• Thursday, July 18, 2024


Shubbak Festival brings ‘creative and uplifting’ encounters to London

Eastern Eye spoke the festival’s joint CEOs, Alia Alzougbi and Taghrid Choucair Vizoso, to find out more about the fabulous event

Taghrid Choucair Vizoso (L) and Alia Alzougbi

By: Eastern Eye

The Shubbak Festival returns for a seventh edition with an action-packed line-up of over 80 events including visual arts, performances, music, comedy, dance, film, literature, debates, and workshops.

The largest contemporary Arab arts festival mixes up exciting newcomers, established names and unique presentations across London. The various platforms bringing Middle Eastern culture to London and celebrating diversity aim to bring different communities together. This year’s festival is spearheaded by joint CEOs Alia Alzougbi and Taghrid Choucair Vizoso.

Eastern Eye caught up with them to find out more about the fabulous festival filled with highlights.

How do you reflect on the journey of this festival?

The festival is now in its seventh edition, having been a trailblazer in providing platforms for Arab, and South West Asian and North African (SWANA) artists at a time when representation was low. Audiences were starved of Arab talent on UK stages, exhibition spaces and concert halls. Although we’re not quite there yet, we’ve come a long way, and this year marks the first co-led by two first generation Arab women migrants.

What can we expect from this year’s Shubbak Festival?

Expect cutting-edge artists to be featured alongside distinguished names in an ambitious programme. From an experimental opera based on a seminal novel at the Royal Opera House to the street corners of Brent and the marshes of Hackney, we are bringing a dazzling array of creative and uplifting encounters to London.

How did you select the various acts?

The programme is a combination of premieres and new commissions. We either saw the works and had to share the brilliance with a UK audience, or were intrigued by practices and responses artists are having to our times, or even stages the artists are finding themselves in.

Is there a particular highlight you are excited about?

We’re really excited about bringing Hamed Sinno in their performance Poems of Consumption, to the Barbican on July 8. Hamed is an internationally renowned music icon and we’re so proud to have supported them in this, their debut solo performance.

How important is it for you to include new talent?

This is at the heart of our work. We believe strongly in providing opportunities for new talent and take pride in being at the beginning of the pipeline for so many Arab and SWANA artists.

Who are you hoping attends the Shubbak festival?

Everyone. Whatever your walk of life, your tribe, creed, belief, we invite you to join us. With over 80 events across 16 days, we proudly have family and children events happening every weekend, concerts into the night, and ground-breaking performances for all ages.

How important is a festival like this to break down barriers and bring people together?

Festivals like ours change the narrative about whose cultures and arts belong in the UK – we proudly say that our events are for everyone, and that we are the place for Arab arts and cultures to connect us all.

Do you think the Arab arts need a bigger platform in UK?

We’ve come a long way since Shubbak first started in 2011. We now exist in a fertile ecosystem with an expansive range of other Arab and SWANA organisations and initiatives that are bringing the best of our cultural production to the UK, both by nurturing homegrown talent and presenting international works. But there is still some way to go. Primarily, this work needs to extend outside London.

What inspires you as organisers?

We are inspired by the possibilities, ideas, and connections of being in the presence of some of the most exciting artists working in the world today. We are particularly inspired by those who are positioning their practice as provocation in the middle of environmental and social chaos.

Also, those who, in encountering the urgent issues of today as well as those that have preoccupied us humans for millennia, refuse to shy away from discomfort.

Why should we attend the festival?

Because you will love it. In our festival you will find joy, love, and connection in a dizzying array of meaningful art. So please, join us. We invite you to gravitate towards the familiar, we will walk with you towards the intrigue, and together we will welcome chance kinship.

Shubbak Festival takes place from June 23-July 9 2023.


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