The Arab British Centre Is A Winner - So deserved!

The 2012 UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture


The Arab British Centre (ABC) has just been announced as this year’s joint-winner of the prestigious 2012 UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture with Professor Mustapha Cherif of Algeria. Both are due to receive and split the generous gift of $60,000 at a prize-giving ceremony in Paris on April 25, 2013 at UNESCO’s Headquarters.

The annual award, in its eleventh year running, credits the efforts of those who promote Arab cultural dialogue and the revitalization of Arab culture in a global context. The winners are selected by the Director General of UNESCO on the recommendations of an international jury of experts of international repute in the field of Arab culture.

As an Arab British person who has turned to the ABC on many occasions for help with information and who has followed their many artistic collaborations and educational initiatives over the past four years, I personally cannot think of anyone else in London or the UK who deserves this prize more. (If you wish to read about my first visit to the ABC: Artistic Cultural Notions of the Arab).

The ABC core team of Chairman Virginia Forbes, Executive Director Noreen Abu Oun and ABC Projects Manager Imogen Ware, have all been so committed, determined and dedicated for what this award truly symoblises; and, they always manage to do things with ease and a happy smiley face, despite the phone ringing at the office all day.

Just in the past few years, the team has stepped up its remit and has been instrumental in the Arab-British London cultural and artistic scene. They offer not only high quality Arab calligraphy and language classes and a library, but also hold small-scale Arab art exhibitions in their building, give help to others with marketing Arab events (through their website and Newsletter) and they continue to collaborate with other Arab-British endeavours including for film festivals, music, literature and talks.

Upon hearing of the wonderful news, Chairman Forbes said: “It is a huge honour for the ABC… We are encouraged to redouble our efforts, presenting the best of Arab arts and culture to a British audience. With the wonderful endorsement of UNESCO, we hope that we can engage more people with all that the Arab world has to offer.”

The prize-giving ceremony will see UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova presenting the award and the core team of three will be there to receive it. What they will do with they money? “The ABC anticipates spending the $30,000 prize money in the furtherance of our aim (above).”

History and Information on the Arab British Centre

The ABC was first created in 1977 by a group of British diplomats who had served in the Arab world, with the objective to: “provide and maintain a Centre for the dissemination of information regarding the culture, art, science, economy and contemporary history of the Arab world.”

Today, it is a registered charity with two full-time members of staff (Imogen and Noreen), plus a Board of Trustees who act in a voluntary capacity. As an independent entity, the ABC is primarily self-funded, but relies on sponsorship for larger-scale projects.

In its day to day, the ABC also liaises with a large network of other groups that work tirelessly to harness British-Arab relations and to educate the British public about Arab culture. These include the six resident organisations housed in the Gough Square building: Banipal, Zaytoun, Friends of Birzeit University, the Caspian Arts Foundation, Caabu and the Peace&Prosperity Trust.

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