News story

London festival of contemporary Arab culture

London is set to host the city's first ever celebration of contemporary culture from across the Arab world.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A Glimpse at Arab Contemporary Choreography at Sadler’s Wells on 22 and 23 July.

The festival has been in the planning stages since Autumn 2010 but will have a special resonance in light of the extraordinary changes that have swept the region in past month. For the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the festival is an opportunity to celebrate Arab youth empowerment and freedom of expression through the arts.

Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture, will encompass over seventy events in more than thirty key cultural venues throughout the city for three weeks from 4 - 24 July 2011, organised by the Mayor of London and sponsored by HSBC.

Shubbak (the arabic word for ‘window’) will feature a wide-ranging programme of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture, lectures and discussion, many of them free, hosted by leading London cultural organisations.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘London is a global city in which Arab culture has played a significant part over the centuries -the word ‘Trafalgar’ even originates from the Arabic language. This festival is a unique chance for Londoners to glimpse the breadth and excellence of contemporary Arab culture and its influence on London’s cultural scene today.’

Presenting organisations include: Arab British Centre, Arab New Trends, Arts Canteen, Barbican Centre, The British Museum, Brunel Institute of Contemporary Middle-Eastern Music, Cadogan Hall, Cafe Oto, Dash Arts, Delfina Foundation, English Chamber Orchestra, Foyles Bookshop, Freeword, Gate Cinema, ICA, The Idler, iniva, Land in Focus, Leighton House Museum, LIFT, London Review of Books, London Walks, MICA Gallery, The Mosaic Rooms, Museum of London, Musicstage Promotions, Nous, Poet in the City, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, Resonance FM, Rich Mix, Royal Institute of British Architects, Sadler’s Wells, Saqi Books, Scoop at MORE London, Selma Feriani Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, Six Pillars, SOAS, Sotheby’s, Southbank Centre, Tate Modern, V&A, Young Vic, Westfield Shopping Centre, Zenith Foundation.

Work by contemporary Arab artists, writers, film-makers, musicians, choreographers and architects based in London and from countries around the world will be presented including from Algeria, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA.

Munira Mirza, Advisor for Arts and Culture to the Mayor of London, said today: ‘We are absolutely delighted at the response we’ve received from cultural organisations all over London and across the Arab world to our invitation to take part. There is a real sense of excitement and collaboration amongst artists and I believe the festival will demonstrate the power of culture to bring people together.’

Highlights of the programme include:

Visual Arts

4-8 July: Majed Shala: Breathing the Air, Arab British Centre

4 July - 18 September: From Facebook to Nassbook: A showcase of contemporary Egyptian art, culture and thought, MICA Gallery

4-24 July : Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winner 2010 Hala Elkoussy: Myths and Legends Room: The Mural, City Hall.

4 July-24 August : Shopopolis: creative interventions by Emirati and British artists, Westfield London.

5 - 14 July: Degree Show, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

7 July: Global launch of Footnote to a Project* the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize book project, followed by a panel discussion focusing on opportunities for artists in the Arab World, Mosaic Rooms.

8 - 10 July: Interference. A three-day exploration of art, agency and agitation in the Arab world and beyond. Presented by the ICA in partnership with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha.

9 - 21 July: Al Bab: A Gateway to Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s.

12 - 30 July: Public Domain: Public and Civic Spaces in the Arab World. Curated by Nous, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

12 July - 11 September: The Bidoun Library in Residence. Serpentine Gallery, part of the Edgware Road Project.

13, 14, 22 July: Free Gallery talks by Ladan Akbarnia, Curator of Islamic Collection,

Venetia Porter, Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle East Department:

Alexandra Porter on Pre-Islamic Yemen, The British Museum.

Until 23 July: Wael Shawky: Larvae Channel exhibition, Delfina Foundation.

Until 23 July: The Knowledge: Stop 3 - Alexandria (Egypt), Delfina Foundation.

To 22 July: Rania Matar: A Girl and her Room, Mosaic Rooms.

To 23 July: KHATT, An exhibition by Moroccan calligrapher, Noureddine Daifallah, Selma Feriani Gallery.

21 July onwards: The Jameel Prize 2011, The Jameel Galleries, V&A.


4 July: A Musical 360 Degree Revolution into the Arab World: Zeid Hamdan, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Myriam Saleh, Scoop, MORE London.

6 July: The Dash Cafe Arabic Series: a night of live music and film, Rich Mix

6 July: Inauguration, opening of the new Brunel Institute for Contemporary Middle-Eastern Music, Brunel University

12 July: Lyrical Easternisms, lyrical rap, Ginglik

15 July: Easternisms, acoustic and electronic sonic arts from the Middle East, Cafe Oto

21 July: Hassan Hajjaj and Leighton House Museum present.. Amina Annabi, Leighton House Museum

22 July: El Tanbura: A Night on Tahrir Square, Barbican Centre

22 July: Bidoun Library Park Night, Serpentine

22 July: Concert for the Children of Egypt by the English Chamber Orchestra with Egyptian pianist, Amira Fouad, Cadogan Hall


22, 23 July: A Glimpse at Arab Contemporary Choreography. Two performances by leading Arab dancers, programmed by Arab New Trends, Sadler’s Wells Theatre

23 July: Preconceptions and Identity in the Arab World: A Debate and Q&As Between Arab Choreographers, Sadler’s Wells


11 - 23 July: In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka. Presented by the ShiberHur Theatre Company of Palestine, Young Vic Theatre

13, 14, 15 July: Jarideh, A Secret Encounter by Tania El Khoury presented by the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) in collaboration with Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival, ICA

15 July: Culture Now, a discussion on new trends in Arab performance. LIFT at ICA

14, 15 July: On the importance of Being an Arab presented by LIFT and Orient Productions in collaboration with the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival

15 July Gulf Stage: UK premiere of digital theatre project, You….Me…The Human… from the National Theatre, Qatar, a partnership with the British Council, Digital Theatre, the Ministry of Culture, Arts & Heritage Qatar and the Qatar Foundation.


12 July - 30 September Exhibition: Public Domain: Public and Civic Spaces in the Arab World RIBA

12 July Public Domain: Public and Civic Spaces in the Arab World: Discussion moderated by Edwin Heathcote, Architecture & Design Critic, Financial Times presented by Nous at RIBA

19 July: Forward Thinking: Discussions on the Future of Architecture in the Arab World. Presented by Nous at RIBA

23 July: The Artist’s Place in Kensington, Leighton House Tour. London Walks

Literature, Poetry, Debate and Discussion

4, 14 & 18 July: Contemporary Arab Culture. Three evening talks with leading writers and thinkers, programmed by the London Review of Books, The British Museum.

5 July: Hisham Matar, reading from latest novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, Southbank Centre

6 July: London’s Historic Connections to the Arab World. Lecture by Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London. Weston Theatre, Museum of London

6 July: Inauguration. Conference by the new Brunel Institute of Contemporary Middle-Eastern Music, Brunel University

6, 12, 13 & 20 July: Contemporary Arab Poetry. Four evening events by Poet in the City, the Chamber, City Hall

9 July: Moroccan author Mohammed Achaari & Saudi Arabian author Raja Alem, winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction read together for the first time. Southbank Centre

12, 13, 14 July Talks at Freeword. Al Sha’ab Yurid (The People Demand) Yasmine El Rashidi on Revolution in Egypt (12 July); Brian Whitaker with Nesrine Malik on Sex and Power: Seeds of Change in the Arab World (13 July), and Lebanese novelist and journalist Hassan Daoud in Conversation (14 July).

13 July: The Arabs: A History, a talk by Eugene Rogan, Foyles Bookshop in partnership with Arab British Centre

14 July: Being Young in the Arab World. Launch of a new, year-long project. Mosaic Rooms

16 & 23 July: The Bidoun Library Saturday Seminars, Serpentine Gallery

16 July: A Day of Contemporary Arab Culture, Land in Focus at Rich Mix

20 July: Little Atoms: Comedy in the Middle East. Radio broadcast on Resonance 104.4fm

21 July: The Arab Spring: A Literary Perspective. Three Arab writers in conversation with journalist Brian Whitaker, SOAS

23 July: Celebrating the Jameel Prize 2011: Jameel Prize 2009 artist, Hassan Hajjaj in discussion and Performance storyteller Xanthe Graham, the V&A


5, 14 July: Take 1/Take 2: Yesterday and Today in the Middle East. Two evenings of film and debate. Iniva

8 July: Zenith Foundation presents an evening of shorts from across the Arab region. The Idler

11 July: El Problema: Testimony of the Saharawi People. Screening, Freeword

15, 16 July Egyptian Cinema - Youssef Chahine: Screenings and discussions, Freeword

18 July: Rania Stephan: The Three Disappearances of Suad Hosni. Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project, The Gate Cinema

19 - 23 July: A Short Season of New Arab Films Mosaic Rooms in partnership with the Dubai International Film Festival

21, 22 July: Ahmed Bouanani. Two nights of screenings by the Moroccan filmmaker. Tate Modern

Full details of the Festival are available at:

Published 27 May 2011