This year’s Nour Festival kicked off on the 1st October and took pride of place at Chelsea Old Town Hall on the highly fashionable King’s Road. This, after all has been the ideal place for exploring new fashions, trends, outlooks and cultures for over 40 years. Councillor Timothy Coleridge, who is also RBKC Cabinet member of Planning Policy, Transport and Arts underlined in his opening remarks how the Royal Borough is adamant that art and culture is seminal and embedded in the life of the Royal Borough. Inclusivity and community enhancement are deep rooted in this belief. Not only culture and the arts increase economic benefits bringing increased enjoyment to the lives of people within the area is important too.
Dr. Shahidha Bari, lecturer at Queen Mary’s University in London, further underscored the Nour’s contribution to ideas that were so obviously ‘lively, challenging and engaging.’ She felt this festival was a tour de force because the area would not only be altered for two months but would continue to feel the effects as Nour became bolder and bigger. The festival is an intellectual, cultural and political venture which also celebrates culture. In fact if you haven’t heard about the Nour Festival then you must have been on another planet. Since its inception in 2010 it has become a tour de force.
What is it? It’s an eight week celebration of Middle Eastern and North African Arts and Culture. You do not need to travel long distance however, just get yourself to Kensington and Chelsea. There you will find almost 60 venues playing host to a diverse and dramatic set of events. Not content with pushing the boundaries. Nour has become the by word for arts in these two cultures. Many are unaware of just what is happening in contemporary arts in these regions and a visit to the Nour will soon put you right. This year a partnership with the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha puts Afghan art in the spotlight. It is the first touring exhibition curated by MIA and represents all that is explosive and exciting when East meets West.
If poetry, film, music or any of the visual arts is your area of interest then this Festival is something that just has to be a date in any art lover’s cultural annual itinerary. It is not a surprise that the Nour should be housed within Chelsea and Kensington either. The Arabic language has a profound influence in the area and is the second most spoken language there. Nour in itself now represents everything positive associated with the notion of cultural exchange and art of the highest quality; we felt privileged to be there. In fact, this year the Nour is even more ambitious than in previous years. It also aligns itself to controversial topics and many of the political challenges and juxtapositions, which typify this vast region of the world. Certainly it is an arresting undertaking to pout on such diverse events. Its success demonstrates just what kind of appetite exists for the artistic expression happening within North Africa and the Middle East. At last there is a platform where prejudice and misconceptions can be challenged; where expectation is knocked down and the reality is presented in its myriad complexity.
The highlights as far as the Lahd Gallery is concerned has to be the Feozkoh exhibition of Afghan Art and its continuity and tradition which was staged at Leighton House. Also Soraya Syed, whose animation has been given an extraordinary soundtrack by the renowned Nitin Sawnhey.
If you missed its opening there is still much to see right through until the end of November and some exhibitions last longer. Do not pass the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Nour Festival – it is like no other festival in the world and it’s right on our doorstep!
|Councillor Timothy Coleridge||Dr. Shahidha Bari|
|Rose Issa||Dr Nauf Albendar with the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Charles Williams|
|Chelsea Old Town Hall|