Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the UK’s longest running annual festival celebrating Arab art and culture, brings leading Arab artists to the city between Thursday 6 – Sunday 16 July 2023.
Founded in 1998, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) began with a vision to keep Arab arts, culture and heritage alive. For 25 years, it has brought diverse groups of people together in Liverpool, increasing public knowledge and understanding of the richness of Arab culture, growing into a platform for Arab artists locally, nationally and internationally.
During this time, LAAF has platformed thousands of Arab artists from across the world, brought international media coverage to the city, and demonstrated how an Arab-led cultural organisation can bring different cultures together in joyous celebrations.
This year’s festival theme explores storytelling and storytellers - through song, theatre, dance, performance, literature and visual art - by platforming new artists and welcoming back several to celebrate our 25-year journey.
Music has always been a huge part of the festival, and we are delighted to welcome two fantastic artists. On Friday 7 July the festival launches with a gig by Somali-British singer-songwriter, Aar Maanta, who brings his eclectic music blend and celebration of Somali culture to Liverpool Philharmonic’s Music Room. As a singer and songwriter, Aar Maanta has embraced a mix of styles including influences from rock and reggae jostling with traditional Arabic and Somali music. Aar will be supported by British-Egyptian rising star, singer Nxdia.
Award-winning Syrian composer and musician, Maya Youssef brings her globally acclaimed album, Finding Home, to the Music Room on Friday 14 July. Exploring the loss and grief in leaving Syria, the album depicts the discovery of a place that gives a state of calm and how we can find a sense of home, even when we are far from the place of our birth This promises to be a stunning and intimate performance with an ensemble of string musicians.
Leading Arab comedy night Arabs Are Not Funny, which is widely regarded as one of the hottest comedy nights among the Arab community and beyond, comes to Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio. Produced by Arts Canteen, the event brings leading Arab comedians Esther Manito, Fatiha El Ghorri, Farah Sharp and Talal Karkouti for a hilarious night of laughter and comedy at 7:30pm Saturday 8 July.
We are delighted to be back at Unity Theatre for a three-night run of theatre, dance and storytelling:
Passports, Mo Salah, Jinn and Other Complicated Things is a new experimental performance work by Palestinian writers Ahmed Masoud and Farah Chamma. Presented both live and digitally, the artists will explore Palestinian identity beyond borders at Unity Theatre. 7:30pm, Tuesday 11 July.
Self-Entitlement is an autobiographical solo performance by Egyptian dancer Mahmoud El Haddad. Fusing Egyptian cabaret, dance and monologue, Self-Entitlement presents the narrative of an immigrant artist attempting to transition from a society that he never felt integrated in, to another that expects him to conform to pre-judgements based on his status. 7:30pm, Wednesday 12 July.
what the dog said to the harvest is a ground-breaking call for climate justice drawing on opera, dance, spoken word, immersive sound and film. By lisa luxx and Jasmin Kent Rodgman. Presented in association with Shubbak Festival. 8pm, Wednesday 12 July.
Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah’s newly commissioned film And still, it remains launches with a special screening at 6pm, Thursday 6 July at VideOdyssey, Toxteth TV. Arwa and artist Leila Gamaz for this special evening of artist film screenings and discussion on key themes such as climate justice, moderated by poet, Amina Atiq.
Family and participation workshops
The award-winning Other Cinemas team led a practical workshop for filmmakers and organisers on how to use film to create community in your neighbourhood. for Please note that this workshop is for Black and non-white participants and filmmakers. 1pm, Thursday 6 July.
Join us for a hands-on day of free workshops, laughs, beats and Arab arts and culture at World Museum Liverpool on Saturday 8 July. Activities include children’s craft workshops with Liverpool artist Layla Gibiliru, an adult stand-up comedy workshop with Esther Manito; storytelling sessions with Hadi Badi books, for 0-8 year olds; opportunity to learn DJ skills in a MENA Beats workshop; and Dabke workshops for all ages with Fares Farraj. 10:45am – 4pm, Saturday 8 July.
Taroo is a Parkour and circus comedy show by Company Zid / Said Mouhssine telling stories from streets all over the world. With a fusion of acrobatics, Chinese pole and urban street moves, this show is not all that it seems. Free street performances at Liverpool ONE, Customs House Place at 12pm and 2:30pm. Presented with Crying Out Loud and Shubbak Festival.
Egyptian dancer Mahmoud El Haddad invites you to learn the elements of Baladi dancing in a practical dance workshop suitable for all levels of experience at VideOdyssey, Toxteth TV. Raks Baladi is a traditional type of dance used by Egyptian people of all ages to physically express joy and other emotions. Baladi means my country in Arabic, and this style of folk dance remains immensely popular. 11am, Thursday 13 July
We return to Bluecoat on Saturday 15 July for a free afternoon of live DJ sets; Dabke workshops with Fares Farraj; Arabic music workshops with master Oud player, Ahmed Mukhtar, and storytelling sessions for 0–8-year-olds. Free, booking required for workshops. 12-3pm, Saturday 15 July.
Our closing Family Day spectacular returns to Sefton Park Palm House on Sunday 16 July. This free one-day event continues to grow in ambition, bringing together contemporary and traditional Arab cultural music, dance and family activities, along a programme of authentic food and drink. With artists including the renowned The Ayoub Sisters and Abdelkader Saadoun. It is one of the most notable events in Liverpool’s cultural calendar, providing a platform for different communities to come together in a joyous summer celebration. 12-5pm, Sunday 16 July.
Poet Mona Kareem launches her fiercely unapologetic new book of poetry at LUSH Liverpool. Mona is joined in conversation with her editor, Nashwa Nasreldin. A stateless Bidoon poet, Mona Kareem’s work is internationally acclaimed for its power and immediacy from her first publication at the age of 14. This event is a joint presentation with the Poetry Translation Centre. 2-3:30pm, Saturday 15 July.
In partnership with SAFAR Film Festival and Storyhouse, we bring the UK premiere of Algerian historical epic The Last Queen to Chester for this year’s festival. 2-4pm, Sunday 9 July.
Find out more about the full programme here.