Celebrating Syria festival band performing on stage

Syria is the focus of this art festival, organised by Manchester charity Rethink Rebuild Society, which aims to provide an escape from the oppression of the pandemic and celebrate the culture and people of this currently troubled country.

Most people’s awareness of Syria is dominated by the death and destruction occurring there due to the ugly and complicated civil war that has raged there since 2011. Returning for its fourth year to honour the less well-known aspects of Syrian culture, that have been drowned out by media coverage of the war, ‘Celebrating Syria: A Festival of Arts and Culture’ takes place online on 5-11 December 2020.

The theme of the festival – with events spanning across the whole week – is ‘Alone Together’, a theme that both summarises and overcomes the nature of the pandemic year for many, not just in Syria but across the globe.

The well-rounded programme sees the virtual stage taken by five Arab comedians in ‘The Kiwan Family – from their living room to yours’, stand-up comedy act and a political cartoon exhibition and panel discussion with the artists in ‘Cartooning Syria…and the rest of the world’.

Celebrating Syria festival poster
Celebrating Syria festival poster

A total of six films are screened across the week and some are followed by a discussion and a Q&A session with the filmmakers. Dr Haytham Alhamwi manager of Rethink Rebuild Society, a charity based in Manchester, and one of the festival organisers, said:

“We would recommend Celebrating Syria 2020 for anybody who is in need of some human interaction and a pick-me-up due to the current circumstances, anybody that wishes to know more about Arab culture and, of course, Syrians- anywhere they may be in the world.”

The organisers were able to spin a difficult year for performing arts into something positive through the festival’s online format, allowing not only Mancunians but also the international audience to connect with the artists and filmmakers.

“This year we are particularly looking forward to the fact that, due to the virtual nature of Celebrating Syria 2020, we are welcoming attendees from all over the globe and that Syrians of the diaspora can feel positively represented through our events. It is also the first year we are welcoming international DJ’s to our festival, and the organisers are all extremely excited to see their performance.”, Alhamwi explained.

The upcoming Celebrating Syria festival joins a string of successful Syrian themed festivals that previously saw exhibitions and movie screenings at HOME Manchester, concerts at the Royal Northern College of Music and The Stoller Hall and sold-out Syrian cooking and calligraphy lessons. Dr Alhamwi spoke of how the festivals have been received in the city:

“Manchester has welcomed our festival and turned up in their masses to our events throughout the last three years hosting Celebrating Syria, and this year the support has been no different. Celebrating Syria draws everyone together to share the art and culture of the Syrian homeland with the wider community in Manchester, adding to the diversity of this great multicultural city.”

While all events are free, donations are welcome to support with the event costs.

Manchester- based Rethink Rebuild Society is an award- winning charity working to improve the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Syria and elsewhere living in the UK.

By Noora Mykkanen

For the ‘Celebrating Syria’ 2020 festival programme – click here

To access the Rethink Rebuild Society website – click he
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  • Noora - who hails from Finland - came to Manchester in 2018 after finishing her postgraduate degree in Scotland and working in France at an international organisation. She is currently studying for her NCTJ Multimedia Journalism qualification and mastering shorthand. Prior to joining The Meteor’s Production and Communities Teams Noora covered news at a local radio station and worked in housing research. Radio and languages remain close to her heart while Noora is also passionate about immigration issues, housing and homelessness, foreign affairs and Syria. Twitter: @NooraMykkanen

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