A cultural festival held in Manchester, UK, this weekend drew hundreds of people in a celebration of Palestinian culture and arts.
Held at the Manchester Museum, the event – "Breaking the Occupation of the Mind" – featured huge names including academic Dr Ilan Pappe and activist and rapper Lowkey, as well as former president of the National Union of Students (NUS) Malia Bouattia, who has long been vocal in her support of Palestinian rights.
"It was refreshing to see how many people were willing to get involved," event organiser Muhammad Ibrahim told MEMO, adding: "At first I was worried about attracting big names to participate, but when I contacted them it was great to see that they were keen to support the event."
The event was a sell-out, even after Muhammad released additional tickets to cope with the demand. Over 200 people eventually attended, but Muhammad says he was not surprised by the level of interest the event received. "There aren't many events celebrating Palestinian culture in the north [of England], everything happens in London, so I knew there could be a big appetite for an event," he says.
Yet putting the event together did not come without its challenges. "Finding a venue willing to host a Palestine-themed event can often be an issue," Muhammad explained, "a lot of venues are wary, so getting a prestigious venue like the Manchester Museum on board was a great success."
Guests were hugely supportive of the event on social media, with one Twitter user sharing images of the packed venue hall with the caption: "Enjoyed being immersed in Palestinian arts and culture last night [at Manchester Museum]".
Enjoyed being immersed in Palestinian arts and culture last night @McrMuseum . Well done @thinkibrahim for a truly wonderful event. #palestinearts pic.twitter.com/PUrimvdpwg
— Lena (@Lenaleenz) December 2, 2018
Other guests shared videos of the evening's Dabke – a traditional Palestinian folk dance – performance by London-based dance troupe Hawiyya Dance.
From the amazing #Palestinearts event pic.twitter.com/WvpHxFBWQv
— Sumayya (@SumayyaBfd) December 2, 2018
"Can't believe I'm stood in @McrMuseum [Manchester Museum] and the Palestinian Dabke is being performed flashmob style on the 3rd floor. A beautiful act of resistance. A peaceful manifestation of protest," another Twitter user wrote.
With all proceeds going to the Hoping Foundation – a charity which works with Palestinian children in refugee camps across the Middle East to provide cultural projects – Muhammad hopes the event will be the first of many. "I would definitely do it again," he says: "Palestinians have such a rich culture and they're so engaged with the arts, so bringing this to a mainstream audience has been an honour"..
READ: Palestinian Forum in Britain organises largest Palestinian Festival in London