MFest is the UK's first dedicated festival of Muslim culture, literature and ideas
- Alex Johnston
- 26 March 2018
Talks, workshops, presentations and performances celebrating the diversity of Muslim culture
As technology gives us all the ability to broadcast our opinions to the world in general, one of the things that's become all too evident is that there are a lot of cultural and ethnic stereotypes whirling around in the public discourse, whose occasional impacts upon reality have been known to cause serious bruises.
This is why MFest is so welcome. A new annual festival of Muslim culture and ideas, it should serve to represent the complexity and diversity of Muslim culture far more accurately than the often warped and hostile perspective offered by more vocal and less nuanced commentators. It's aimed at both Muslims and non-Muslims, and the emphasis is on the wider culture practiced by Muslims, pre-eminently in literature and the spoken word but also in music, dance and community involvement.
MFest is sponsored by the Aziz Foundation, created by property developer and philanthropist Asif Aziz, and AI company DeepMind. The guiding principle of the festival is diversity, with a strong focus on contemporary literature and ideas, but it broadens to cover all kinds of related topics concerning social justice, representation and intersectionality. The topics of specific talks range from the role of Arabic etymology in Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune, through the relationship between modern feminism and Islam from the perspective of British hijab-wearing Muslim women, to pre-crime and the surveillance state. One of the keynote talks, 'The Right Kind of Muslim?' is from former Foreign Minister Baroness Warsi, about her own personal journey as the first Muslim to serve as a member of the British cabinet. There's also a panel discussion on the impact of the Grenfell Tower fire on activist movements.
In addition to the talks, there are workshops and presentations. Amina Khayyam leads an interactive workshop on Kathak dance; Comics & Cola blogger Zainab Akhtar shows you how to approach creating your own comic book; poet, essayist and researcher Momtaza Mehri helps you to unlock your own creative writing.
There's also performance, with the whole festival kicking off with a gala night including a speech by multi-award-winning Turkish novelist Elih Shafak, spoken-word poetry from Suhaiyma Manzoor Khan, Momtaza Mehri and Aliyah Hasinah, and music from Palestinian musician Reem Kelani. The Saturday night after-party features comedy and music from Imran Yusuf, Prince Abdi and others, and the spoken word poets return for a night of poetry on Sunday.
These are just a selection from the full programme, which is available on the festival website. Saturday and Sunday day passes are available for £20 (unwaged and students 17+ £15), while a full festival pass is £35 (£25) and individual events are £5 (£3). The Opening Night Gala and After party are ticketed separately.
MFest is on at the British Library, London from Fri 27–Sun 29 Apr 2018.