Manchester Islamic arts and music festival announces program for summer

A Manchester-based festival celebrating Islamic art, music and culture from all around the world will be making its debut this summer. The festival, born out of a need for creativity during lockdown, will host a collection of renowned artists from different backgrounds to create “relevant, innovative and progressive new work”.

The Salaam Festival will debut from 20-25 July and will debut five brand new commissions including a new composition based on poet Mohammed Iqbal’s work, an installation by Jameel Prize-nominated artist Sofia Karim as well as an immersive opening ceremony with award-winning chef Anissa Helou.

The city center will also be host to five nights of music across different venues spanning the five-day festival with free programming in the ‘Medina’ – the festival’s hub which will be available daily from 12pm to 10.20pm on July 21 to 25. It will also host ‘Sohbet’ (Persian and Turkish for ‘conversation’), a series of daily conversations breaking down many aspects of Islamic culture from around the world which will be available from 12pm to 1pm on July 21 to 25.

Readmore: The best restaurants in Manchester to break your fast

Rizawan Iqbal, Salaam Festival’s Artistic Director, said: “This is a landmark occasion in our multicultural city. In order to change the way we engage, experience and interpret art, it is important to be seen and heard through producing relevant and high quality work .”

Salaam’s opening ceremony

Salaam festival will open with Mehfilm a feast that invites 500 guests to experience Muslim arts and culture from the past, present and future. The opening ceremony will feature artistic directors Jean-Herve Vidal and Mehdi Ben Sheikh of Zaman Productions who will present an acoustic and visual set by Noureddine Kourchid and the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus.

The opening ceremony will also feature Sufi singers Deba from Meyotte and Tunisian street artist Mohamed Koumenji, also known as Koom. The food at the ceremony will be presented by award-winning chef Anissa Hellou who will provide a Moroccan-inspired meal.

Other Commissions

Lal Gate

Sofia Karim’s installation for the festival, Lal Gate, will present Lincoln Square as a site for a public garden prisoners dedicated to politics. It will be set within Manchester’s new Peace Garden and will draw on inspiration from Islamic gardens while seeking to explore established tropes.

“Rooted in my theories on the #architecture of disappearance’, the garden is a site for struggle and resistance, a ‘thin place’ where the boundary between the physical and spiritual world dissolves,” Karim said.


Choreographer Abdul ‘Abdanger’ Kinyenya and playwright Courtney Hayles will explore the internal struggle on a man’s journey with a contemporary dance piece. Muguwa (‘rope’ in Luganda) draws influence from martial arts and features original music from Faizal Mostrixx while tackling themes of identity, insight, trauma and transformation of the male narrative.

“Since we all go through the internet struggle regardless of our colours, nationalities and tribes, we tend to have clashes of values ​​and desires, Kinyenya said. “And it is this conflict within that creates the urge to fight both physically and internally.

“The power of observing and coming to terms with this internal individual process creates an urgency of inquiry and using dance choreography as a major drive excites me and puts importance on the possibility of creating peace within oneself.”


Ârōōr/ǎ is an Afro-Futurist project in the form of a part play/part installation piece that attempts to imagine the possibilities of a Somali future as we approach three deceased of war in Somalia. It takes a critical examination of what a Somali future could look like by combining modern motifs with post-colonial era symbolism.

The piece is directed by Yusra Warsama and produced by Numbi Arts.


Salaam Festival aims to reimagine the work of Muhammad Iqbal, a South Asian Muslim writer, philosopher and politician whose Urdu poetry is highly regarded in the world of twentieth-century work. The festival’s director has decided to look at one of Iqbal’s most controversial poems by him. Shikwa (Complaint) which will be written and composed by Rushil Ranjan and performed by Manchester Camerata featuring Abi Sampa as vocalist.

“To interpret a work as significant as Allama Iqbal’s Shiwa – in such a new and ground-breaking way – is an opportunity that I am deeply grateful for,” Ranjan said. “To be able to voice this interpretation with an orchestra as accomplished as the Manchester Camerata is a real privilege.

“The essence of the poem itself is so deeply spiritual and simultaneously so human – in the most nuanced of way.”


  • Sanam Marvi with Elaha Soroor and Kefaya, Thursday July 21, at the 02 Ritz.
  • Yazz Ahmen and Kamaal Williams, Friday, July 22, at Manchester Academy 2.
  • Ajam Band, Saturday, July 23, at Band on the Wall.
  • Dhafer Youssef’s Digital Africa Featuring: Ballake Sissoko & Eivind Aarset, Sunday, July 24, at Stoller Hall.
  • Arooj Aftab, Monday July 25, at Manchester Cathedral.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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