2011 Award

18 April 2011





The annual award, including prize money of £5000, is given to an individual or organisation which, 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.

The judges chose Al Jazeera English out of a shortlist of five nominees for its extensive reach and impact on the general British public’s understanding of events in the Arab world. The judges felt that Al Jazeera English had risen to the occasion at a key moment in the history of the Arab world, with its journalists undertaking personal risks to provide an alternative perspective to the mainstream British media. The panel noted the 24-hour news station’s wide availability with the free to view UK channel reaching over 31.5 million UK households. The winner was announced at a ceremony held at Leighton House Museum on 14 April.

Receiving the prize on behalf of Al Jazeera English, Marwan Bishara said, “Al Jazeera English has succeeded for several reasons: it is financially supported so it can avoid commercial dependence or motive; it has the freedom to decide on its stories; and it has a backyard fertile with hot news.” Al Jazeera English will be donating the £5000 prize money to The Rory Peck Trust.

In addition to the prize, the winners were given a hand-crafted trophy exclusively designed by sculptor Adam Williamson.



Chair of the judging panel and Master of Ceremonies Baroness Helena Kennedy QC spoke about each of the five shortlisted candidates as “extraordinary artistic endeavours and social encounters” reflecting on the work of each in turn. She also spoke of the difficulty the panel had had in choosing a winner, describing the experience as akin to “12 Angry Men; the debate was so fierce that in the end we had to introduce a system of Alternative Vote!”. Acknowledging that the choice of Al Jazeera English might be perceived as controversial, Baroness Kennedy explained what had tipped the balance in its favour; that it had “shown the British public voices of ordinary Arab people, people who challenge the stereotypes”.

Also in attendance at the Award Ceremony were previous Award Winners Zaytoun CIC and Saqi Publishing who were invited to display and sell their products.

2010 Award Winner Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival’s Ngozi Ikoku said that winning last year’s Award had “lead to a real partnership and friendship with the Arab British Centre”. One of the forthcoming Festival’s acts, ‘?d player Khyam Allami, wowed the audience with a premiere performance of An Alif/An Apex from his forthcoming album Resonance/Dissonance.

At the ceremony, the Mayor of London’s Advisor on Arts and Culture Munira Mirza spoke in support of the Arab cultural community, saying “the Award highlights the important work of the Arab British Centre and celebrates all those organisations creating dialogue through culture”.

The judging panel for the 2011 Arab British Culture and Society Award comprised: Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Chair); Oliver Butterworth; Heather Masoud; James Neil; Dr Venetia Porter; Samuel Shimon; and Dr Shelagh Weir. The shortlist comprised: Al Jazeera English; Delfina Foundation; Dash Arts; Palestine Film Foundation; and the London Middle East Institute

Click here to download the full press release

Images above:

1. Front row, left-right: Baroness Helena Kennedy (QC); Tessa Bryson; Samah El-Shahat. Back row, left-right: Diarmuid Jeffreys; Peter Wallace; Marwan Bishara. Photo: © Kevin Poolman, 2011

2. left-right: Delfina Entrecanales; Baroness Helena Kennedy (QC). Photo: © Kevin Poolman, 2011

Click here to view the full album.


28 March 2011

shortlist announcement

The Arab British Centre is pleased to announce the shortlist for the Arab British Culture & Society Award 2011. The prize recognises and celebrates those who have made an outstanding contribution to the British public’s understanding of the life, society and culture of the Arab people.

The five shortlisted candidates were chosen from a long list of 27 candidates and are as follows:

Dash Arts: develops and presents new music, theatre, art and dance. 2010-2012 project is the Dash Arabic Series, with a commission of four major projects by artists from the Arab world, supported by an ongoing series of performances, talks, films, events and outreach work.

More information can be found here.

London Middle East Institute: provides teaching, training, research, publication, consultancy, outreach and other services related to the Middle East. It is closely associated to SOAS, the only tertiary educational institution in the world whose purpose is to provide training and scholarship on the Middle East.

More information can be found here.

Delfina Foundation: facilitates artistic exchanges and dialogue between the UK and the Middle East & North Africa via a programme of artistic residencies and related public artistic events.

More information can be found here.

Al Jazeera English: 24-hour English-language news and current affairs TV channel which aims to provide independent, impartial news for an international audience and to offer a voice to a diversity of perspectives from under-reported regions. Having been made free to view in July 2010, Al Jazeera English is now distributed to 31.5 million UK households.

More information can be found here.

Palestine Film Foundation: seeks to encourage the development of Palestinian cinema and cinema related to Palestine through its annual film festival.

More information can be found here.

The panel, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy, will meet in mid-April and the winner will be announced at the Award Ceremony which is to be held at Leighton House Museum shortly thereafter.

Judging Panel: Baroness Helena Kennedy (QC); Oliver Butterworth; Dr Venetia Porter; Heather Masoud; James Neil; Dr Shelagh Weir; Samuel Shimon (see below for more information on this year’s judging panel).

For further information or press enquiries please contact Imogen Ware on 020 78321310 or imogen@arabbritishcentre.org.uk



January 2011

call for nominations


The prize is open to candidates of any nationality and working in any field. You are also warmly invited to nominate any author, artist, filmmaker, play, programme, exhibition or organisation who you think is worthy of this Award. In addition to the prize money, the ABC will provide the winner with opportunities to promote his or her work more widely.

“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.”

the late Sir Marrack Goulding

Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Previous winners and specially-commended candidates include: Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival; Zaytoun CIC; Al Saqi bookshop and publishers; Eugene Rogan; Unipal; Kamal Boullata; IB Tauris; Professor Tim Niblock; Raja Shehadeh; Margaret Obank; Maysoon Pachachi; Dr Venetia Porter; and Reem Kelani.The winner of the 2011 prize will be chosen by a panel of seven distinguished Arab and British experts with a wide knowledge of the cultures of both the Arab World at the United Kingdom.


We are proud to announce the panel of the Arab British Culture & Society Award 2011 will be:


Baroness Kennedy is chair of Arts and Business and from 1994 to 2002, she was chair of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). Prior to that she served on the Board of the Hampstead Theatre. She was also, from 1998 – 2004, chair of the British Council, which she led through a period of dynamic change. As a result of her success in this role she was invited by the President of the World Bank to be on the advisory council to the World Bank Institute from 1998 – 2005. Because of her ability to deliver concrete change in whatever work she undertakes, she has received many public acknowledgements for her contributions. She is an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry and also a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. She is also a Fellow of the City and Guilds.

She is currently on the board of the Independent newspaper, which she has done since 1998 and is a member of the Media Standards Trust.

She has been a trustee of the British Museum since 2005. And she is also a trustee of the Booker Trust, which administers the famous literary prize.

Helena’s interest in literature has led to her judging a number of book prizes – The Samuel Johnson Prize in 1998 and again as chair in 2007; the Orange Prize in 2004; the Arvon Prize for Poetry in 2003; the Guardian first Book Prize in 2005. She is also very interested in contemporary art and has been a judge on the BP Portrait Awards in 2005 and chaired the Discerning Eye Awards in 2007.

She is a patron of many charities, including MAP, Poets in the City, Safe Hands (a charity which supports maternal and infant health in Ethiopia), the Civil Liberties Trust and the Patients Association.


Oliver Butterworth won the Sterndale-Bennett scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in 1965, and later continued his studies in Prague. On his return to London, after freelancing with the London Symphony Orchestra, he joined the English Chamber Orchestra in 1971.

He made his London recital debut in 1979 at the Purcell Room, and in 1981 he was appointed leader of the Dartington Ensemble.

From 1990 to 2001 Oliver was Artistic Director of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, attracting conductors and soloists of unusual distinction such as Sir Colin Davis, Dudley Moore, Meredith Davies, David Stern, Julian Bream, Ivry Gitlis, Yoshikazu Iwamoto and commissioning works from David Matthews, Derek Bourgeois, Ian Gardiner, Tim Ewers, Tomiko Kohjiba and Paul Robinson. From 1989 to 2008, Oliver was also a Professor of violin at Trinity College of Music.

Oliver is currently Director of Musicstage, the contemporary music promotions organisation. Since 2004, Oliver has been Artistic Director of the Al Farabi Concerto concert series bringing performances of new music by young Arab composers to the major venues in London and in the Middle East.



Heather is a one of the directors and founders of Zaytoun CIC, a Community Interest Company which supports Palestinian farmers by selling their olive oil and other products in the UK. The company is a cooperative and a member of the World Fair Trade Association.

In 2009 Palestinian olive oil became the first and only olive oil to receive Fairtrade certification; the result of 5 years’ work from Zaytoun. Zaytoun sell a range of fairly traded, organically grown, artisan Palestinian products which now have nationwide distribution. She won the Times ‘Women in Ethical Business Awards’ 2009.

Zaytoun CIC was the Arab British Culture & Society Award Winner in 2009.



James Neil is a film practitioner and film curator. He has worked as a producer, consultant and cinematographer on films and documentaries, and has led educational workshops for emerging filmmakers. In 2007 James established Parallax Media, which is dedicated to the advancement of film culture in the areas of education, production and research. In his capacity as curator James co-curated the Women’s Cinema from Tangiers to Tehran festival in London and Cambridge, the African programme of All Power to the Imagination, Egyptian film programmes for Mosaiques World Festival of Culture, Nour Festival of Arts, A Night in Tehran, Cinema Baghdad – Literary Iraq and other specialist programmes. James has written for the publications Vertigo and Pen International and is editor of the forthcoming book Middle Eastern Cinema.


Venetia is Assistant Keeper (Curator) of the Islamic and contemporary Middle East Department at the British Museum.

Venetia is a curator responsible for the collection of Islamic art, in particular of the Arab World and Turkey as well as the collection of the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East. She was previously curator of Islamic coins in the Department of Coins and Medals. She studied Arabic and Islamic art at Oxford University and obtained her Ph.D on the medieval history and architecture of the Yemen from the University of Durham.

Her particular areas of research and interest are Arabic inscriptions, amulets and seals, ceramics and contemporary Middle Eastern art which are the focus of her lectures and publications.

Venetia was Specially-Commended at the Arab British Culture & Society Award 2008.



Samuel Shimon was born into a poor Assyrian family in 1956 in Iraq. He left his country in 1979 to go to Hollywood and become a film-maker, and got as far as Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Nicosia, Cairo and Tunis. In 1985 he settled in Paris as a refugee. In 1996 he moved to London, where he has lived ever since. He co-founded Banipal, the renowned international magazine of contemporary Arab literature in English translation. In 2000, he and Margaret Obank edited A Crack in the Wall, poems by sixty contemporary Arab poets. He is the founder (in 2003) and editor of the popular literary website in Arabic www.kikah.com. In 2005 he published his best selling autobiographical novel Iraqi fi Baris, several editions in Beirut, Cairo and Casablanca. It also appeared in English, French and Swedish editions. In April 2010 he edited Beirut39, an anthology of new Arabic writing, published by Bloomsbury in UK and USA.

Samuel was the Chair of judges for the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2008 (known as the Arabic Booker prize). A profile in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung in 2003 described him as “the Initiator” and “a tireless missionary for literary matters”. A new edition of An Iraqi in Paris will come out by Bloomsbury Qatar in January 2011.

He is working now on his second novel The Militant Lingerie.


Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Department of Anthropology and Sociology. She was formerly Curator for the Middle East at the Museum of Mankind, British Museum, where she organized exhibitions on Yemen and Jordan (Nomad and City 1976) and Palestinian Costume (1970 and 1989). She has published books on the Bedouin, Palestinian costumes and embroidery, and on Yemeni culture, politics and law. She is now an independent writer and researcher.

Shelagh served as Chair of the Arab British Culture & Society Awards panels in 2009 and 2010.

Nominations have now closed.  The short list will be announced in late March 2011, followed by the announcement of the winner and presentation of the award by Baroness Helena Kennedy (QC) at a ceremony shortly thereafter.

For further information, please contact:

Imogen Ware on E: imogen@arabbritishcentre.org.uk or T: 020 7832 1310