At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has made the future for many artists seem uncertain at best, one organization is quickly adapting to meet the unprecedented challenges head-on.
The Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, a nonprofit organization that has been bringing Arab culture to the British public since 1998, was able to ensure compensation for its performers this summer and is charting new territory with its effort to move nearly the entire festival online.
The festival receives support from the Arts Council England and the Liverpool City Council. Its program manager, Jack Welsh, and its marketing coordinator, Laura Brown, plan the events at least a year in advance. It was around February of this year that they realized the Covid-19 crisis would affect their plans for July.
“We were just about to enter the stage in which we would confirm everything and start exchanging contracts with artists,” said Welsh. “We had to look at our existing program and start to think about how it could be translated digitally.”
A few events had to be canceled. The popular Family Day, at the iconic Palm House in Liverpool’s Sefton Park, was one. Family Day normally attracts about 4,000 people to the glass-domed Victorian structure, with free family-focused activities like storytelling and face painting, and live dance and music performances inside.
The digital transformation, however, has allowed the organizers to flex their creative muscles and explore different ways of moving forward with the many activities they engage in year-round, including workshops. The most recent one came in the form of a parent-baby “dabke” dance session, held on Zoom. The free workshop, led by the Hawiyya Dance Company, introduced families to the traditional Levantine folkloric dance.
“That’s one example of how we’ve adapted,” Welsh said. “We’ve been really reimagining what we can do with the space we’ve been given.”
Coping With Logistical Hurdles
The maritime city of Liverpool, in northwest England, is famous as the hometown of the Beatles and is a hotbed of culture, boasting more museums and galleries than any other city in the United Kingdom after London. Seeing event after event canceled in the vibrant city was beginning to weigh heavily on residents.