A window on contemporary Arab culture
Shubbak (meaning ‘window’ in Arabic) is London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture. Founded in 2011 by the Mayor of London, Shubbak is now an independent charity (charity number: 1150374) whose founding Chair was Omar al-Qattan. Shubbak connects London audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab culture through ambitious festival programmes of premieres and commissions of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate. We work with arts institutions in London and internationally. Shubbak 2017 was our largest and most expansive festival to-date. It included over 130 artists, originating from 18 Arab countries, across 70 events in more than 40 venues, performing to a total audience of over 50,000.
“[A] triumphant celebration of Arab contemporary culture”
Shubbak returns to audiences in London in 2019
Shubbak has become a key moment in the arts calendar of the UK and the Arab World, bringing new and unexpected voices alongside established artists to new audiences every two years. The next festival will take place in London in the summer of 2019. Follow us on social media or join our mailing list to follow the latest festival news and announcements.
“The world’s biggest festival of Arab culture” Sunday Times
“The festival speaks of restless societies that are questioning themselves”
Peter Aspden, Financial Times
Shubbak Festival 2017
Our most ambitious festival yet, Shubbak’s 2017 Festival presented over 70 events at more than 30 venues across London between 1-16 July 2017. The festival featured 16 full days of concerts, performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions and installations from over 150 artists. Watch the festival trailer or see a few of our favourite moments from the festival.
Shubbak Festival 2015
Shubbak’s 2015 Festival presented over 60 events across London from 11-26 July 2015. The festival featured 16 full days of concerts, performances, screenings, debates, exhibitions and installations from over 100 international artists, as well as over 30 artists based in the UK. Watch highlights from the festival or see Shubbak 2015 in pictures.
Shubbak Festival 2013
Shubbak’s 2013 festival took place over 15 days in the summer of 2013, presenting over 55 events, spread across 42 venues, attracting an audience of over 50,000 people. We brought together a wonderful range of partners, from London’s largest museums to intimate theatres, from the largest concert halls to specialist cinemas. See the 2013 festival guide below for further details.
Shubbak Festival 2011
Initiated by the Mayor of London, the Shubbak Festival 2011 was the first of its kind in Europe. A festival devoted to contemporary Arab writers, photographers, painters, directors, composers and other creative artists. It was an opportunity not just for the Middle East curious, but for resident Arabs keen to learn more about their own region and share in its accomplishments.
Who We Are
Eckhard Thiemann has been artistic director of Shubbak since 2012. Previously he was a producer for the London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad, curated the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival (2011), OUTSPOKEN – NEW PERFORMANCE FROM ARAB ARTISTS (2010) and the dance season African Crossroads (2009). He currently also works as Programming Associate – Dance for The Lowry, one of the UK’s largest arts centres, and was Artistic Co-curator of the Oslo International Dance Festival in 2017.
Daniel Gorman joined the Shubbak team in 2014 and delivered the 2015 and 2017 festival. Daniel is a co-founder of Highlight Arts, who have organised UK-based international arts festivals and events since 2007, including projects working with artists in Iraq and Syria.
Aaron Cezar is the founding Director of Delfina Foundation, where he develops and oversees its interrelated programme of residencies, exhibitions and public platforms. He sits on numerous boards, committees and advisory groups such as All Change Arts, Alserkal Avenue, Shubbak, Davidoff Art Initiative, Caspian Arts Foundation, the Marrakech Biennale, the Kamel Lazaro Foundation and the Jarman Award 2012 among many others. Aaron has first degrees in Economics and Dance from Princeton University and a postgraduate degree in the Creative Industries from King’s College London.
Lynn Gaspard is the Managing Director of Middle-East specialist press Saqi Books. A fiercely independent forum for writers and artists from around the world, Saqi has made its mark as a publisher unafraid of taking risks, championing works by minority writers from the Middle East and beyond. Gaspard is a member of English PEN’s Writers in Translation Committee and of the MFest Expert Advisory Group, and was previously on the Nour Festival of Arts Steering Committee. She is the editor of the satirical collection Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic.
Sumantro Ghose is an Arts Producer, Curator and Cultural Strategist with over 20 years’ experience in museums and exhibitions, festivals, audience development and cultural diplomacy. He is Managing Director of the London Design Biennale, and was previously responsible for exhibitions and museum programmes at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. Prior to joining Dubai Culture, Sumantro was Deputy Director, Cultural Diplomacy Programmes at Qatar Museums in Doha. In the UK, Sumi has worked and consulted for a range of cultural and educational institutions including Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Frieze, Sotheby’s Institute, Richmond University and the American Institute for Foreign Study and was Acting Chief Executive and Director of Cultural Programmes at Asia House.
Jo Glanville is a journalist, writer and campaigner for freedom of expression. She has held senior positions at English PEN and Index on Censorship, and is currently a visiting fellow at the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur, Giessen University.
Almir is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Counterpoints Arts – a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and social justice, supporting the arts by, about and with refugees and migrants. His experiences in this context include leading on developing strategy and identity for Refugee Week UK Festival; developing Platforma – arts and refugees national network; building meaningful and long term collaborations with leading inter/national arts, cultural and advocacy organisations; and producing a wide range of events and commissions relating to displacement.
Maysoon Pachachi (Chair)
Educated in Iraq, the USA and Britain, Maysoon graduated from the London Film School and has directed 9 documentary films, including the prize-winning Iranian Journey, Bitter Water about a Palestinian camp in Beirut, Return to the Land of Wonders about her return to Iraq in 2004 and Our feeling took the pictures: Open Shutters Iraq about a remarkable photographic project. She has taught film directing and editing in Jerusalem and Gaza for the Jerusalem Film Institute, European Union and at Birzeit University near Ramallah. In 1999 she co-founded Act Together: Women’s Action for Iraq in London and in 2004, helped to set up the free-of-charge IFTVC film-training centre in Baghdad.
Harvard and Oxford educated, Roxane Zand began a career in museum and arts administration after three years in UNESCO. Ms Zand was an officer of the Iran Heritage Foundation before moving to Asia House, as well as a freelance consultant for numerous projects for the British Museum and elsewhere in the art world before joining Sotheby’s in 2006 where she is now Deputy Chairman for the Middle East. Currently she sits on the Advisory Council of the Pictet Art Prize, the Development Board of the University of the Arts London, and has been appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London for her services to Middle Eastern art and culture. She is also arts editor for the Encyclopedia Islamica.
Shadia El Dardiry
Shadia El Dardiry works at Bates Wells Braithwaite, known for its leading role in the charity and social enterprise sector. Shadia comes from a human rights background, and prior to joining Bates Wells Braithwaite worked on human rights and migration issues in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. She has engaged in EU- and national-level advocacy as well as capacity building of local organisations. Alongside this, she has had a longstanding interest in the relationship between art and politics in the MENA region, with a particular focus on 20th and 21st century literature from the region, and in art as a form of expression for migrants and refugees. Shadia holds a Masters in Political Science and a BA (Hons) in Political Science and Economics from McGill University.