Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 2008

Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 11 – 27 July 2008

Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 2008 launches with its biggest and richest programme to date

Now in its seventh year, the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival is firmly established as a popular event on the city’s cultural calendar. The festival remains the only one of its kind in the UK and the 2008 programme has lined up a spectacular two week long celebration with over 30 events taking place throughout Liverpool as part of the city’s 2008 European Capital of Culture celebrations.

The programme features a host of cultural activity from across the Arab world in the fields of visual arts, theatre, music, literature, dance, film and food which take place in a variety of venues.

The Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival provides a platform for international, national and local artists and communities and is expected to attract audiences, not just from Merseyside, but from across the UK and beyond.

The Festival launches at the freshly refurbished Bluecoat with Arabise Me (Fri 11 July 7.30pm – late), a dazzling array of music, live art and dance courtesy of Ziyarat, the independent cultural collective that took London’s V&A Museum by storm in 2006.

Claire Hamilton will be broadcasting BBC Merseyside’s Drivetime Show live from the launch at the Bluecoat and meeting some of the performers involved in the Festival.

Alongside Arabise Me, visitors are welcome to browse New Ends, Old Beginnings, a unique artistic exploration of the diverse cities of the Arab world from ancient civilisations to modern urban cultures. The exhibition is free and runs until Wednesday 3 September at the Bluecoat and Open Eye Gallery.

The Festival opening weekend continues with the hugely popular free Family Day, (Sun 13 July, SeftonPark Palm House, 12.00pm-4.30pm), a celebration of creative activities and true Arabic hospitality hosted once again in the scenic surroundings of Sefton Park Palm House. This year, Festival organisers are delighted to welcome the Bedouin Jerry Can Band, a collective of semi-nomadic musicians, storytellers and coffee grinders from the Egyptian Sinai desert performing songs and poetry about ancient Arabian Tribes, fables of trusty camels, warnings of dastardly deeds and tales of unrequited love.

The Family Day also features Say’un Popular Arts, a group of musicians from the southern Yemeni region of Hadhramaut, performing Hadhrami and Bedouin songs on traditional instruments inspired by African dance rhythms.

As always there will be an Arabic Bazaar of stalls, food and workshops – something for the whole family.

The Festival pays tribute to the contribution of the UK’s Yemeni community in RIOT (Fri 18 July, Sat 19 July, 7.30pm, Unity Theatre), a political satire set during the 1930 Yemeni seamen’s riot in South Shields. The play presents a love story between a young Yemeni seaman and a South Shields girl as tensions between their two communities grow.

The Festival partnership is particularly honoured to welcome Arabic superstar Khaled, famed for mixing Algerian ‘Raï’ with western music styles and creating the voice of Algerian youth in the 70s and 80s. Now ‘the king of Raï’ enjoys an almost surreal level of popularity and delivers a unique performance at the Philharmonic Hall (Sat 12 July, 7.30 pm).

Also performing on stage is Reem Kelani the critically acclaimed Palestinian composer whose music fuses classical Arabic music with folk and jazz (Wed 23 July, 8.00pm, the Bluecoat).

This year the Festival is proud to bring its film programme in association with BAFTA. The BAFTA Goes to the Arab World on tour at LAAF features an impressive selection of films, researched by Mona Deeley of Zenith Foundation, from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Algeria with diverse themes of love, corruption, politics, marriage, class and dreams.

These include: A screening of 3 shorts from and on Iraq and Lebanon (Thur 17 July, 6.30pm, FACT) bookended by a Q&A with the director of the Independent Film and Television College in Baghdad.

Chaos (Sun 27 July, 3.00pm, FACT) is directed by Youssef Chanine, one of the most important directors in Egyptian cinema in what could turn out to be his last film.

There will also be a Gala Screening of Lawrence of Arabia hosted at the Philharmonic Hall (Sun 27 July, 6.30pm) accompanied by an introduction to the film to celebrate the centenary of David Lean’s birth, the director of this seminal award winning piece of cinema.

Be sure not to miss a special a four day Middle Eastern Dance Bonanza (Thurs 17 – Sun 20 July, the Bluecoat) which showcases traditional Arabian dances (Sahlala) and more contemporary interpretations (Shifting Sands). Headlined by the extraordinary Egyptian dancer, Djamila Hanan, performing for the first time in the UK, this promises to be a much sought after event.

A host of additional performances, conferences and workshops will make up a vibrant, sensuous and informative two week experience.