Bye bye 2013, Hello 2014!!

07 January '14


The Arab British Centre has had a spectacular year and we’re delighted to share our highlights with you. Without our partners, supporters, co-conspirators and audience we would not be where we are!

We kicked off 2013 with shrieks of delight following the news in late February that we were the co-winners of the prestigious UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. After years of hard work and belt-tightening, it was a great honour to be recognised in Paris in April with this highly respected accolade. We’re especially proud to be the first institution as well as the first Brits to win this prize.

In March, we hosted an exhibition of infographics by Mona Chalabi; Photographs by Numbers set out to illustrate development in Iraq and was part of the Reel Iraq Festival commemorating 10 years since the invasion. In May, with our residents Zaytoun and Caabu, we co-hosted the launch ofThe Gaza Kitchen inviting the authors Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt in for a chat with the founder of Just World Books, Helena Cobban.

The summer in London welcomed the return of the two-week Shubbak Festival, and we decided one event wasn’t enough. In fact, two events weren’t enough, so we gave you three! First there was our in-house exhibition Mister President’s Circus which offered audiences an opportunity to see the Arab world’s oldest state circus through stunning black and white photography and short stories. Next up was the launch of The Lady from Tel Aviv by Raba’i Al-Madhoun with our partners at Telegram BooksEnglish PEN and Foyles. Selma Dabbagh led the conversation with the author to a packed out room. Last but by no means least, was the UK premiere of the Syrian film Round Trip held at the ICA in partnership withDubai International Film Festival. The screening was followed by a lively audience Q&A with the director, Meyar Al-Roumi and actor, Ammar Haj Ahmad led by journalist Brian Whitaker.

Luckily we had a couple of months to gather our thoughts but before long, autumn arrived and so did our Award for Culture 2013. After months of applications, the judging panel, led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, spent one rainy day at Gough Square deliberating long and hard over a shortlist and eventually selected the winner, Hassan Abdulrazzak. The Iraqi playwright picked up his prize at the ceremony at Leighton House Museum in late September. We look forward to forging new partnerships with him and the shortlist in the future.

October brought with it the start of the second festival of the year; Nour Festival, in which we treated you to some culinary delights. Dr Lamees Ibrahim regaled the full pop-up dining room in Books for Cooks with stories and traditions of Iraqi cuisine while guests tucked into no less than eight courses! In November, we continued with our journey of food but this time looking at Jerusalem with the lovely Sami Tamimi. Once again, a full room of diners were entertained with eight courses of healthy, yummy grub from the region but with Tamimi’s signature twist!

November brought the rain, wind and cold, but this didn’t deter our audience from coming to our final exhibition of the year, Out of Arabia. We were delighted to work in partnership with the British Council Saudi Arabia to showcase the work of 9 winning artists, many of which got the chance to both visit and exhibit in London for the very first time.

We chose to end the year with a new event, our inaugural A Festive Souk which saw 100 shoppers come to the Centre for three days of shopping unique and beautifully crafted artisanal wares. You’ve asked us to do it again; your wish is our command!

It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a busy and exciting year. Thanks to all of your support, we’re delighted to be bringing you even more next year! 2014 will see the return of our Arabic language classes, as well as a new addition to our education schedule: Oud classes. Working with the established teachers at Taqasim Music School, the demand has been so great we’ve had to add a second beginners Oud course already!

As well as this, we’re happy to announce our collaboration with Beau Beausoleil and the Al-Mutanabbi Street Project in March 2014 when we will be hosting some of their broadsides and works of art. In the first half of the year, we’ll also be working with Bradt Travel Guides and Tom Chesshyre to give you an insight into his journeys across the Arab world which culminated in his book A Tourist in the Arab Spring.

For our virtual visitors you will be pleased to hear that we’re also working on a brand spanking new website! This new venture will ensure that our promotional activities, directory resources and library catalogue will be easier than ever to access and use.

Lastly, we’re sure you’ll be pleased to know, that after the phenomenal success of Safar 2012, we’ve teamed up again with our friends at the ICA and Omar Kholeif to bring you Safar 2014. Watch this space!

We look forward to seeing you in 2014 for what is set to be a rich year of culture from the Arab world.

Check out our social media pages for photographs and videos of the events!