Unity Theatre provides an unprecedented insight into everyday life in Bil’in, a village in occupied Palestine. Under the guidance of the Liverpool-based photographer Elaine Stapleton, children from the ages of 8 to 18 were given a camera. Their images of family and village life are displayed alongside Stapleton’s own work, placing them in a context of conflict and occupation.

Audiences will also have opportunities to explore ancient, Arabic storytelling traditions. On Saturday 6 June at the Bluecoat, Robert Irwin, an expert on Arab literature, will give a fascinating talk on Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange – a unique Medieval Arab fantasy collection. Discovered in a single, ragged manuscript in a library in Istanbul, this is the earliest known collection of Arabic stories most of which have never been read in English before. Ancient Routes is a live performance, bringing Arab, Kurd and Yazidis, stories and music to the Unity Theatre on Wednesday 10 June. Accompanied by music from across the centuries, Alia Alzougbi and Louai Alhenawi share hidden treasures of the Arab region in an evocative evening of storytelling and sound.

On Thursday 11 June, at the Bluecoat, LAAF brings together two celebrated Yemeni poets.  Hamdan Dammag, novelist, journalist and award-winning poet will perform poems from his published work (Arabic) while Ameena Atiq, born in Yemen and raised in Liverpool, reads from her work, poetry inspired by images.  Ameena will recite in English. Each poet will discuss their work and will be accompanied by music from flautist Louai Alhenawi.

For a taste of things to come, a special preview event, organised in partnership with Liverpool 1578 and Granby and Toxteth Development Trust, will take place on Saturday 30 May at the Bath Site on Lodge Lane. The whole family is welcome to this fun, free open air event, featuring Birmingham Yemeni Musical Group, Aziza, up and coming artists from Liverpool Arabic Centre, and local Brazilian drumming group Katumba.

LAAF are offering buyers of the first 100 tickets to paid events a complimentary ticket to LAAF VIP Launch being held on the 5th June.  Includes exclusive performances and cultural cuisine.

For further information visit


**Picture of Liverpool Poet Ameena Atiq**

Liverpool Waterfront