#HumansofShubbak is our mini interview series delving into the lives of the artists and organisers behind this year's Shubbak Festival. In our fourth interview we talk to our artistic director Eckhard Thiemann.

Eckhard Thiemann – Artistic Director

Eckhard Thiemann

"When I was at the Performing Arts Office for London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham over 20 years ago, I noticed the large and lively communities of Arab, Iranian, Afghan and Kurdish backgrounds in the borough and West London. I loved Shepherds Bush with its teeming café and shops scene, yet the local library did not have a single book in Arabic. With the help of Saqi Books I started a literature focus, and the first collection - literally half a shelf of Arab literature initially – entered the library.

I love meeting new people and finding out more about their interests and cultural lives. In my job, I can find myself at the Royal Opera House in the morning and the MKIAC - Milton Keynes Islamic Arts & Culture Organisation in the afternoon. I am inspired by talking to an internationally renowned artist and two hours later, meeting a young Muslim group who are into zine making. I am not an artist and if I was I would be a pretty mediocre one. But I use my creativity to help find outlets for artists’ creativity, to amplify their voices and connect them to audiences.

We are lucky that some of our funders , including Amal – (a Saïd Foundation programme) encourage and support us to engage with local communities. At Shubbak 2017, one artist performing at Rich Mix London told me “You have the best diverse and mixed audience. When we perform in Paris, we perform to a certain intellectual niche audience, when we’re performing in Beirut we attract a specific crowd. Here I could see East London hipsters, groups of young hijabis, relaxed students, music fans and people of different ages and backgrounds – all in one room enjoying themselves.”

It is these moments which inspire me and guide me when I look at selections and collaborations for each festival edition. This coming together is difficult to achieve – and we don’t always get it right first time. But when it happens it is magic."

Eckhard Thiemann

Shubbak @ National Theatre River Stage

I hope that our free and open weekend Shubbak @ National Theatre River Stage will bring some of these magic moments right to the heart of London once again. Shubbak @ National Theatre River Stage takes place from 12–14 July 2019 and is supported by Amal.
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