Arab British Centre – a London-based charity promoting arts and culture of the Arab world – will receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture from UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at a ceremony to be held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris at 7pm on 25 April. (The full programme is on the UNESCO website here.)
The Arab British Centre is the first-ever British recipient of the prize, which was launched in 2011. In addition the Centre is the first-ever organisation, rather than individual, to be awarded the honour.
The UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, now in its 11th edition, recognises commitment to the dissemination of Arab culture in a global context.The official prize giving ceremony will be preceded by a series of talks entitled: “5 itineraries, 5 visions, 1 question: What is the Role of Arab Culture in Tomorrow’s World?” Five international personalities, renowned for their involvement in Arab culture, will attempt to answer this question. The ceremony will be followed by a concert by the Palestinian group Khoury Project, featuring Egyptian oud player Mohamed Abozekry.
The Arab British Centre
The Arab British Centre is located in Gough Square, off London's historic Fleet Street, and stands next door to Dr Johnson’s House, which has been restored and opened to the public. The Centre organises and promotes cultural and artistic events relating to the Arab world, and hosts a regular programme of activities including classes Arabic calligraphy classes and the Arabic language. In addition to its regular on-site activities, the Centre has worked on a number of one-off projects in external locations, including the major 2012 project ‘Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema’, a week-long series of popular Arab cinema which took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
An international jury of experts selected the Arab British Centre as co-winner of the prize, with Professor Mustapha Cherif of Algeria. The $60,000 prize money is shared equally between the two laureates.
Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, said the international jury "recognised the dynamic efforts of The Arab British Centre in promoting different aspects of Arab Culture. The various activities and events organised, within and outside the Centre, to promote a better understanding of Arab culture and foster intercultural dialogue were highly appreciated”.
The Arab British Centre’s Chairman Virginia Forbes said: “It is a huge honour for The Arab British Centre to be awarded this prize and is testament to the hard work of our small but dedicated team. We are encouraged to redouble our efforts, presenting the best of Arab arts and culture to a British audience. With the wonderful endorsement of UNESCO, we hope that we can engage more people with all that the Arab world has to offer.”
Despite limited budgetary resources, the Arab British Centre is able to undertake its activities through working with an extensive network of partners to promote the culture and arts of the Arab world in the United Kingdom. The Arab British Centre anticipates spending it $30,000 share of the prize money in furthering this aim.