The Arab Spring may not have blossomed into a peaceful summer but the Mayor's Office is preparing a festival to mark the contemporary Arab world. It is hoped that the extravaganza will be "the first time so many different aspects of contemporary Arab culture will have been celebrated in one London festival". Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture will take place across large London venues including an exhibition of Arabic art at the Victoria & Albert Museum, an all-day event in Trafalgar Square called Souk on the Square and a showcase of Arab music and dance at the Barbican Centre. Sotheby's will also be involved, as will the British Museum, hosting readings and debates. But there is already some concern over whether the festival will tackle the thornier political aspects of the region, given the still raw ongoing conflicts in some parts. It is not yet confirmed whether the commemoration of countries including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, UAE and Libya, will be political in nature or refer to their uprisings, although a spokesman says the planned event "is about arts and culture".
An African artist invited to attend a publicly funded project in Nottingham - as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations - has been denied a visa, along with another unnamed colleague. Patrick Mudekereza, a cultural figure from the Congo, had been invited as an advisor on the steering committee for the World Event Young Artists. The South African playwright, Mike van Graan, has spoken out about the case and now Manick Govinda, from the campaign group, Manifesto Club, says he is appalled by its irony: "When thousands of pounds are going in to celebrate cultural diversity, it is ironic that artists from Africa are being refused a visa to be involved in discussions for this big project," he says. The event hopes to bring together 1,000 artists between the ages of 18 and 30 from around the world. "It's supposed to be a wonderful celebration of internationalism but how are we to celebrate that with the huge hurdles of visa restrictions?" he adds. Artists to have been hit by the UK points-based visa system include the son of the Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti (above left) and the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. …