Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF), the UK’s biggest annual celebration of Arab arts and culture, returns to venues across the city from 8 to 16 July 2017.
Organisers have now announced the first wave of nationally and internationally celebrated artists and performers coming together for what organisers describe as the festival’s “most vital edition to date”.
The diverse programme embraces both brand new work and the return of festival favourites, including an ambitious installation by an American-Iraqi artist, a performance in Sefton Park’s iconic Palm House by a Sudanese singer-songwriter,an “armed resistance fighter turned artist”, a one-woman show about Somalia and the violence of empire, and the recreation of a Tunisian streetscape in Liverpool.
Each summer, LAAF attracts both local audiences and audiences from around the world, who flock to see the richness of Arab culture through a packed 10 day programme of visual art, music, dance, film, theatre, literature and special family-friendly events.
And this year, organisers are keen to encourage audiences to support LAAF and other arts festivals and cultural organisations that “support freedom of creative expression and to give a voice to people and their frustrations.”
Taher Qassim, Chair of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival said “We are living in an era of dramatic change, flux and contradiction. In some respects we live in a more open, connected and accepting world than ever before, while at home and across the globe people live in fear, and endure conflict and oppression.”
“We believe in the transformational power of artistic expression, and invite all types of people, from all walks of life to experience the work of artists from the Arab diaspora, who push us to think radically and deal with a sometimes uncomfortable reality, who see the world as it is, and imagine how it could be.”
This year, LAAF takes on the theme “The space between us”, which responds to Liverpool’s city-wide 67-17: 50 Summers of Love season, a series of events and performances inspired by the golden anniversary of the Summer of Love and the release of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The theme was inspired by the opening line of ‘Within You Without You’, a track released on the Sgt Peppers album, reportedly inspired by George Harrison’s interest in the metaphysical space that prevents us from recognising the natural forces uniting the world. The programme explores those constructs, boundaries and ‘spaces’ between us.
Assistant Mayor and cabinet member for culture, tourism and events, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “I’m delighted LAAF is embracing our 50 Summers of Love theme and it’s a welcome addition to the festival.
“LAAF’s 2017 programme sounds stronger than ever with an incredible mix of artists, and I look forward to seeing their response to the city-wide theme which is set to be both fascinating and thought-provoking.”
LAAF will be punctuated by fun-filled, free events for all the family. Starting at aspecial event on Tiber Square on Lodge Lane, LAAF will host a joyful public celebration of Eid, thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, with a colourful programme of cultural entertainment, cuisine, crafts and art, taking place throughout the day.
LAAF will also take over the World Museum for a Saturday extravaganza, where people of all ages can discover the creativity, captivating stories, and fascinating traditions of the Arab diaspora, with live performances presented in response to World Museum’s renowned ancient Egyptian collection.
And the grand festival finale sees the return of LAAF’s most popular annual event. LAAF Family Day in Sefton Park Palm House. Regularly attended by thousands of people of all ages and culture, Family Day brings an Arab extravaganza to the famous city park, with a programme of international music and dance acts, an Arabian souk, delicious cultural cuisine, and family friendly activities.
And first to be announced on the bill for LAAF Family Day is Alsarah and the Nubatones, led by Alsarah, the Sudanese born singer songwriter, described by the Guardian as “the new star of Nubian pop”.
Alsarah’s “East African retro pop” is inspired by Nubian “songs of return”, and her and the band’s shared experiences of migration. Alsarah was born in Sudan, before relocating to Yemen to escape the ever-stifling regime in her native country before civil war broke out in Yemen. She abrubtly moved to the US in 1994 and now resides in Brooklyn, New York.
World-renowned Palestinian singer, musicologist and broadcaster Reem Kelani returns to Liverpool for an intimate concert in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall’s Music Room. Recognised as one of the world’s foremost researchers and performers of Palestinian music, Kelani will captivate with the exhilarating power of her live show, interwoven with her inimitable, humorous, and poignant storytelling between songs.
LAAF will present an ambitious restaging of acclaimed visual artist Wafaa Bilal 168:01, in partnership with FACT(Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and Open Data Institute, and as part of the forthcoming exhibition at FACT, The New Observatory, (22 June 2017 – 1 October 2017). The exhibition brings together an international group of artists whose work explores new and alternative modes of measuring, predicting, and sensing the world today through data and other observational methods.
168:01, is an installation comprised of white shelves filled with blank books, a “library” that doubles as a system of exchange, inviting audiences to replace some of the 70,000 texts that were destroyed by looters at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad in 2003.
Chatha dance company’s Sacre Printemps!, a dance piece and installation presented by LAAF in association with London’s Shubbak festival, is inspired by the hopes and pressures of building a new civil society. “Sacre” will bring a visceral live streetscape of today’s Tunisia to Open Eye Gallery’s Winter Garden Space, as dancers jostle, fight and compete among over 30 cut-out sculptures.
Unity Theatre will stage two theatre productions in partnership with Liverpool Arab Arts Festival. Crows Plucked Your Sinews, a Dervish production, written and directed by Hassan Mahamdallie is a critically acclaimed one-woman show, with live music. Based on real events and featuring the epic lyrical tradition of Somalia, it is a unique exploration of the violence of empire and the poetry of resistance. The performance will be followed by a discussion event with Hassan Mahamdallie and members of the company.
And here I am, by award winning writer Hassan Abdulrazzak (Love, Bombs and Apples) is a bitter sweet, dark political comedy based on performer Ahmed Tobasi’s true story. A Developing Artists Production presented in association with Shubbak Festival, the show chronicles Ahmed’s transformation from armed resistance fighter to artist, and his journey as a refugee in the West Bank to Norway and then back again.
LAAF returns to PictureHouse at FACT in partnership with Arab British Centre, who will present films selected from their 2016 Safar film festival programme, which was curated by Rasha Salti.
As I Open my Eyes Leyla Bouzid’s brilliant directorial debut, is the story of a young woman at a crossroads, she has to decide whether she wants to pursue her passion for music or fulfil her mother’s wish and enrol in medical school, and explores the rarely probed universe ofTunisian youth on the eve of the revolution.
This Little Father Obsession, a bold and compelling hybrid film by Selim Mourad and a disarmingly honest interrogation of the hold of patriarchy in Lebanese society.The film begins with Selim Mourad staging a portrait of his own nuclear family, in which he claims a place on his own terms while he contends with the fact that he will never father a family due to his sexuality. Being a Gay man in Lebanon makes starting a family impossible, This Little Father Obsession brings into sharp focus, this reality.
Bluecoat will play host to a series of Literature events, developed in association with Comma Press, a Manchester publishing house, with an aim to identify and commissioning writers working across the Arab world. Dates and titles will be announced soon.