Shubbak Arab culture festival appoints new joint chief executives as 2021 event ends

Both are artists with an interest in widening access to cultural works and events

Two cultural visionaries have been picked to lead Shubbak, the UK’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture.

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso and Alia Alzougbi will be joint chief executives at Shubbak, taking over from Eckhard Thiemann, who has been chief executive and artistic director since 2012.

Shubbak Festival aims to present new and unexpected voices alongside established artists in an ambitious programme to connect audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab arts.

The 2021 event ran from June 20 to July 27 at various London venues and included hip-hop, spoken word and karaoke.

Ms Alzougbi, a 2008 Bafta Scotland winner, joins Shubbak from Global Learning London, where she is head of the international cultural learning organisation.

She has worked closely with national and international organisations, including the British Museum, the National Theatre and Clore Leadership to create high-profile critical encounters that question the parameters of cultural representation and inclusion.

Ms Alzougbi is a British Council/Chevening scholar who volunteers nationally and internationally to coach and mentor people with reduced access to opportunities in cultural industries.

Ms Choucair-Vizoso has been with Shubbak since 2018, where she is responsible for developing artistic opportunities that reduce social inequality and access barriers to the industry.

She is co-director of At Home in Gaza and London, a telematic performance and exchange project bringing together artists and audiences across the divide. She has previously curated for Awan Festival and Global Arab Female Voices.

In a joint statement, Ms Alzougbi and Ms Choucair-Vizoso explained what they have in store for Shubbak.

“We look forward to taking it into its next phase as a much-needed creative nesting place of abundance and possibility for artists and community, where a range of audiences from diverse backgrounds flock to encounter our stories as we live, experience and choose to tell them – a home away from home where we are held, supported, and encouraged to dream, collaborate and experiment towards artistic excellence,” they said.

Shadia El Dardiry, chair of the Shubbak board of trustees, said: “Alia and Taghrid have impressive experience as artists, curators and cultural producers. Both have a highly developed understanding of the needs of Arab artists and communities, a commitment to artistic excellence and just cultural ecologies.

“[We’re] delighted that they will apply their considerable talents to taking Shubbak into its next phase and build on the work of our outgoing CEO.”

Updated: July 29th 2021, 5:16 PM