Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2014 set to be most successful year to date

This year’s Liverpool Arab Arts Festival opened at the Bluecoat on Sat 7 June and is set to become the most successful year to date with 3 days of events still to go, running until Sun 15 June. It has seen incredible international interest with its partnership with Radio Beirut, and has included events from some of the finest Arabic artists the world has to offer.


Now in its 13th year, LAAF is the only festival of its kind in the UK and continues to grow in popularity year after year, a true reflection on the quality of programming and dedication from organisers who pride themselves on bringing the city together to celebrate the huge wealth of Arabic culture.

Families flocked to the Bluecoat on Sat 7 June for the opening of the festival in the ever popular Big Saturday event. Featuring a wonderful array of food entertainment and music including DJ Funky Pharaoh, Amira Kheir, Maya Youssefand The Al Awadhel Band it was a spectacular way to kick off this year’s festivities.

In her UK concert debut, female Arabian Flamenco jazz singer Farah Siraj truly captivated the audience with her performance on Sun 8 June in what was her only UK show this year. A world renowned artist, Farah and her accompanying band, which included world class Arabian violinist Faical Kourrich, filled the Concert Room of St Georges Hall with the amazing mix of Middle Eastern music, flamenco, jazz,bossa and pop, in a truly enchanting performance from start to finish.

Farah Siraj said:

“Thank you Liverpool for all the love it was unforgettable and thank you to Liverpool Arab Arts Festival I am eternally grateful.”

All of the events to date have had a fantastic response from audiences and have proved incredibly popular with many selling out the venues. UK dance company Funoon Al Arabiya attracted a huge reception and their performance ofFunoon Wa Alwane on Tue 10 June sold out at the Unity Theatre. Audiences loved this joyful and colourful dance show which demonstrated Middle Eastern dance at its finest. The controversial and action packed film Omar also attracted huge numbers with not an empty seat in the house at Fact on Wed 11 June.

Swivel Theatre Company were delighted to present their series of gripping new plays centring on Arab women in revolution in Waiting for Summer at the Unity theatre on Wed 11 and Thu 12 demonstrating the power and voice for the female perspective, which truly engrossed the audience throughout the incredible performance.

The variety of exciting and thought provoking talks have all been positively received, attracting a wealth of attendees throughout the festival. Anahid Kassabian engaged the audience with her discussion about the place of arts in migrant and displaced communities and the importance of bringing a festival like LAAF to the city in her debate during Freedom Hour which has taken place each day – giving writers, artists and organisers of the festival a platform to interact with the audience; offering debates on current affairs, culture, freedom and change in the Arab world. Other speakers have included Rachel Gadsden and some of the artists involved in the exhibition Al Noor Fragile and Dina Mousawi. Freedom Hour runs each evening until Fri 13 June at 5pm at the Bluecoat.

There is still a huge selection of events to enjoy over the next 3 days including theatre, film, talks and family activities.

Two major exhibitions have been running throughout the duration of the festival. The first, commissioned by LAAF and devised especially for the Bluecoat of artwork curated by Kalimat magazine editor Danah Abdullah. Choose Your Own Adventure plays with the format found in old board games and children’s books and has been extended until Thu 29 June. The second, Al Noor- Fragile Vision has been created for LAAF in collaboration with DaDaFest, British Council and Arts Council England. Rachel Gadsden’s methodology of creative engagement and delivery articulates the notion that, whilst acknowledging political and religious differences, arts and culture can serve to promote a common ground for discourse and development.

Fri 13 June When I Saw You is screened at the Bluecoat and tells the story of Talek as he seeks a way out of a refugee camp.

Then on Sat 14 Jun there will be a fantastic drumming workshop opportunity led by the distinguished darbuka playerSimona Abdallah and then a screening of the Oscar nominated film Wadjda. There will also be a lively event to launchSyria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline, a unique anthology of literature, art and culture of self-publishing Syrian writers and artists. Rounding off Saturday’s array of events, after their sell-out show last year, Diwan are back with a new show Sarmada based on Fadi Azzam’s novel which was long-listed for the Arabic Booker Prize in 2011. All of these events will be at the Bluecoat.

The festival reaches its exciting climax on Sun 15th June with the fantastic Family Day at Sefton Park Palm House. Fun for the whole family, this event includes a huge variety of stalls with an appealing selection of food and goodies to purchase as well as an attractive array of music and performance throughout the day, including Simona Abdallah, Attab Haddad,The Al Awadhel Band with dancers and Nawarra.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival Chair, Taher Qassim MBE said:

“This year I have witnessed the overwhelming engagement and participation of the staff, board members, partners, artists, guests, and the audience. The quality of events this year has been extraordinary with many selling out, I have never received so much positive feedback from people describing their feelings and experience of the festival.”

“The intellectual literary presentations and debate were outstanding. Alnoor Fragile Vision was emotionally loaded and the female artists involved were dynamic, provocative and articulate. Sharing their success stories and how disabled people can bring hope to the wider society through their participation in art.”

Artists from this year’s Liverpool Arab Arts Festival will also pay a special visit to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital on Fri 13 June. The Rojeeh Band and Simona Abdallah are both confirmed to present special performances and offer interactive workshops which will offer a positive, fun and interactive environment for the children and their families at Alder Hey, bringing all the excitement of the festival to them.

There has been a massive presence and excitement throughout the whole city on the build up to and throughout the festival attracting a vast amount of local, national and international attention and all of the artists and events have been incredibly well received in what is set to be the most successful to date.

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