Bethlehem Cultural Festival comes to the UK

Event in England and Scotland celebrates Palestinian heritage

Renowned Palestinian chef Fadi Kattan opened the Festival on Thursday in London with a talk on the heritage and culture of food in the Holy Land. Photo: Bethlehem Cultural Festival

UK residents can truly get into the Christmas spirit this year, due to a four-day festival that has come from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Running from December 2 to 5 in London and Glasgow, the Bethlehem Cultural Festival is putting on a number of artistic and cultural events to highlight the rich heritage of Palestine and the Mediterranean.

Organisers say the festival will celebrate a region “thriving with positive energy and creativity” through a series of talks, food demonstrations, films, theatre productions and musical performances, both live and online.

Now in its second year, the festival’s founders said the event hoped to “remind everyone of the importance of this town and its people”, beyond its historical and geographical significance.

“We provide a platform for artists across the world to connect and work together to find common ground through their work and through panel discussions to address key issues that cultural practitioners face in their work," said Melissa Scott, one of the festival’s co-founders.

"We are building on the rich cultural heritage that this region has always had throughout the centuries, and try to go some way to remind the world of the positive cultural work being done on the ground every day.”

Composer and global Jazz flutist Faris Ishaq is known for his mastery of the ancient flute, Nay. He opened the festival on Thursday in London and will close it in Glasgow on Sunday. Photo: Bethlehem Cultural Festival

The festival launched its packed programme on Thursday in London with renowned Palestinian chef Fadi Kattan. He discussed Palestinian food and heritage with food writer Xanthe Clay and Sam Clark, who owns restaurant Moro in the UK capital.

The evening event also included discussions on the impact of construction borders around the eastern Mediterranean, and Palestinian fiction writing. It closed with a performance by Nay flute player Faris Ishaq, based on the work of celebrated Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish.

Friday’s roster includes a talk between Iraqi writer Haifa Zangana and journalist Victoria Brittain about Palestinian women who have written about their experiences as ex-prisoners. It will be followed by a performance of Levantine folk dance Dabke and a play by Palestinian playwrights and theatre directors Ahmed Najar from London and Ashraf Afifi from Gaza.

The Hawiyya Dance Company, founded in 2017 as a culturally-diverse all-women’s collective which explores identity, culture and resistance through dance, will perform at the festival. Photo: Bethlehem Cultural Festival

On Saturday, the festival moves to Scotland with a twinned Glasgow-Bethlehem line-up that will see a co-ordinated tree lighting in Manger Square, Bethlehem, and Glasgow Cathedral. There will also be synchronised carols from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Other events taking place in Scotland’s largest city include a performance by Palestinian alternative rock band, Mafar, and screenings from filmmakers in Glasgow and Palestine.

For more details, visit bethlehemculturalfestival.com

Updated: December 3rd 2021, 12:56 PM