Shubbak 2021: 8 must-see events at this year’s festival

The Land’s Heart  is Greater Than Its Map  (Shubbak)
The Land’s Heart is Greater Than Its Map (Shubbak)

London's festival of contemporary Arab culture is back, and the 2021 edition is look excitingly eclectic as ever.

DJ nights, book launches, immersive theatre, film screenings, gigs — all that and more can be found on the line-up, with events spread across various venues, as well as online.

As things prepare to get underway from June 20, we've picked out some must-see highlights from a month's worth of cultural delights.

The Land’s Heart is Greater Than Its Map


This immersive theatre show promises that all you’ll need to enjoy it is “comfortable shoes and an open imagination”. Created by Palestinian filmmaker, writer and actor Ramzi Maqdisi alongside theatre director and writer Olivia Furber, it takes places out on the streets near the Barbican, and transports attendees to “a far away city which cannot be named”. It’s intriguing — head along to find out more.

Barbican, June 25-July 4, buy tickets here


A genre-traversing, audiovisual journey through culture and politics, this online event will bring together five young artists whose lives growing up during the last 10 years, a turbulent period in North African history, has shaped their boldly radical art. Expect everything from trip-hop to Maghrebi fusions, and plenty with arresting visuals.

Online and on demand, June 23-July 17, buy tickets here

The Distant Here


Go on a literary adventure around west London with this walking exhibition. Showcasing the work of two Palestinian authors, Heba Hayek and Yara Hawari, as well as the typography of artist Farah Fayyad, a PDF map will guide you around Shepherd’s Bush, Ladbroke Grove, Chelsea and Park Royal in search of excerpts. They’ll be hidden in places important to the Arab diaspora — cafes, bookshops, cultural spaces — as well as on billboards and posters. Get looking!

Various locations, June 24-July 17, sign up here

Safar Film Festival

The return of the UK’s only film festival dedicated to cinema from the Arab world will this year focus on “generational encounters”, pairing movies old and new to explore “emergent youth, familial disparities and societal tensions”. Reflecting on the popular revolts of a decade ago and their legacy, the festival will spread across multiple venues — the Barbican, Ciné Lumière and the ICA — as well as online.

Various venues, July 1-10, buy tickets here

Borders Behind: Adnan Joubran


Oud maestro Adnan Joubran comes to the Jazz Cafe in Camden to perform a reworking of his breakout solo album, 2014’s Borders Behind. Joined by Bernhard Schimpelsberger (percussion), Jesse Bannister (saxophone and flutes) and Danny Keane (cello), it will breathe new life into an already hugely innovative album. The first night is sold out, but tickets remain for the second.

The Jazz Cafe, June 30-July 1, buy tickets here

Sounds of Syria: London Syrian Ensemble

The London Syrian Ensemble come to north London to perform an evening of new compositions, created in response to a profoundly difficult decade for Syrian composers at home and abroad. Led by ney soloist Louai Alhenawi and formed of musicians trained at the Damascus Conservatoire, it’s going to be a visceral, virtuosic night.

Kings Place, July 7, buy tickets here

Fierce Voices

DJ Nooriyah (Arts Canteen)
DJ Nooriyah (Arts Canteen)

Dance music, spoken-word poetry, rap and experimental sounds collide here, with London-based, Arab women artists taking to the stage. Featuring performers Yomn Al-Kaisi, Tasneim Zyada, Rayane Chami, Bint Mbareh, Bint7alal and DJ Nooriyah, it’s bound to be a lively, stirring night.

Rich Mix, July 17, buy tickets here

We Wrote In Symbols

This evening will launch We Wrote In Symbols, a new collection of writing on love and lust by women writers of Arab heritage. Bahraini-British writer Jena Al-Ansari will host discussions with the editor Selma Dabbagh, as well as writers Sabrina Mahfouz, Laura Hanna, Saeida Rouass and Lisa Luxx, who will explore the history of eroticisim in Arabic literature, and talk about their own contributions to the book.

Rich Mix, July 15, buy tickets here

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