Lubna, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010, a photograph from Rania Matar’s A Girl and Her Room series.

LONDON - It seems as if London cannot get enough of Arab art and culture. On July 9th, the newly restructured Shubbak festival held a ‘soft’ launch for its June 2013 edition at the Qattan Foundation’s Mosaic Rooms. Continuing under the auspices of the Mayor of London and with the active involvement of Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Shubbak promises to have an even better outreach and programming for 2013, given its earlier start and the experiences learned from the first festival.

Chairman Omar Al Qattan and his right-hand colleague Festival Director Sue Davies outlined some of the plans and the new structure: Shubbak is now a registered charity, housed in the Mosaic Rooms, and bolstered by both institutional and individual stakeholders of note. Zaha Hadid is lending her support, and a high-flying list of patrons gives credibility to a festival that received an exceptional attendance and press coverage last summer. Sotheby’s is, of course, proud to be a cultural partner and submitted ideas alongside the many other potential partners that had been invited to the initial brainstorming.

The Mosaic Rooms:  Che, Angel, It's Me, Donkey exhibition by Fadi Yazigi, 2011.

As a former Asia House hand and privileged member of the Board of Shubbak, I know only too well the complexities of running a festival that aims to represent art and culture from a large geographic area composed of many nations that come under a unifying banner. What impressed me most last year was the seamless way Arab and North African artists gathered in London to express their many voices in unison. Festivals are frequently synonymous with celebration, and the anticipatory mood for Shubbak 2013 is nothing short of that.