Syrian Writers and Artists to Tour

Leading Syrian artists will tour Britain in June to launch Syria Speaks, an anthology of art and culture from the Syrian frontline.

The line-up will include award-winning Damascus-based novelist Khaled Khalifa, cinematographer and video artist Khalil Younes, writer and film maker Zaher Omareen, and authors Malu Halasa and Robin Yassin-Kassab.

The evenings of readings, music and film begin 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 Rights centres and a prison.

The book and tour, organised by Reel Festivals, aims to demonstrate how Syria’s artists are leading the country’s resistance against tyranny. 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. It has already received advance praise from A.L. Kennedy and Brian Eno, who believes the book is an ‘extraordinary collection [which] 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, Publisher, explained: ‘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 are 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.’

With English PEN, Syria Speaks will also conduct workshops at Elizabeth Garret Anderson School, London; Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol; Asylum Welcome, Oxford; Wigan Pier Workshops, Wigan; and HM Prison Low Newton, Durham.

Organised by Reel Festivals, the tour is 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, is published 16 June 2014, price £12.99.

Press contact Ruth Killick:, 07880 703741

Nour Festival 2014 Call for Submissions

Nour Festival is now welcoming submissions from arts organisations and artists for their 2014 programme. Nour Festival is a celebration of the very best in contemporary Middle Eastern and North African arts and culture. Nour, which means light or illumination in many Middle Eastern languages, springs to life each October and November in venues across the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and challenges preconceptions, sparks debate and provides insight into culture from across the MENA region. The festival’s highly acclaimed programme of art, film, literature, music and performance has established Nour as a crucial meeting point for East and West. With long-term leadership provided by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Nour is the ever-exuberant expression of a growing family of partner organisations, and in 2013 welcomed new partners such as the Royal Albert Hall, Chelsea Theatre, Kensington and Chelsea College, the

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Gate Theatre and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. For more information on how to apply, visit their website Closing Date: 12:00 noon Wednesday 30 April 2014 Submissions will be considered throughout May and June, during which time the Nour Festival team may be in touch with you.

Zealot to be made into a feature film

We are thrilled to announce that Lionsgate has acquired the feature film rights to Westbourne Press author Reza Aslan‘s provocative New York Times bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Erik Feig, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group’s President of Production, said, Reza Aslan has written a remarkable book that manages to bring the ancient world into contemporary relief and to make a timeless story very timely. We are excited to create this uniquely cinematic and immersive world for moviegoers to experience.

Reza Aslan commented, ‘I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lionsgate. Their vision for

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is aligned with my objective in writing the book, which was to illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context.’

Named as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Zealot challenges long-held assumptions about Jesus. Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived. Zealot provides a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel, and a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time and the birth of a religion.

Asian past in Britain in new book

Westbourne Press author and professor Susheila Nasta was interviewed by Ayshea Buksh for BBC London on her latest publication Asian Britain.

From Asian cricketer to Indian suffragette, Asian Britain unveils for the first time unseen photographs which chart the contribution of Asian people in Britain over more than a century. Susheila Nasta said she uncovered many stories which were not known such as how Asian soldiers were apparently not allowed to be nursed by white English nurses at a makeshift war hospital in Brighton.

This extraordinary photographic history vividly charts Britain’s process of coming to terms with the historic realities of its culturally diverse past and present.

Click here to see the full interview

Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline wins an English PEN Award.

Saqi Books is delighted to announce that Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline has won an English PEN Award.

This anthology of new work, by established and emerging Syrian writers and artists, features essays, short stories, poems and songs, as well as photographs, cartoons, drawings and illustrations, capturing a people discovering themselves and coming into their own expression about their lives, hopes and aspirations during a time of great turmoil in a country where dissent was always heavily coded – and, when it wasn’t, was suppressed, its authors imprisoned.

Lynn Gaspard, publisher at Saqi Books, said: “Syria Speaks is a unique anthology the first to provide a window into Syrian art and writing since the uprising. It is incredibly important and moving and the editors, Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen and Nawara Mahfoud, have to be commended for their admirable work. Working under unimaginable constraints, they have obtained 35 original pieces by Syrian writers and artists, 17 of which were inside the country. We are thrilled to be collaborating with English PEN and will invite some of the contributors to participate at events at the British Museum, Rich Mix and other venues in and outside London next year.”

Saqi Books with its sister company Dar al Saqi in Beirut will

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release English and Arabic-language editions simultaneously in June 2014.

MEMO Palestine Book Awards celebrates Abdel Bari Atwan

Saqi Books is delighted to announce that Abdel Bari Atwan was awarded the lifetime achievement award at this year’s MEMO Palestine Book Awards. He was awarded for his longstanding work in journalism and literature on the subject of Palestine. The announcement was made in front of MEMO’s guests at the London Hilton Paddington.

Abdel Bari Atwan was Editor-in-Chief at the London-based newspaper, Al Quds al-Arabi, which he edited for twenty years. His works include After bin Laden, The Secret History of al-Qa‘ida and A Country of Words: A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page.