The Shubbak Festival Graces London For Its Fourth Edition

July kicked off with the launch of the Shubbak Festival music programme at the Barbican. The electric performance by the Egyptian rock band Cairokee was a fitting start to the occasion, as their lyrics express - through lead vocalist Amir Eid - the hunger and desire for certain freedoms that are still beset by much frustration. Cairokee is a voice for entire male and female generations across MENA who feel the sense of loss and helplessness; and, yet, there is no way back or out of how things were prior to the extraordinary political-revolutionary movements of 2011.

The Shubbak Festival graces us every two years. Now in its fourth edition, it brings its signature high standards in the choice of films, visual arts, performance, literature, talks, theatre, dance as well as the 'On Location' and the 'On Tour' segments. Altogether there will be 150 artists from 14 Arab countries participating in over 80 events taking place over 16 days in venues across London. 

For Eckhard Thiemann, artistic director of Shubbak: “At a time when the world feels more fragile and less secure, we have travelled far and wide, and also looked in our own city, to discover and commission Arab artists who reflect deeply on our times. There will be bold statements and brave works tackling urgent issues like migration and the desire for freedom, but we will also hear quiet, intimate and personal reflections which touch us with gentle emotions."

So naturally, I highly recommend you visit the Shubbak Festival website ( for the full programme where there is something appealing for every taste and everyone. Do also look out for my article on their blog, in which I recently interviewed the author Saleem Haddad on his novel 'Gaupa'. Haddad will be taking part in the extensive Literature strand during the last weekend of the festival 15-16 July at the British Library. 

You can read my article here too:

Other than Shubbak, London is still abuzz with other MENA-inspired visual arts exhibitions, music, theatre and talks that you can find all listed on My Curious Inbox.

I do wish to highlight 'The Scar Test' performance piece which is the latest from award-winning Palestinian-Irish playwright Hannah Khalil. Promising to be powerful theatre based on verbatim interviews, it explores life inside Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre and aims to alert audiences to the horrors of the immigration system in the UK. Taking place from 5-22 July at the Soho Theatre, you can find more information:

This July also sees Mashrou' Leila perform at Somerset House as part of the Summer Series. The five-strong Lebanese indie band, led by Hamed Sinno, are renowned for their bitter-sweet ballads and raucous anthems as they approach political freedoms, LGBTQ rights, race, religion and modern Arabic identity - always challenging the status quo of the Middle Eastern pop industry. The concert is on 15 July and you can book here:

Two other exhibitions worth visiting this month are the 'I AM' peace-building exhibition organised by Caravan and taking place at St. Martin in the Field’s ( and the 'An Introduction' show presented by the Variant Space art collective to showcase the creative artwork of Muslim women currently at The Foundry (

There is, of course, more to attend with events constantly popping up that I update regularly at:

If you wish to be in the super know of what is happening on the Arab-London arts and culture scene or if you want to follow the online conversations, you can also follow me on Twitter @Nahlaink.

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli

Freelance Journalist + Blogger

London, July 2017