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Libyan minister makes 'significant' UK visit for Liverpool Arabic Festival

Syrian drama, Palestinian hip-hop, art, music and film herald week of Middle Eastern promise

Published on June 7th 2013.

Libyan minister makes 'significant' UK visit for Liverpool Arabic Festival

ONLY since the fall of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime has Libya has been able to get involved in any cultural events in the UK. 

Cue the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival - a chance for a highly significant ministerial visit and the first Libyan exhibition for decades. 

LAAF returns this weekend for an incredible twelfth year, bringing artists from across the Arab world. 

From hip-hop bands to Damascus drama, this is a what's on guide going for mass appeal. 

Syria features high in the programme, which, in turn, includes a number of UK and world premieres. Organisers say this is “a reflection on the calibre and reputation that the festival has achieved over previous years.” 

Habib-Al-AminLibyan minister Habib-Al-Amin makes trip to Liverpool

The main festival events run from today until June 16 at various venues across Liverpool. Libyan Minister for Culture and Civil Society Habib​ Mohammed Al-Amin has come to the UK specifically for the festival launch. 

The Libya Trail in College Lane, Liverpool ONE, gives an insight into the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating country, showing landscapes, cities and monuments old and new, including the stunning ruins of Leptis Magna, one of the world’s largest and best-preserved Roman cities. 

Libya in Liverpool, at the Bluecoat, is a photographic exhibition of historical and tourism posters and it is also the venue for Libya Folklore, a small selection of folkloric traditional items. 


The world premier of the play Damascus Stories takes place tonight at the Bluecoat for an invited audience only. Although the great unwashed can see it again next Saturday. 

It's described as “an enchanting journey through five tales of romance, life and the slow invasion of the modern world in the late 17th and 18th century Damascus”. Written by award winning Syrian author Ulfat Idilbi, Damascus Stories has been commissioned by LAAF and these stories come to the UK for the first time. 

Syrian singer-songwriter Lena Chamamyan will be live in concert on 16 June at St George's Hall. Chamamyan is hugely successful in the Middle East for her modern spin on ancient melodies. A must-see for anyone interested in classical, jazz or world music. 

Born in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Katibe 5 are one of the Middle East’s most dynamic hip-hop bands, playing tonight  at the Epstein Theatre or catch them over the weekend down on the waterfront as part of the Mersey River Festival. 

Growing up with civil war and facing discrimination that separated them from affluent Beirut society has had a huge influence on Katibe 5’s music which tells the story of how they rose above victimisation, poverty and prejudice. 

Hip-hop MC and graffiti artist Jazar from Katibe 5 is also hosting a graffiti workshop on 9 June at Grand Central. Find out how graffiti is used on the walls of refugee camps in Lebanon, to express people’s optimism and determination to rise above war, poverty and prejudice. 

The ever-popular LAAF Family Day returns to Sefton Park  this Sunday, June 8. 



The Libya Trail in Liverpool ONE

LibyainliverpoollargeLibyainliverpoollarge5th-16th June, College Lane, Liverpool One

This, the first Libyan art exhibition in the UK for decades, gives an insight into the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating country landscapes, cities and monuments old and new, including the stunning ruins of Leptis Magna, one of the world’s largest and best-preserved Roman cities. 

Libya in Liverpool and Libya Folklore

7-16 June, The Bluecoat

A photographic exhibition of historical and tourism posters also, Libya Folklore, a small selection of folkloric traditional items.


Katibe 5

Hip Hop Concert.  Lebanon, UK Premier

Friday 7 June, 10pm, Epstein Theatre

Katibe 5 are one of the Middle East’s most dynamic and electric hip hop bands. The members of the Katibe 5 (which means Squad 5) were all born and grew up in a refugee camp in Beirut, where civil war and discrimination separated them from affluent Beirut society. Katibe 5′s songs tell their story of how they rose above victimisation, poverty and prejudice to take responsibility for their own lives and their community.

This is the band’s first visit to the UK. Don’t miss this unique chance to see them.

£5 tickets available from Monday 3rd June

Graffiti Workshop, featuring Hip Hop MC and graffiti artist Jazar from Katibe 5

Sunday 9 June, 11am-1pm, Graffiti Studio @ Grand Central

Find out how graffiti is used on the walls of refugee camps in Lebanon, to express people’s optimism and determination to rise above war, poverty and prejudice.

Lena Chamamyan

Lena ChamamyanLena ChamamyanUK Premiere – Focus on Syria
Saturday 16 June, 7.30-9.30pm, St George’s Hall

The Festival brings this amazing Syrian singer-songwriter to UK audiences for the first time. Chamamyan was born in Damascus to Syrian Armenian parents and she brings both influences to her music. Hugely successful in the Middle East, she explores the best of medieval and renaissance Arab music, reinterpreting and re-arranging ancient melodies for the 21st century.  This concert is a must for anyone interested in classical, jazz or world music.

“She creates a delightful paradise where old and new, Arab, Andalucian, Armenian, folk jazz, all mix happily.”

Tickets £15/£10


Damascus Stories

World Premiere – Focus on Syria
Friday 7 June, 8-10pm, Saturday 15 June 7.30, Bluecoat

Five stories by award winning Syrian author Ulfat Idlibi adapted for the stage by Alia Alzougbi and Louai Hennawi.  Ulfat Idlibi was the celebrated author of 100 short stories about the world of Damascus  in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Idlibi’s magical stories reveal intimate and moving details of family life, romance and the slow invasion of the modern world. The performances are enhanced by live music on traditional Syrian instruments including Nai (Flute) percussion and Oud (Lute).

Commissioned by LAAF,  these stories come to a UK audience for the first time ever.

7th-Invite only for the Launch Tickets are £5 on the 15th

Dina Mousawi and 3Fates

Liverpool Premier.  Iraq.
Wednesday 12 June, 7.30, Unity Theatre

This fascinating piece of theatre, created by British Iraqi Dina Mousawi and 3Fates tells the story of what life is really like for Iraqi women today.  Mousawi, herself an Iraqi living in Bradford, met and collected interviews, social media messages and stories from 45 Iraqi women displaced by war, occupation and the Arab Spring and then worked for a year on practical workshops to develop Return.  Mousawi kept a video diary to reflect on her own journey from the UK to Iraq, and there are echoes of this in the video projections which feature in this unique drama.

Tickets £10/£8


Contemporary Dance workshop
With Nacera Belaza

Monday 10 June, 6-8pm, Bluecoat

If you enjoy contemporary dance, don’t miss this chance to work with one of the world’s top choreographers and dancers, the Algerian-born Nacera Belaza, in advance of her performance at Unity Theatre.

Tickets £5

Le Trait and Le Temps
Nacera Belaza

UK Premier.  Algeria.

Tuesday 11 June, 7.30, Unity Theatre

Contemporary dance performance by acclaimed Algerian-French choreographer and dancer Nacera Belaza. Here, Belaza works with her accompanying dancers to create and perform three sensual, intense and precise dance pieces which explore the relationship between Algerian traditional dance, holy rituals and her own contemporary choreography.

Nacera Belaza has performed her work all over the world, and has won numerous awards for her talents.

Tickets £10/£8

Sufi Dance Workshop

Thursday 13 June, 7.30,

Unity Theatre

Sufi dance specialist Shafeek Ibrahim will be performing and leading an interactive workshop on Sufi dancing. Learn about the movement involved in this fascinating style of dance, famous for the whirling dervish. Watch a demonstration of the movements involved, and then try it for yourself. Suitable for anyone, whatever your level of dance experience or background.

Funoon Alhouriya

An Arab Folk Dance Medley with Caroline Afifi with the Funoon Aljazeera Dance Company

Friday 14 June, 7.30, Unity Theatre

Enjoy this explosion of Middle Eastern dance, music and colour from exciting dance company Funoon Aljazeera, alongside internationally acclaimed Egyptian dancer Caroline Afifi.  This is a lively fun-filled evening which introduces the audience to joys of Arab folk dancing. You will even invited to join in the dancing at the end!

Tickets £10/£8


at FACT and The Bluecoat

Zabana! Inc Q&A with Said Ould-Khelifa

UK Premier. Dir. Said Ould-Khelifa

Monday 10 June, 7pm, FACT

An impassioned, meticulously researched account of the short life of Algerian freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 by French colonial authorities ignited the ‘Battle of Algiers’ and the crucial phase of Algeria’s struggle for independence.

Zabana!  was Algeria’s official entry for the 2013 Academy Awards.

Tickets £5

The Battle of Algiers

Saturday 8th June 3pm, FACT

A timeless classic written by one of the Algerian revolutionaries while in a French prison.  As powerful today as it was when it was first released

Tickets £5

Perforated Memory

Thursday 13th  June 2013  7.30, The Bluecoat

Award winning Palestinian filmmaker Sandra Madi’s heart breaking fly-on-the-wall documentary about ‘retired’ Palestinian guerrillas won top prize at the Docudays Festival 2009

Tickets £5 



Papa Heidi 


UK Premier Sunday 16 June, 7.30, The Bluecoat

Tunisian British film-maker Claire Benhassine’s tale of her grandfather, the Frank Sinatra of the Arab World.

Tickets £5. Freedom Hour event with Claire Belhassine on 15 June.

Where Do We Go Now?

Sunday June 9th, 2013  7.30
, The Bluecoat

Performance Space 
Nadine Labaki follows her debut Caramel with this funny wonderful film about a group of women trying to put a stop to war in Lebanon

Tickets £5


Saturday 15th June 2013 4pm

The Bluecoat Performance Space

A deeply personal,  first- hand account of life in Bil’in, a West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements.


River Festival Concert

With Caroline Afifi and Katibeh 5

Sunday 9 June, 2-4pm

The Pier Head, Liverpool Waterfront

In partnership with the Mersey River Festival, two of the stars of this year’s LAAF – Egyptian dancer Caroline Afifi and Lebanese Hip Hop band Katibeh 5 – join city artists for this spectacular riverside concert.

Free, no need to book.

LAAF Family Day

Saturday  8 June, 12-4pm

Palm House, Sefton Park

A fantastic, always popular event where you can enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the Arab world. With live music, dance, workshops, stalls and food. A great day out for all the family.

Free, no need to book.

The Big Saturday

Saturday 15 June, 12-6pm

The Bluecoat

A day of music, film, debate, poetry and food. Details to be added in.

Free, no need to book. 


The Freedom Hour

Monday 10-Friday 14 June, various times

The Bluecoat

Throughout the Festival, there are debates on current affairs, culture, freedom and change in the Arab world. Each Freedom Hour session is different and they take place most days, come to one or all of them to hear from people who are directly involved and have your say too.

Free, no need to book

See www.arabartsfestival.com

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