The Arab British Centre 2016 Review

21 December '16

Dear friends,

What a year it has been for the Arab British Centre! Between our cultural programming, receiving awards, introducing new courses and welcoming new residents, 2016 has gone by in the blink of an eye.

Here’s a quick recap of all the great things that took place throughout the year:

Back in February we partnered with Beirut-based Starch Foundation to present ‘Blueprint Beirut’ at the British Council and British Fashion Council’s International Fashion Showcase at Somerset House. Curated by Tala Hajjar, Starch Co-Founder and Fashion Entrepreneur, and designed by Starch Architect Elie Metni, the exhibition unveiled new pieces by eight Lebanese designers under Metni’s interpretation of a deconstructed architectural blueprint of a traditional Lebanese home. The exhibition received the CURATION AWARD, the first of its kind ever awarded to an Arab country.

In March, we hosted three capacity building workshops as part of the second edition of Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) organised by Arts Canteen. The workshops were led by experts in the following areas: Digital Marketing by Hannah Khalil, UK Arts Infrastructure by Oliver Carruthers and Career Development by Andrea Giráldez.

In April, we introduced a series of Islamic Art and Architecture courses taught by Professor Roberta Marin. Keep an eye out for our new series starting in 2017: Islamic Art in the Mediterranean and The History of Carpets from the Islamic World.

As part of Refugee Week in June, we joined forces with our resident organisation Banipal and presented the Welcome Literary Salon. The programme brought together Hassan Abdulrazzak, Ahmed Masoud, Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, Juan Delgado, Dima Mekdad, Stephen Watts and Giovanna Stopponi for a delightful evening of poetry, readings, performance and a film screening. Read all about it here.

July brought the heat and with it ‘Semper Idem – Forever Unchanged’, an art & fashion sale by Palestinian artist Omar Joseph Nasser-Khoury. We were enchanted by Omar’s Ceremonial Vniform pieces, the long capes, shawls, talismans, totes and of course, photography. We supported the first ever Palestine Youth Orchestra  UK Tour organised by our resident The Friends of Edward Said Conservatory (Palmusic UK). Eighty five, talented musicians from Palestine and its diaspora performed a series of 6 concerts across the UK, under the baton of Sian Edwards and accompanied by rising star of Arabic music, Nai Barghouti, whose vocal talents blew us all away.

In August we successfully raised £10,000 with contributions from 154 backers through a Kickstarter Campaign to help raise funds for our third edition of the SAFAR Film Festival, in partnership with the ICA. This year’s festival, curated by Rasha Salti, celebrated contemporary Arab cinema with an impressive selection of films ranging from Morocco all the way to Kuwait. SAFAR will be making its own journey in 2017 and will be travelling to Leicester and Liverpool, so stay tuned for more updates on this next year.

The Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation (APTF) made its way to London from Beirut and captivated audiences with their extraordinary UK premiere of ‘Performance Desperately in Need of an Audience’ as part of the Nour Festival. This silent performance, where stage props and settings become puppets themselves, told us a tale of exile in the most simple and powerful way. You can read an interview with APTF Director Mahmoud Hourani here and watch AJ+’s video here.

As the days got shorter and darker in November, artist Abdallah Khaled filled the centre with the lights and colours of his Algerian homeland with ‘Paths of Light’, an exhibition depicting the rich and varied indigenous cultures of North Africa. We ended the year on a creative note with a festive card workshop led by calligraphy artist and teacher Joumana Medlej. If you missed it, you can sign up to the Kufic Creative Calligraphy Course starting next March here.

Last but not least, our grant scheme supported six cultural projects this year: At Home in London and Gaza, Baqoun, Out of Place, Chapter 31, Spring Reign and Sudan: Emergence of Singularities.

Beyond our cultural programme, the Arab British Centre was invited to take part in various panels and conferences around the world, including the Thinkers and Doers Conference in Bahrain, the Women of the World Festival at Southbank Centre, Soft Power in a Hard Power World at Kings College and the Hammamet Conference in Tunisia.

We would like to thank all our partners, residents (Ashtar Al Khirsan, Caabu, CTDC, Ibraaz, Palmusic UK, Shubbak and Zaytoun) and all of you, our loyal followers, for your support, energy and recognition without which our work wouldn’t exist. We look forward to bringing you lots more unique and exciting programmes as we celebrate our 40th anniversary with all of you next year.

Wishing everyone happy holidays and a wonderful start to 2017,

The Arab British Centre Team

The Arab British Centre will be closed from 24 December 2016 until 08 January 2017.