The UK’s first dedicated festival of Muslim culture, literature and ideas, MFest, will take place at the British Library, in central London, on 27-29 April 2018.
MFest brings together Muslims and non-Muslims to celebrate the richness and plurality of Muslim cultures, and explore contemporary Muslim thought through the breadth of its heritage, politics, and communities. The new annual festival aims to provide a platform for emerging and established writers, performers and artists to present their works and bring together Britain’s diverse and vibrant Muslim population.
Tufyal Choudhury, Director of MFest, said:
“We are delighted to launch a festival of books and ideas that recognises the diversity, differences and dynamics of Muslim cultures and lives. MFest challenges a fundamental feature of Islamophobia, which sees Islam and Muslims as a monolithic, static block.”
Nearly 30 events will make up the MFest programme, including poetry readings, workshops, performances, discussions, after parties and family events. The award-winning novelist and political commentator Elif Shafak will give the 2018 keynote speech, following music by the acclaimed Palestinian singer Reem Kelani. Contributors to the Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic book come to MFest with a stand-up comedy night, and Kamila Shamsie will be in conversation with the journalist Razia Iqbal.
The journalist Remona Aly will lead a discussion on Islam and evolving feminisms, and independent publishers discuss the ins and outs of selling works by Muslim writers, chaired by BAME in Publishing co-founder Sarah Shaffi. MFest participants also include Elif Shafak; Rai, AlexReads, and Derek Owusu of Mostly Lit; and the Khidr Collective. Elif Shafak, Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic and Kamila Shamsie are also among highlights of the 2018 programme.
Rai, AlexReads, and Derek Owusu will discuss the intersection between literature and pop-culture as they create a live version of their podcast, while Mostly Lit, and Malia Bouattia, former president of the National Union of Students, will look at the future of Muslim activism.
The consequences of the Grenfell fire for activist movements will be discussed by community organiser Pilgrim Tucker, MP Emma Dent Coad, and the grime artist Saskilla, and the cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar will be part of a panel investigating Sheikh Google and how knowledge of Islam is shaped by algorithms. MFest will also see the dancer Akram Khan in conversation, and amongst a series of workshops and activities, there is a poetry workshop with the poet, essayist and literary researcher Momtaza Mehri, DIY magazine making with the Khidr Collective, and a drumming workshop with Louai El Hanawi.
What MFest aims to do
Whether it is in government, the media, or in cultural spaces – discussions around Muslims are ubiquitous. Yet, the debate is dominated by terrorism and security, and often fails to engage, challenge or empower the communities it seeks to analyse. The UK’s approximately three million Muslims are rarely seen or heard discussing philosophy, science, literature, the arts on mainstream platforms, either in faith or non-faith contexts.
The result is a significant under-representation of the diversity of Muslim communities, the plurality of Muslim cultures, and the richness of its artistic traditions. MFest aims to redress this imbalance.