Shubbak 2013: Mayor of London plans Arab culture festival

Boris Johnson reveals plan for 15-day celebration of Middle East talent

Gulf News

As he continues his trade mission to the Gulf the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for the return of Shubbak – London’s celebration of contemporary culture from across the Arab world, which he first launched in 2011.

Shubbak (the Arabic word for ‘window’) is a 15-day festival, which will give Londoners and the capital’s visitors the chance to discover new talent from the Arab world. It will also showcase artists who are established and well known in their own countries, but deserve a higher profile on the international stage.

The news comes as Boris Johnson visits two of Qatar’s leading cultural attractions - the Museum of Islamic Art and the Katara Cultural Village - during a three day trade mission to Doha. The Mayor, who will be meeting with Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Qatar Museums Authority, wants to build on the already strong cultural ties that exist between London and Doha and other countries across the Arab world.

Supported by the AM Qattan Foundation, Shubbak 2013 runs from 22 June to 6 July, with 40 events and nine exhibitions taking place at venues across London celebrating the best of Arab art and culture. The wide-ranging programme, many of them free and suitable for families, will include theatre, dance and music, fashion, literature and visual arts and architecture, lectures and debates, hosted by some of the capital’s leading cultural organisations.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘London’s relationship with the Arab world goes back to medieval times and today the cultural links between the capital and this hugely diverse region are stronger than ever. I was thrilled with the success of Shubbak when we launched it in 2011 and I am equally delighted to see this exciting arts festival return this year. It gives Londoners and visitors to our great city a unique window through which to take a closer look at the wonderfully rich tapestry of Arab culture.’

Many of the capital’s leading institutions, such as the British Museum, V&A, Barbican and British Library are already involved in partnerships and exchange programmes in the region.

Today’s announcement coincides with Qatar-UK 2013, a season of events being held in both countries, aimed at promoting greater awareness and appreciation of each other’s culture, through the arts, education, science and sport.

Full details of the Shubbak programme will be released later this month. Selected highlights include:


Serpentine Gallery and Qatar’s Mathaf (Arab Museum of Modern Art) present family programme in and around the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. Part of two days of talks, performances and family activities. This also forms part of the Qatar UK 2013 year.

Lyric Square in Hammersmith host programme of music bands, workshops and activities – a partnership between Hammersmith Business Improvement District, London-based arts organisation Arts Canteen and the Qatar UK 2013 year.

United Arab Emirates

The Arab British Centre – who have just won the prestigious UNESCO Sharjah Prize - collaborate with the Dubai film festival to bring three films for their UK premieres during Shubbak.


British Museum and architects and the ministry of Culture in Bahrain present a panel to discuss ‘On preservation and nostalgia in architecture in the context of Bahrain’ – a new insight for London audiences to learn about the architectural heritage of one of the Gulf states.

Exhibition at Edge of Arabia by group of Bahraini artists.



Mosaic Rooms presents readings of plays, scripts and short stories by young writers based in Kuwait


TATE Modern’s first exhibition of 96-year old Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair.

One of the most celebrated Lebanese musician and UNESCO Artist for Peace Marcel Khalife returns to London for a concert at Barbican Hall.

The popular Lebanon Festival in Cavendish Square is a fast-growing community celebration and will take place as part of Shubbak.


Concert by Egyptian band Nuba Nour

Photography exhibition and writings about Egyptian State Circus

Comedy of Oedipus – play by Egyptian writer, directed by UK based young Egyptian director

Other highlights

Points of Departure - exhibition of Palestinian and UK artists brough together by Delfina Foundation, ArtSchool Palestine and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).

Exhibition of grafitti from Syria shown at Rich Mix.

The International Prize of Arabic Fiction – otherwise known as the Arabic Booker with cultural centre Asia House bring to London two of this year’s shortlisted authors Jana Elhassan from Lebanon and Mohamed Hassan Alwan from Saudi Arabia.

First retrospective of celebrated Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri.

UK premiere of film by grand-daughter of what is often called ‘The Arab Frank Sinatra’ the Tunisian singer Hedi Juini, Claire Belhassine. Her film Papa Hedi, charts her journey – as a Londoner - to re-connect with her Arab family history.