2008 Award


London Bookshop and Publisher wins £5,000 prize

The first annual Arab British Culture and Society award of £5,000 was presented today (25th June) to Al Saqi Books.

As Sir Marrack Goulding, Chairman of the distinguished panel of Judges (three Arab and three British) was unwell, panel member Robert Irwin kindly presented the award on his behalf and said:

“There were some very impressive nominees but the judges agreed unanimously that the prize must go to Al Saqi for its outstanding work in promoting knowledge and understanding of so many aspects of Arab life- first from its bookshop in Westbourne Grove and since 1983 through its pioneering publishing company as well. Al Saqi has always maintained the highest standards – literary, artistic and intellectual – with a fearless determination to ensure that serious issues and ideas that some might be reluctant to acknowledge were thoroughly explored.”

The Judges also very highly commended four of the other 61 nominations:

– Reem Kelani, Singer, musician and broadcaster, “whose wonderful artistry rooted in the rich musical tradition of Palestine has delighted so many audiences in the UK.”

– Margaret Obank, Co founder of Banipal magazine, Banipal Books and Secretary of the Banipal Trust “who has worked tirelessly to make Arab literature available to British readers, particularly modern poets and novelists who illuminate the experience of individuals in changing Arab societies.”

– Maysoon Pachachi, The documentary film maker, “whose vivid and insightful films have shown British audiences how Arab people see the world around them.”

– Dr Venetia Porter, Curator of Middle Eastern Art at the British Museum, “who with her deep knowledge of Arab culture through the ages has staged such brilliant exhibitions.”

Accepting the award, André Gaspard of Al Saqi expressed his delight:

“The Al Saqi Bookshop and SAQI publishing are honoured and very proud to be awarded this prize, particularly in its inaugural year and in the company of such an esteemed short list. We commend the work of the Arab British Centre, and look forward to collaborating with the Arab British Centre in the future on projects that will help further our shared goal of promoting Arabic Literature in the UK.”

The Chairman of the ABC, which had set up the prize, Christopher Segar, declared that he and his fellow trustees:

“were thrilled by the number, variety and quality of the nominations. This is the first year and we have achieved everything we set out to do. We have shone a spotlight on and, I hope, encouraged the many talented and creative individuals and organisations who are bringing the richness and variety of Arab culture and life to the British public’s understanding and enjoyment. And at a time when news of the Middle East is so often of war, cruelty and closed minds, we have reminded the British people of the humanity, creativity and openness of Arab culture. We have also, I am confident, established that this prize must indeed be an annual event… so we will be inviting nominations for the 2009 award later this year. Watch our website for details.”


New Arab-British Culture and Society Award: The Shortlist

Since the ABC launched its Arab-British Culture and Society Award in November 2007, it has received nominations on behalf of 62 individuals and organisations for the first annual £5,000 prize.

The following shortlist has now been submitted to the distinguished independent panel which will select the 2008 winner. They are:

• Al Saqi, Bookshop and Publishers based in west London and specialising in Arab and Middle Eastern related subjects.

• Al Zaytouna, UK-based Palestinian Dabke dance group.

• Dr Venetia Porter, Curator of the collection of Middle Eastern art at the British Museum.

• Margaret Obank, Co-founder, publisher and editor of Banipal magazine; founder/publisher of Banipal Books; and Secretary of the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.

• Maysoon Pachachi, Documentary film-maker, who has worked for many years as a documentary and fiction film editor in the UK.

• Professor Tariq Ramadan, Academic and Professor of Islamic Studies and Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

• Reem Kelani, Diaspora Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster.

• Sulayman Al Bassam, Anglo-Kuwaiti director and playwright.

• The Boys from Baghdad High, fly-on-the-wall style documentary broadcast on BBC 2. The 90 minute documentary features the story of four boys living in Iraq.

• Zenith Foundation, UK- based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting contemporary Arab culture, through art, film, music and television.

The panel will meet in May under the Chairmanship of Sir Marrack Goulding who will announce the winner and present the award thereafter.

Panel: Sir Marrack Goulding (Chair), Mrs Maysaloun Faraj, Mr Robert Irwin,

Dr Ghada Karmi, His Excellency Mr Gehad Refaat Madi, Dr Shelagh Weir and Mr Brian Whitaker


PRESS RELEASE – October 2007

New Arab-British Culture and Society Award

The Arab-British Centre (ABC) is inviting nominations for a new annual prize of £5,000 to be awarded to an individual or organisation that, in the opinion of the judges, has made an outstanding contribution to the British public’s knowledge and understanding of the life, society and culture of the Arab people. In addition to the prize of £5,000, the ABC will also offer opportunities and support to promote the winner’s work.

The winner will be chosen by a group of distinguished Arab and British panellists who together have an expert appreciation of the culture of both the Arab World and the United Kingdom. The group will be chaired by Sir Marrack Goulding, a former British diplomat, Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations and Warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford. In the words of Sir Marrack:

“At a time when the public hears little but news of violence and human suffering in the Middle East, this imaginative and timely enterprise by the ABC will honour and encourage those who have the capacity to bring to British audiences the rich and enduring life, society and culture of the Arab people. I am honoured and delighted to chair such a diverse and well-informed panel and I keenly await the first award.”

The six judges are:

• Mrs Maysaloun Faraj, Artist, Curator and Editor of Strokes of Genius: Contemporary Iraqi Art. Also founder of the International Network of Contemporary Iraqi Artists and the Ayagallery in London.

• Mr Robert Irwin, Middle East Editor of the Times Literary Supplement.

• Dr Ghada Karmi, Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University.

• His Excellency Mr Gehad Refaat Madi, Egyptian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

• Dr Shelagh Weir, Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and authority on Palestinian and Yemeni culture.

• Mr Brian Whitaker, Former Middle East Editor of The Guardian and a current editor of Comment is Free.

All nominations – for candidates of any nationality and working in any field – are welcome and will be acknowledged. They should be accompanied by a paragraph of no more than 400 words describing the candidate’s or nominee’s achievements and their impact on the British public. Applications will be accepted either from individuals or organisations that wish to be considered for the award or from those who wish to nominate a particular individual or organisation.

The closing date for the 2008 award is 29th February 2008. A shortlist of applicants and nominees will be published in March. The winner will be announced and the award made by Sir Marrack Goulding shortly thereafter.

The email address for nominations is nominations@arabbritishcentre.org.uk.