Wednesday, May 22, 2013

nominations open for the Arab British Centre Award for Culture

 Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of judges of the Arab British Centre Award for Culture 2013

Applications for the Arab British Centre Award for Culture opened on 20 May. The Award, worth £2,500, celebrates the individual who is judged to have made the most constructive contribution to British understanding of Arab culture in the past two years. It is open to individuals working in any cultural field.

The shortlist will be revealed in mid-September, and the winner  will be announced at the Award Ceremony to be held at Leighton House Museum in London on 26 September. In addition to the prize money, The Arab British Centre is able to provide the winner with opportunities to promote his or her work more widely. Applications are welcome directly from individuals wishing to be considered for the award. Details of the application process are on  For further information contact Ruba Asfahani | 020 7832 1310

Ruba Asfahani recently joined the team at the Arab British Centre as project manager and as a trustee. She told this blog: “We’re extremely excited to announce this award after a two year hiatus: the concept has changed slightly to allow us to celebrate an individual who is making a worthy contribution to British understanding of Arab culture"

She added: "With a strong panel made up of some of the most respected individuals working in Music, Film, Art and other cultural enterprises, we will no doubt see an influx of applicants. These applicants deserve to be recognised with an award like thi,s mainly because in the last few years the Arab arts scene has developed exponentially in the UK, and if it wasn’t for these hardworking individuals, none of it would have been possible.”

The Arab British Centre has been playing an increasing role in promoting cultural and artistic events related to the Arab world. Its role was honoured in April this year when it was named co-winner of the prestigious UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture 2012.

The UNESCO-Sharjah Prize rewards significant contributions to the development, knowledge and spread of Arab culture by means of artistic, intellectual or promotional outreach aimed at enhancing intercultural dialogue and understanding. According to UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin, the Centre has been recognised for "the various activities and events organised, within and outside the Centre, to promote a better understanding of Arab culture and foster intercultural dialogue".

The Arab British Centre Award for Culture is successor to the Arab British Culture and Society Award, which was worth £5,000 to the winner and ran for four years in 2008 - 2011. The Culture and Society Award celebrated organisations and individuals which had made a considerable impact on the British public’s understanding of the life, society and culture of the Arab world. In practice, although open to both organisations and individuals, in each year an organisation won: the four winners were Al Saqi Books, Zaytoun, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival and Al Jazeera English. A number of individuals were, however, specially commended.

The new Arab British Centre Award for Culture is, unlike its predecssor, open only to individuals rather than to both individuals and organisations. The change will be welcomed by those who felt it was difficult to judge individuals alongside organisations, especially given the greater financial resources of the latter category.

The winner of the 2013 prize will be chosen by a panel of distinguished experts with knowledge of the cultures of the Arab World and the United Kingdom. The panel is chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC who was previously a chair of the judges of the Arab British Culture and Society Award.  Kennedy has served as Chair of the British Council and of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT), and is a Trustee of the British Museum and the Booker Prize.

The other panellists are: Maxime Duda, CEO and Founder of Arab New Trends; Rose Issa, a curator, writer and publisher who for the last 30 years has been promoting contemporary art and films from the Arab world and Iran; Deborah Shaw, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Director of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012, and Brian Whitaker, journalist and former Middle East Editor of the Guardian newspaper.

Deborah Shaw of the RSC, a judge of the Award

Biographical details of the panel:

Baroness Helena Kennedy is a barrister, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords, and is  Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford. An expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues, she has received many honours for her work. Current chair of Justice - the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists - she was the Chair of the British Council and of the Human Genetics Commission. She recently produced a report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission on Human Trafficking in Scotland and was a member of the Government Commission on a British Bill of Rights. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Institute of Human Rights.

Maxime Duda Maxime Duda is CEO and founder of Arab New Trends. In 2007, he was commissioned to build what became the public association called LEOPArts (Lebanese Export Office for Performing Arts). LEOPArts was an Agency of Public Interest, supported by the Lebanese Minister of Culture, H.E Tarek Mitri. After moving to London in 2009, Duda launched Arab New Trends Limited, a UK based company that proposes Arts and Culture consulting services, with a focus on the Middle East and Northern Africa. Since moving to London Duda has collaborated with Al Jazeera, the Jordan Festival and several Universities. He also has worked in curating events for Shubbak Festival, Nour Festival, the V&A, Barbican, Sadler Wells, The Tabernacle, The Scope and Rich Mix.

Rose Issa  is a curator, writer and producer who has championed visual art and film from the Arab world and Iran for nearly 30 years. She has lived in London for the last 25 years where, from her project space in Great Portland Street ,she showcases upcoming and established artists. Rose Issa has been guest curator for numerous private and public institutions in Beirut, Liverpool, London, Moscow, Geneva, Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Brussels amongst others. She also advises public and private art institutions on their loans and acquisitions of contemporary artworks from the Middle East, including The British Museum, Imperial War Museum, Museum of Mankind, Victoria and Albert Museum; the Written Art Foundation, Wiesbaden; the National Museums of Scotland; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Smithsonian Institution (Sackler/Freer Gallery and National Museum of African Arts); the World Bank, and The National Gallery of Jordan.

Deborah Shaw  has a career in theatre spanning over 20 years, as Associate and Artistic Director in regional theatre, as a producer, director and writer in the UK and USA and most recently as Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Director of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. The World Shakespeare Festival was the centrepiece of the official culture programme of the London Olympics, and included 75 productions and projects (including film commissions, education and online projects). She has commissioned, developed and presented productions and co-productions from Iraq, Tunisia, Kuwait, Germany Czech Republic, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Canada, India, Poland, China, Japan, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Zimbabwe. She is Executive Producer and the only non-Iraqi founder member of the Baghdad-based Iraqi Theatre Company, which won Best Production of 2012 for their latest production, Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad, which was seen in the UK, Qatar and Iraq in 2012 and is touring Germany and USA in 2013/14. Later this year she joins Historic Royal Palaces as Head of Creative Programming, with responsibility for a new programme of artistic projects across the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Banqueting House.

Brian Whitaker is a journalist and former Middle East Editor of the Guardian newspaper. He is the author of two books about the region, "What's Really Wrong with the Middle East" and "Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East". His website,, is devoted to Arab culture and politics. The Arab British Centre 1 Gough Square London, EC4A 3DE

Brian Whitaker

The Arab British Centre is a registered charity which works to improve the British public’s understanding of the Arab world. It organises and promotes cultural and artistic events relating to the Arab world, and hosts a regular programme of activities including Arabic calligraphy classes and Arabic language classes. It also housse permanent and temporary collections of contemporary Arab art, has a specialised library open to the public, and recognises individuals and organisations working in similar fields through its  award.

In addition to its regular on-site activities the Centre works in partnership with other institutions including the Mayor of London Shubbak Festival and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Nour Festival. In 2012, it produced ‘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.
report by Susannah Tarbush

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