Grand Junction announces Elixir Festival celebrating artworks from the Middle East and North Africa

Grand Junction has announced its programme for Elixir Festival taking place from 12th April, celebrating Arabic artworks culturally resonant for local communities and wider London audiences. Connecting the diverse cultures that make up West London’s community, Elixir Festival will showcase a vibrant lineup of international and local contemporary artists as part of the two week-long festival. Hosted in the Grade 1 listed Grand Junction at St Mary Magdalene’s in Paddington, Elixir Festival will present a rich programme of theatre, music, workshops, and food created by contemporary artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and Anatolia. Created in partnership with Arts Canteen and Shubbak Festival, Elixir Festival is rooted in the Arabic al-‘iksīr is a symbol of healing and will serve as a remedy for cultural connection.

Program highlights include: 

  • The Olive Jar, a play celebrating West London’s Arab communities and the extraordinary stories that ordinary people can tell. Created through workshops with the community local to the Grand Junction, the play explores the rich heritage of Londoners from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, and beyond.
  • Award-Winning Sister Duo The Ayoub Sisters present an unmissable evening of masterful violin and cello playing infused by Arabic and Celtic influence.
  • Palestinian singer Ruba Shamshoum’s unique fusion of poetic dream pop, jazz and Middle Eastern soul. Performing songs from her albums Shamat and Risha telling riveting stories of femininity.
  • A special Eid celebration edition of Grand Junction’s To The Table food sharing event, featuring a community meal, music, comedy, storytelling and creative activities.
  • Jamarabia Live Music Sessions led by Syrian violinist Bassel Hariri (also known as USTAVI) featuring a selection of classical Arabic Tarab songs and poems bringing together the finest Arab artists in London.

Creative and Community Director Lucy Foster said, “We are incredibly excited to be working once again with our brilliant partners Arts Canteen and Shubbak Festival. The word ‘Elixir’ is rooted in the Arabic term ‘al-iksīr,’ and we chose it for the profound meaning it brings around healing and its power to remedy ills, something that is much needed in the world right now. The festival lineup is a celebration of the brilliance of artists from the Arab world and Anatolia working in the UK today, continuously broadening perceptions and enriching our cultural landscape.”

Arts Canteen Creative Director Aser El-Saqqa said, “Amidst these very dark times, we believe the purpose of art and culture is to reflect the times and shift the narrative. Elixir Festival brings us together for an exciting and eclectic mix of collaborations and creative events this coming April. It is an important opportunity for conversation and cultural and artistic exchange in London, we are thrilled and honored to be working with our partners Grand Junction for the third year in a row.”

Shubbak Festival CEO Alia Alzougbi said, “Shubbak Festival is warmed to be working in community with Grand Junction again, this time in the necessary space that is the Elixir Festival. Now, more than ever, platforming the polyphonous artistic expression of the region is a duty we must all hold firmly and with reverence. We stand to bear witness to the humanity and valuable cultural contribution of Arab & SWANA artists and communities and are delighted to be doing this with such devoted partners as Grand Junction and Arts Canteen.”

Grand Junction is a multi-arts venue and community culture hub based at St Mary Magdalene’s Church in West London. Its mission is to create and present an eclectic and collaborative programme of music, arts and performance for young people, families, and adults. Ten minutes’ walk from Paddington Station and beside the Grand Union Canal, the church is one of the finest Neo-Gothic churches in the country. Managed by Paddington Development Trust, in 2019 the Grand Junction project saw the church open for the first time as a venue. Grade 1 Listed, the church was built in the 1860s and 1870s by the great Victorian architect G E Street, who orchestrated the best artists and craftsmen of the day to produce a masterwork combining architecture, sculpture, stained glass, and arguably the most remarkable painted ceiling in an English parish church. From the mid-20th century, the church fell into disrepair. It has since been lovingly restored, with a beautiful new building with a café, learning studio and visitor facilities has been added alongside, which was designed by Dow Jones Architects.  

Established in 2010, Arts Canteen curate and produce events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond. Shubbak Festival is the UK’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture, bringing new and unexpected voices alongside established artists to London every two years.

Full programme: 

Ruba Shamshoum 12 April, 8pm

Opening Elixir Festival, the Palestinian singer returns to Grand Junction with a unique fusion of poetic dream pop, jazz and middle eastern soul. Ruba’s voice encapsulates jazz elements, with her Middle Eastern roots and colorful harmonies complementing her dreamy style and take it to unique and distinctive places.

£17.00 | Suitable for all ages


Jamarabia Live Music Sessions (Aleppo Tarab Re-Imagined) 13 April, 8pm

An enchanting evening inspired by the Tarab repertoire of Aleppo in Syria, known internationally as the hub of Tarab in the Arab world for its distinct maqams and diverse lyrical styles. The concert will feature a selection of classical Arabic Tarab songs and poems re-arranged for audiences for the first time.

£17.00 | Suitable for all ages


To The Table Eid Music Special    13 April, 2pm – 5pm

A special Eid food sharing community event, featuring a community meal and storytelling, music and creative activities.

FREE | Suitable for all ages


The Ayoub Sisters 18 April, 8pm

A very special evening from the award-winning sister duo as they perform songs from their critically acclaimed album, Arabesque – a celebration and tribute to music from the Arab world. The Scottish/Egyptian duo – Sarah and Laura Ayoub – present an unmissable evening of masterful violin and cello playing. Combining classical string traditions with world music infused by Arabic and Celtic influence, the sisters are internationally recognized for uniting diverse musical genres and cultures through their unique compositional style.

£19.00 | Suitable for all ages


Olcay Bayir 19 April, 8pm

Championed by The Guardian as one of the finest, most intriguing singers on the British world music scene, Olcay’s velvet voice seamlessly blends her time-honoured Anatolian heritage with the dynamic grooves and funky rhythms of her current home, London.Olcay Bayir’s compositions move from her Alevi and Kurdish origins, drawing inspiration from the Anatolian songbook with a nod to Mediterranean and Balkans sounds from flamenco to rebetiko. She will perform in Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian and Greek.

£17.00 | Suitable for all ages


The Olive Jar       25 – 27 April, 8pm

The olive tree roots us to our land, on our tables they offer hope as well as food. Like olives, our stories wait, hidden and preserved in their jars, to be shared. Some will be bitter, and others sweet. The Olive Jar holds stories of winding journeys to a new place, of half-remembered memories passed down through the generations, of finding a little bit of home in a big city, and marks what changes and what stays the same. The performance leads the audience into an atmospheric world of empowerment and resistance, where tea, dolma and olives can be shared with new friends.

£6.00 – £12.00 | Suitable for ages 7+


A Night Curated by Young Shubback    2 May, 8pm

Young Shubbak takeover Grand Junction for one night only to programme a multi-arts form event relevant to young people’s cultural experience.

£6.00 – £8.00 | Suitable for all ages

The Elixir Festival takes place from Thursday 11th April until Thursday 2nd May 2024 at Grand Junction at St Mary Magdalene. To find out more about the festival, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop