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Liverpool Arab Arts Festival announces full line-up for 2022 edition

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) has revealed its full programme of events for the 2022 edition, curated around the theme ‘A Point of Connection’ – Nuqtat Wasl in Arabic, and marking 20 years since the first festival was held in the city.

Earlier this year, festival fans welcomed the news that the one-and-only Family Day will return to Sefton Park Palm House after a two-year hiatus brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Taking place on Sunday 17 July the spectacular free finale will feature music, traditional food and family fun.

Live music performances on the day include festival favourites TootArd, with the trailblazing duo from the Golan heights returning to Liverpool with a new album and a new sound – an 80s Arabic style blend with modern synth.

They’ll be joined at the Palm House by first-time festival performer Aar Maanta, who brings an eclectic mix of styles to the stage, with rock and reggae rubbing shoulders with traditional Arabic and Somali music. Described by young Somalis as “the voice of our generation” the pop star will bring his full band to the Palm House stage. The internationally renowned pop star’s latest album, Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh, which means “Children Have Priority’ was recorded with young Somali children in Minneapolis.

The musical line-up also includes Gazelleband – Palestinian oud player Reem Anbar with writer musician Louis Brehony who bring the modern traditions of the middle east to the wider world. Plus long-time Family Day friends Yemeni band Al Awadhel Band will return.

The Family Day crowd will also get the chance to experience Hawiyya Dance Company and El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe’s unique blend of Dabke and contemporary dance, while poet Ali Al-Jamri will bring a unique display of local children’s poetry and provide young visitors with the chance to add their own work.

Elias Matar will be performing interactive storytelling sessions for Family Day. Join Elias as he takes us on a journey across borders, walls, and time. Great for all ages – a chance to discover the secrets, magic, and joy of live storytelling.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is also delighted to finally welcome N3rdistan in person to the city, with a live performance at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Music Room on Thursday 7 July, as the festival launches.

In 2020, when the pandemic led organisers to programme a digital festival, N3rdistan wowed audiences with their performance from a hilltop in Andorra. The very essence of modern Arabic music, N3rdistan combine mystical tunes, compelling rhymes and a relentless flow by the charismatic Walead Ben Selim.

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Music Room will also host another ever-popular inclusion on the festival programme, on Friday 15th July. The London Syrian Ensemble, led by composer and Ney soloist Louai Alhenawi, is a stunning collective of eight musicians and graduates from Syria’s renowned Damascus Conservatoire. This show reveals their new project, Sounds of Syria, a dynamic and emotional work, which brings to the stage new instrumental arrangements by composers from Syria and its diaspora.

Original poems written by diasporic Yemeni communities in the UK, and presented in both English and Arabic, will be exhibited across venues in Liverpool during the festival for Yemen in Conflict, an ongoing collaboration between Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the University of Liverpool and the University of Leeds which asks how storytelling might heighten and enhance both political and public awareness of the situation in Yemen. The material created so far includes the creation of a new archive of transcribed and translated Yemeni oral poems and stories that addressed themes of conflict and resolution.

Other highlights of the 2022 programme already announced include Curfew, a contemporary dance production presented by Hawiyya Dance Company and El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe at Unity Theatre. Supported by British Council and Arts Council England.

An exhibition by the Arab Image Foundation brings rare photographs depicting 100 years of Arab history and culture, which are never previously seen in Europe. Artists from Beirut Printmaking Studio have created new etchings in response to the photographs. The exhibition will be held at Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Lab at the School of Art and Design alongside a new video commission by emerging British-Algerian artist Hannaa Hamdache.
A day of workshops and talks will be held at the Exhibition Research Lab on Friday 8 July. This includes a poetry workshop by Hannaa Hamdache, a printmaking workshop by artist Tarek Mourad, and a talk featuring members of the Arab Image Foundation and Beirut Printmaking Studio.

The festival offers a range of other opportunities for people to get involved through artist-led sessions, including a free family-friendly workshop at World Museum Liverpool make your own maps with artist Jessica El Mal.

Mezzo Soprano Camille Maalawy will lead a choir performance workshop in the heart of Toxteth, the centre of Liverpool’s Arabic community at Merseyside Yemeni Community Association.

The 2022 edition sees LAAF creating ‘points of connection’ outside of the city centre, and in the community. A Journey to Yemen at Merseyside Yemeni Community Association will launch Yemen in Conflict, a new publication of poetry from diasporic Yemeni communities in the UK, written in both English and Arabic. It will also feature screenings, talks and food.

Elsewhere in the programme Connecting with Yemeni Elders’ Heritage is an exciting intergenerational project that is being delivered by National Museums Liverpool alongside partners from the Yemeni community in Liverpool, and there will be opportunities to take part in this project during the festival.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and SAFAR Film Festival have curated a series of screenings at VideOdyssey in Toxteth, including a tour of contemporary Arab cinema through a diverse selection of short films which explore the 2022 SAFAR festival theme, ‘The Stories We Tell’, and a screening of Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s The Grave Digger’s Wife, which centres on a family facing impossible loss, and the lengths one man will go for his beloved.

The film programme is just one section of the festival using a Pay What You Can scheme for the first time, in an effort to remove any barriers for people to attend events this year.

Saturday 8 July will bring a double header of literature and spoken word events, kicking off with Comma Press’s Egypt +100 preview event bringing together featured Egyptian writers Mansoura Ez-Eldin and Ahmed El-Fakharany with their English translators Paul Starkey and Robin Moger.
Later that afternoon Liverpool Everyman Bistro will play host to a special Liverpool Arab Arts Festival version of ‘A Lovely Word’, the city’s most eclectic open-mic spoken word night.
An online programme will continue to enable audiences to explore what Liverpool Arab Arts Festival has to offer through podcasts, micro-commissions, talks and workshops. This includes a digital workshop with Jessica El Mal and Elodie Sacher of A.MAL who will guide you through approaches to working with family archives.

Festival Chair Afrah Qassim says,
“It gives me so much pleasure to reveal our full, rich and exciting programme, which has been carefully created to ensure there is something for everyone, and to remove as many barriers to joining in as possible.”

“Our theme this year is all about how we create a bridge, connecting language and culture. It is about how we discover what we have in common and how we communicate, and for ten days in July, we invite you to explore these points of connection with artists from around the globe.”

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