Syria Speaks: Leading artists tour the UK for the first time since the revolution

Khaled Khalifa, Khalil Younes and others to showcase art and culture from the frontline

Leading Syrian artists will tour the UK this June to launch Syria Speaks, a new anthology of art and culture from the Syrian frontline, published by Saqi Books, and translated by Ghias Aljundi, Anne-Marie MacManus and Alice Guthrie.

The line-up will include award-winning Damascus-based novelist Khaled Khalifa, cinematographer and video artist Khalil Younes, writer and filmakmer Zaher Omareen, and authors Malu Halasa and Robin Yassin-Kassab.  The evenings of readings, music and film start at Rich Mix in London, then tour to Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool, Bradford and Durham. The artists will also run workshops in conjunction with English PEN at schools, refugee community centres and a prison.

The book and tour, organised by Reel Festivals, demonstrate how Syria’s artists are at the forefront of the country’s resistance against tyranny. Rappers and chanters who lead the mass demonstrations, photographers, artists – working with diverse media from chalk and charcoal to digital media and installations – filmmakers, cartoonists and writers are finding new voices to challenge the culture of violence in Syria. Syria Speaks is the first book to provide a window on Syrian creativity since the uprising, showcasing the work of over 50 artists and writers.

The book has already received advance praise from AL Kennedy and Brian Eno, who says, ‘This extraordinary collection says more about Syria than many months of newspaper reading has told me. It’s a profound look into a dynamic and exciting culture in painful transition – a culture where artists are really stepping up to the plate and making a difference.’

Lynn Gaspard, CEO of Saqi Books says,

‘In Syria, courageous individuals continue to make a stand against tyranny and to create and disseminate their art and words. Syria Speaks is a unique, inspiring and devastating work, capturing over 50 artists’ and writers’ aspirations, dreams and pain. I feel very privileged and am incredibly proud to be publishing this book and to be involved in the tour, which will highlight the role of culture in times of conflict. I am very grateful to the various organisations that are supporting the UK tour. The book’s editors have also to be commended for their courage and vision, and for their determination to publish this book (it is no easy feat assembling over 35 pieces from a war-torn country).’

Syria Speaks 7-city Tour

  • 11 June – Rich Mix, an evening of readings, music and film, London START TIME: 7pm
  • 12 June –Festival of Ideas, Foyles Bookshop, Bristol START TIME: 6pm Bookshop
  • 13 June – Ashmolean Museum, Oxford START TIME: 6.30pm
  • 14 June –  Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Liverpool START TIME: 5pm
  • 15 June – FUSE Gallery, Bradford START TIME: 4pm
  • 16 June – Durham University, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham START TIME: TBC.

With English PEN, Syria Speaks will also be conducting workshops at a highschool in London; a refugee centre in Bristol; a refugee centre in Oxford; a community youth group in Wigan; and a prison in the North-East. The Syria Speaks tour has been organised by Reel Festivals.

Notes to Editors:

Syria Speaks has been supported by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development; CKU, the Danish Centre for Culture and Development, English PEN Promotes!; Arts Council England, the Arab British Centre and Reel Festivals.

Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline edited by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen and Nawara Mahfoud will be published by Saqi books on 16 June 2014, price £12.99

Press contact Ruth Killick:, 07880 703741

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