The annual cultural festival returns 9-18 July

2019 highlights reel

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. 

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.

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 arabartsfestival.com. 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.