20 Aug 2015
A commissioning programme for work by Syrian refugee artists is being developed by the organisers of Arab culture festival Shubbak.
Called and, the programme will help produce and disseminate work by Syrian artists who would otherwise not be able do so.
It will include commissions of all art forms, including theatre, film, music and literature, which will be presented in the UK.
First launched earlier this year as a digital programme by online arts organisation the Space and the British Council, the scheme has been taken over by London-based Shubbak and will be developed as a long-term project.
The British Council will continue to have some involvement in the commissioning process. To be eligible, artists must be based in one of the recipient refugee centres, in countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.
Shubbak artistic director Eckhard Thiemann, who is developing the scheme, told The Stage that decisions were still being made about the best way to disseminate the work to British audiences.
“We have the wonderful opportunity to think about how we can best help Syrian refugee artists of all genres reach audiences in Britain. Those audiences could be live or the work could be presented in another way – like film, live streaming or publishing,” he said.
Thiemann added that recent debates about freedom of speech and censorship had led to a “real honesty” in Britain over addressing such issues through art.
“I think there is an urgency that comes with stuff that is rooted in real life experiences… There is a real hunger to hear more personal voices, and for those to be a counterfoil to the day-to-day news reporting,” he said.
The biennial Shubbak festival took place this summer, with the next event planned for 2017. Thiemann said that work developed through the programme could be used as part of the festival in future years.
“It’s definitely an option. It hasn’t been set up with that in mind, and our primary objective is to help Syrian artists, but it could be a very good destination for that work.”