Press releases 2018


 Last month, MACFEST a groundbreaking Muslim Arts and Culture Festival made its successful debut at venues across Manchester with more than 3000 attendees.

The festival took place over 9 days (17 -25 Nov) with 50 events. Its mission was to celebrate the diversity and richness of Muslim heritage in the UK and engage people of all ages and backgrounds including school children, college students and local community groups.

Founder and curator, Qaisra Shahraz said: “Through this unique festival, we managed to break down barriers, celebrate arts and bring both Muslim and non-Muslim communities together under one roof.

“We are incredibly proud of what the festival has achieved in the city of Manchester and hope to continue the work we are doing.”

MACFEST worked closely with seven local schools to explore Muslim arts and culture projects. Students from Whalley Range High School, Cheetham Primary, KD Grammar and the Bosnian Supplementary School took part in events with diverse art and performances.


Levenshulme High School, Abraham Moss Community School and Manchester College hosted their own MACFEST cultural days with staff and students. 

The festival celebrated art, literature, music, culture and heritage of the Muslim diaspora. 

There was something for everyone with debates, panels, book launches, art and photography exhibitions, presentations about Islamic civilisations, Nasheeds, art workshops and lots of food.

Leila Aboulela, MACFEST attendee and critically acclaimed Sudanese-born author said: “I had a great time at MACFEST, it is a new arts festival with a warm community spirit. 

“Congratulations to Qaisra for organising so many wonderful events. I was thrilled to meet writers whose work I greatly admire including, Sayeeda Warsi and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. For the first time ever I signed a copy of one of my books for a policewoman!”

Popular events from the festival included the opening ceremony at The British Heritage Centre. The opening ceremony had 13 Muslim women from Manchester welcome guests in their native language. A planting of the MACFEST tree also took place at the ceremony.

Other events included a multi-lingual poetry and Mushaira performance at Longsight Library. This event featured local Muslim poets from Pakistani, Bengali, Arabic and Somali heritage recite poems in their native tongues and in English. 

The festival ended with a musical finale at the Whitworth Art Gallery. An outstanding musical extravaganza with performances from artists from various Muslim countries.

- ENDS -


  • MACFEST aims to bring Muslim and non-Muslim communities together to promote social inclusion and to overcome barriers. 
  • This great initiative is led by Manchester-based, prize-winning author and peace activist Qaisra Shahraz FRSA, recently featured in the prestigious Power 100 list of the most influential Muslims in the UK.
  • Qaisra Shahraz has dedicated her life to fighting Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination. She is committed to building bridges between communities in the UK and around the world.

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 MACFEST, the ground-breaking new 10-day festival celebrating art, literature, music, culture and the heritage of the Muslim diaspora was in now in full swing across Manchester until Sunday 25th November, offering 50 events across Manchester, most of them free, at various venues including Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, MOSI, Central Library, Longsight Library.

Founder and Curator Qaisra Shahraz explains: 

MACFEST celebrates the diversity and richness of Muslim heritage in our country. It engages people of all ages and denominations, including school, college and university students and local communities. Through this unique festival, we are bringing Muslim and non-Muslim communities together to promote social inclusion and to break down barriers.”

It opened on Saturday at the British Muslim Heritage Centre, by keynote speaker Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester Warren Smith and attended by many prominent Manchester representatives, including Afzal Khan MP and Julie Ward MEP. Visitors were then able to listen to Baroness Sayeeda Warsi in conversation with Julie Ward MEP, and treated over the weekend to a vast array of presentation exhibitions, performances and films as well as fascinating panel discussions featuring critically-acclaimed writer Leila Aboulela, journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, international community activist Samia Hathroubi, Baroness Manzila Pola Uddin among many others. 

“An exciting festival which is pushing the boundaries and having conversations that are building stable foundations for strong communities,” enthused Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

MACFEST is also delighted to work with four local schools to explore Muslim Arts and Culture projects. Nasheed, art, and performances by school children from Whalley Range High School, Cheetham Primary, KD Grammar, and Bosnian Supplementary School were hosted showcased in front of an awed audience.

The festival continued over the week, with the following events:

  • Revolutionary Women Around The World - Art Exhibition & Discussion: learn and discuss revolutionary women such as Queen Amina of Zaria, Elizabeth Gaskell and others who contributed to our world’s educational, political, economic and societal structures – Wed 21st Nov, 1.30-3pm, Elizabeth Gaskell's House, free
  • Tour & celebration of Muslim Heritage and Architecture: Join Imam Irfan Chisti for this special tour of Manchester Central Mosque celebrating Muslim Heritage and architecture. People of all faiths and of none are welcomed, refreshments provided - Wed 21st Nov, 5-8pm, Central Mosque, Rusholme, free
  • Manchester Muslim Poets Bonanza: an evening like no other - celebrating Muslim heritage showcasing local writers of Pakistani, Somali, Bengali and Arabic background, hosted by Dr Emily Spiers and Zahid Hussain - Thurs 22nd Nov, 7.30-9pm, Manchester Central Library, free
  • Food tasting, Make up and Henna demonstrations by talented students - Thurs 22nd Nov 12-1.30pm, Manchester College, free
  • Celebrating Inventions from Muslim Civilisations: A presentation by Emeritus Professor Salim T S Al-Hassani, President of Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation – Sat 24th Nov, 10.30-11.30am, MOSI, free
  • Celebrating Islamic Civilisation & South Asia: Join Stephen Welsh and the team from Manchester Museum as they explore collections of artefacts from Islamic Civilisations and the South Asia Gallery. Refreshments provided - Sat 24th Nov, 12-1.30pm, Manchester Museum, free
  • Celebrating Multi-lingual poetry & Mushaira Performance: Local Muslim poets from Pakistani, Bengali, Arabic and Somali heritage recite poems in their native tongues and in English. This will be followed by a Mushaira performance poetry recital in Punjabi and Urdu by Circle of Literary Friends and local poets. Refreshments provided – Sat 24h Nov 2-5pm, Longsight Library and Learning Centre, free
  • Celebrate Anatolian Turkish Culture - Refreshments provided – Sat 24th Nov 6-9pm, STAR Centre, by invitation only
  • Muslim and Jewish women celebrate their shared cultural heritage: hosted by We Stand Together, Faith Network 4 Manchester, and sponsored by Foundation For Ethnic Understanding - Sunday 25th Nov 10.30am-12.30pm, Khizra Mosque, Cheetham Hill, by invitation only.
  • Musical extravaganza and performance: Grand Finale show at the Whitorth Art Gallery: As MACFEST 2018 comes to a close, join us for a musical extravaganza and performance with artists from different Muslim countries: Gulcin Bulut, Masoud Ghasemi & Farshid Mahyari, Sufi Nasheed, Numan Azmi, Sarah Yaseen, Mohammed Fadi Edel, Dabka dance by Manchester Arabic School Chorlton – Sunday 25th Nov 2-4.30pm, Whitworth Art Gallery, tickets £10.