London’s biennial Shubbak Festival returns for 2021


Shubbak, London’s biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture, returns in 2021 with an huge programme reflecting on people, connections and ideas in a fundamentally unsettled world.

The sixth edition of the Shubbak Festival: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture runs from 20 June – 17 July. Born out of the rupture across Arab countries ten years ago, Shubbak 2021 returns with an ambitious programme that connects audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate.

Almost all of the work in the festival is brand-new – commissioned or conceived especially for this year’s conditions. From outdoor audio-guided theatre, UK music and spoken word talent in intimate surroundings and new collaborations and installations in iconic locations and local neighbourhoods uncovering subtle histories and personal memories. In a year when international work has been in short supply, Shubbak welcomes performers from Palestine, Berlin and Lebanon to share their stories across London.

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DJ Nooriyah will be playing some sets during the Shubbak Festival this year

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Artistic Director, Eckhard Thiemann said: “Shubbak 2021 celebrates the creativity and voices of Arab artists and takes you right into the heart of cultural expression in the Arab world and its diaspora.

“With a wide range of performance venues in London and an extensive network of international locations from Slemani to Casablanca, from Cairo to Riyadh, this year’s festival programme transcends the borders of all our previous editions.

“The festival is a place of discovery, meetings, calls to action as well as contemplation. As our world opens up again post-pandemic, Shubbak offers opportunities to reconnect, share and explore our new local and global realities.”

Venues for 2021 include Chelsea Physic Garden, the Barbican Centre, British Museum, Toynbee Studios, King’s Place, the Jazz Café and Mosaic Rooms.

And the digital programme will feature a theatre premiere performed by Syrian actors in Germany, events live-streamed globally from Beirut, Gaza, Marrakech, Slemani, Riyadh, Khartoum and Doha, a film introducing the burgeoning Hip Hop scene in The Gulf, dance from Ramallah and four DJ/VJ artists sharing sets from Casablanca, Tunis, Cairo and Algiers.

It is a London festival when it comes to in-person events, but it has a truly global scope – clearly reflected in those participating and the digital offerings.

Lead Image: Philip Rachid’s It Ain’t Where You From.

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