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Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

The longest-running Arab arts and culture festival in the UK, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF), is back for its 22nd year this July. Based on the belief that art and creativity can convey a common humanity, LAAF was founded to encourage and support artists from all over the Arab world and its diaspora.

The festival will celebrate Liverpool’s unique identity; a city, with a global community and brimming with artistry, that looks outwards across the world. Highlighting the importance of this shared humanity, Port Cities, a brand-new visual arts project in partnership with British Council – MENA, will premiere newly commissioned artwork by four internationally renowned Arab artists exploring the social, historical and cultural links between Liverpool and the Arab region.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

The first staged performance of Chambers of the Heart will explore the stories of three women as they confront love, desire and memory in stories spanning from East to West. Arabs Are Not Funny, widely acknowledged as one of the hottest comedy nights among the Arab community and beyond, will return to the festival for another hilarious night of laughter. 

Closing out the festival’s musical offerings, The Ayoub Sisters – an award-winning instrumental duo – will return also, presenting an evening of live music including songs from their acclaimed album, Arabesque, at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room.

In difficult times, art and culture serve as beacons of hope and resilience. These powerful forces of creativity provide a platform for voices to be heard, stories to be told, and for other perspectives to be understood. Creativity is a shared language that transcends borders and barriers.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

Port Cities
In partnership with British Council – MENA, the festival will proudly launch their international visual arts project Port Cities. The exhibition will feature newly commissioned work by visual artists Mohamed AbdelkarimLaila HidaNadia Kaabi-Linke and Siska.

Situated at the space where land meets sea, global port cities hold unique characteristics. Their social, economic, political and cultural heritage is deeply connected to their roles as key centres for trade and migration. Each artist visited Liverpool on a research residency in February 2024, to inform the development of their new artworks and to critically explore the past and future of port cities in both the Liverpool and Arab region.

From reflecting on Liverpool’s slave trade legacies to the ecological impact of human activities, this exhibition presents new artistic perspectives on how ports have, and continue to shape the character of cities – and how people connect across seas.

After premiering in Liverpool, the Port Cities exhibition will tour internationally to Tripoli, Lebanon; Alexandria, Egypt; Rabat, Morocco; and Tunis, Tunisia.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

Port Cities Symposium
Join the Port Cities artists and special guests on Monday 15th July at Bluecoat for a day-long event of performances, talks and screenings led by the featured artists.

The festival will introduce ‘Slow Listening’ – an online audio project that will act as an invitation to stop and tune in to the sounds of the cities around us.

The identity and culture of a Port City creates a distinctive sound. In Liverpool, the distant ships’ horns, seagulls and the sounds of the River Mersey creates a backdrop to daily life in the city. Each port city has its own unique sound; which helps to provide an insight into its character.

Listen to the sounds of Liverpool, Alexandria, Tripoli, Casablanca and Tunis from wherever you are. Whether you are listening in Liverpool, or any of the other participating cities, on the East Coast of America or the West Coast of Africa, tune into the sounds of Port Cities to hear how it shapes Liverpool’s culture and identity.

Music
Returning to the festival following last year’s performance at the Sefton Park Palm House, The Ayoub Sisters will bring their vivacity, creativity and unique music style to a performance at Liverpool Philharmonic’s Music Room. Award-winning and internationally renowned, the Scottish Egyptian instrumentalists and composers will present their acclaimed album Arabesque – a celebration of, and tribute to the music of the Arab World.

The pair – whose album shot to number one in the Official Classical Chart – have performed across the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia, with highlights including appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, London Palladium, The Cairo Opera House and the Dubai Opera.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

Family
Taking place on the final day of the festival, The Family Day is a celebratory showcase. A moment of togetherness and community, Sefton Park’s Palm House will play host to a free afternoon of music, performance, authentic Arab culture, food and drink.

Theatre and performance
This year, the Unity Theatre will provide the backdrop for a number of stunning theatrical performances.

Debuting as a staged performance, Chambers of the Heart, written by Hassan Abdulrazzak, directed by Sepy Baghaei and performed by Laila Alj, shares the stories of three women confronting love, desire and memory, spanning from East to West.

And after a sell-out performance in 2023, Arabs Are Not Funny will perform for a stellar night of comedy. This special edition of the performance is performed in Liverpool by Arab comedians Prince AbdiFatiha El-GhouriJanine Harouini and Maria Shehata. Expect strong laughs and language from this stellar comedic line-up – in association with Arts Canteen.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival returns this July

Literature, workshops and film
London-born Edinburgh-based Scottish-Algerian poet, Janette Ayachi, will read from her outstanding second collection Quick Fire, Slow Burning, published in May 2024 in partnership with the University of Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing.

Liverpool Central Library will host two workshops on Saturday, 13th July. Hadi Badi Books return with a storytelling workshop with arts and crafts activity for children aged 4 – 8. Plus, award-winning comedian Maria Shehata will deliver a comedy workshop for those keen to try their hand at stand-up. Attendees will learn how to develop a funny story, generate ideas, and make it their own.

The festival will host a special fundraising screening of At Home in Gaza and London at Bluecoat on Monday 15th July. In 2016, a group of artistic collaborators in Gaza and London began a series of digital workshops as an alternative means to defy the blockade. The performance premiered at LAAF in 2018, digitally linking Gaza, Liverpool and London. This special screening of the performance in Liverpool will include messages from Gazan contributors, with all proceeds going to the project collaborators in Gaza trying to survive unimaginable circumstances.

On Sunday, 14th July, we join forces with At The Library for a special summer evening of Arab film at the Plaza Community Cinema in Waterloo, with films chosen by founder of The Arab Film ClubSarah Agha, and women from The Colour of Pomegranates group.

Afrah Qassim, LAAF Chair, said:

“Welcome to Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2024. I want to begin by acknowledging and recognising the devastating situation across our Arab world due to war and violence. This year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of the countless lives lost to relentless conflict, which includes many artists, creatives and communities. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to endure pain and loss.

As the longest running annual festival of Arab arts and culture, LAAF is one of the few prominent platforms in the UK for Arab artists to present their artistic works to mainstream audiences. Our mission is to keep Arab arts, heritage and culture alive, creating, supporting and championing creatives from across the Arab region and its diaspora.

We believe that art and creativity has the power to express our shared humanity, and that artists play a vital role in documenting their lived experiences. This year’s festival features work by Palestinian, Yemeni and Sudanese artists, amongst many others, that expresses creativity, hope and resilience. Art can give a voice to the unheard, tell untold stories and offer new perspectives. Creativity is a universal language that transcends all borders and barriers.

I extend heartfelt thanks to our artists for sharing their art and experiences, to our volunteers for their unwavering dedication, and to our funders, partners, and supporters, who are essential to our success. Your support is more crucial now than ever. I also wish to thank our dedicated staff and my fellow board members for their leadership and commitment.”

2024 FESTIVAL LINE UP

With more festival events to be announced soon…

Port Cities exhibition
Friday 12th July – Saturday 20th July / 12pm – 4pm
Exhibition launch event: Friday 12th July / 1-4pm
Space Liverpool, 41 Stanhope Street, Liverpool, L8 5RE
FREE / NO TICKETS REQUIRED

Yalla Neحky – Hadi Badi Books workshop for children 4-8 years old
Saturday 13th July / 12pm – 1:30pm
Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EW
FREE / BOOKING REQUIRED

Comedy Workshop with Maria Shehata
Saturday 13th July / 1-2:30pm
Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EW
£6 / TICKETS

Arabs Are Not Funny
Saturday 13th July / 7:30pm
Unity Theatre, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, L1 9BG
£15.00 / TICKETS

Arab Film Night: At The Library X LAAF
Sunday 14th July / 4 – 7pm
Plaza Community Cinema, 13 Crosby Road North, Waterloo, Liverpool, L22 0LD
£5 / TICKETS (Free for L20, L21, L22 postcodes)

Port Cities Symposium
Monday 15th July / 10am – 4pm
Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX
£10.00 / PAY WHAT YOU CAN  / TICKETS

Fundraising Screening: At Home in Gaza and London
Monday 15th July / 6-8pm
Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX
£10 / TICKETS

Janette Ayachi: Exploring Heritage Through Poetry
Wednesday 17th July / 6pm – 7pm
Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX
£8/£6 / TICKETS

Chambers of the Heart: Hassan Abdulrazzak, Laila Alj & Sepy Baghaei
Friday 19th July and Saturday 20th July / 7:30pm
Unity Theatre, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, L1 9BG
£15.00 / TICKETS

The Ayoub Sisters
Saturday 20th July / 8pm
Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic, Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BP
£15.00 / TICKETS

Family Day
Sunday 21st July / 12pm – 5pm
Sefton Park Palm House, Sefton Park, Liverpool, L17 1AP
FREE / NO TICKETS REQUIRED

READ MORE: ANDREA BOCELLI TO PERFORM AT CUNARD QUEEN ANNE NAMING CEREMONY IN LIVERPOOL

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