Sandpit Arts is a non-profit arts organisation, which creates inspiring, high participatory events for local communities. By providing platforms for presenting and discussing the diverse creative cultures of the Middle East, North Africa and their diasporas, our aim is to educate and create cross-cultural understanding. Our engagement with as wide an audience as possible facilitates a more complex understanding of these arts practises and champions creativity of the highest standard.
We are also a space in which this happens dialogically by providing opportunities for Middle Eastern and North African audiences to access the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Britain. We seek to build a shared cultural memory, as we believe this is a route to a more subtle and nuanced understanding beyond the simplifications of ‘Orient’ and ‘Occident’.
Our work aims to
- explore new and critical ways of engaging with and discussing the arts practices of the Middle East, North Africa and their diasporas
- foster more complex understandings of these groundbreaking works by providing platforms for showcasing them
- create entry points into this rich cultural space for those who may not be able to access them
- foster and facilitate creative dialogue between arts practitioners in Britain and those in the Middle East and North Africa
Co-Artistic Directors: Zeina Frangie-Eyres & Akkas Al-Ali
Zeina read Arabic at the School of Oriental & African Studies after which she completed a masters in Applied Translation Studies at the University of Leeds. Zeina has had extensive experience providing consultation and collaboration on projects including Shezad Dawoodʼs inshallah, Edge of Arabia, Offscreen and the Arab British Centre. Zeina has almost a decadeʼs experience of teaching in further, higher and community outreach education. She has lectured on the Arabic language, literature, cinema, society and culture.
Akkas read Arabic and History at the School of Oriental & African Studies after which he completed a masters in playwriting and dramaturgy at Goldsmiths. In between, he was part of the Royal Court Theatreʼs Young Writers and Critical Mass programmes. His plays have been performed at the DSC South Asian Literature Festival 2011, the National Theatre Studio, the Rich Mix, Spill Festival 2011, Soho Theatre, Tara Arts, the Royal Court Theatre, the Oxford Playhouse and the Hackney Empire. His articles, short stories and scripts have been published by The Platform, Ceasefire Magazine, Index on Censorship, Polari Magazine, Chroma Literary Journal, Sable LitMag and Brand Literary Magazine. He is currently a PhD student in drama at the University of Exeter, researching Palestinian theatre.
Production: Alia Alzougbi
Alia read Sociology at the American University of Beirut, after which she completed an MA in Social Anthropology. She was then awarded the British Chevening Scholarship from the British Council to pursue an MA in Applied Theatre at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She is an actress, storyteller and dancer who uses these performance traditions as tools for alternative education in schools and community settings. She was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland in the category of ‘Best Performance in Film’ and was awarded the Trailblazer award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2008, both for her title role in the film Trouble Sleeping. In 2011, she was awarded the Best Storyteller award by the Fringe Report.
Held in a beautiful arabesque tent, The Far Pavilion was Brighton’s first ever festival of Arabic film, music, dance and storytelling. It took place on 6 and 7 October 2012 at the Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton.
We had a fantastic start to 2013, producing a double bill of plays at the Brighton Fringe.
Tunnel was set in one of the tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt. When it collapses, professional smuggler Salim finds himself trapped with 17-year-old Ammar, a surfboard and a goat. Tunnel received a four-star review from Broadway Baby.
Gather Ye Rosebuds was set in Cairo following the revolution of 2011. As well as a compelling exploration of female genital mutilation, friendship and gender, this was a brave indictment of the failures of the Arab Spring. Gather Ye Rosebuds got a four-star review (Fringe Guru), won New Writing South’s Best New Play Award 2013 and recently completed a run at London’s Theatre503!
Writer: Mags Chalcraft
Director: Tanushka Marah
Cast: Fanos Xenofós, Vikash Bhai, James El-Sharawy, Lara Sawalha and Adam Lowry-Smith
Crew: Steve Lowe (lighting designer) and Jules Deering (sound designer)
Gather Ye Rosebuds
Writer: Silva Semerciyan
Director: Diyan Zora
Cast: Dilek Rose, Tamar Karabetyan, Donna Combe and Michelle Ghatan
Crew: Paul Lichternstern and Victor Correia (assistant directors), Pilar Sierra (set designer), Catherine Arnold and Claudia Spreyer (costume designers), Steve Lowe (lighting designer), Jules Deering (sound designer) and Cathryn Robson (voice coach)
In collaboration with The Mosaic Rooms, Sandpit Arts is pleased to present three semi-staged play readings by UK-based Arab playwrights Hassan Abdul-Razzak, Yamina Bakiri, and Hannah Khalil.
Inspired by a true story, Bitterenders is a dark comedy about a family of Palestinians who find themselves forced to share their home with Jewish settlers by a court ruling. As they struggle to come to terms with the imposing chalk line separating them from the interlopers, they discover something that threatens to destroy their already fragile home altogether.
The Tune is always better on the outside is a short play featuring two people encountering one another in a shared space. An Instructor has given them a vague directive to work together, or perhaps play. One of them devises a game that seems harmless at first, but quickly escalates into something more sinister. There might be a chance for reconciliation, if only he could stop humming the sacred tune.
Following the sell-out success of Bulbul 2012 and Bulbul @ The Fringe, we’re really excited to bring you Bulbul 2013 – our second annual playwriting competition for new writers.
This year, we asked writers to respond to the theme: crying over the ruins. We took them back to the ancient poets as they stood nostalgically at the deserted campsites. How they responded to this was entirely up to them. All we asked was that their work showed courage, a unique voice, a strong storytelling element and a cohesive narrative.
The entries were read by an independent panel of judges comprising Chris Taylor (director, New Writing South), Steven Brett (artistic director, The Nightingale Theatre) and Ahmed Masoud (director, Al Zaytouna).
The winners of Bulbul 2013 are:
Bitterenders by Hannah Khalil, directed by Guillaume Laroche
Honolulu by Stephen Keyworth, directed by Akkas Al-Ali
Casualties of War by Heather Dunmore, directed by Ahmed Masoud
This year’s showcase will be on Friday 1st November 2013 at The Nightingale Theatre in Brighton. Watch this space for more information!
With the incessant negative media coverage from the Middle East it is easy to become numbed and apathetic to the humanity and culture from the region and its diaspora. Bulbul is a great example of how the medium of theatre can be used to help change perceptions promote a better understanding. I hope it goes from strength to strength and I’m delighted to be involved. (Julian Caddy, managing director of the Brighton Fringe)
Four writers. Four locations. One theme: the Arab Spring.
Bulbul 2012 was Sandpit Arts’ first annual playwriting competition. Writers from around the world were invited to submit 30-minute plays in response to the Arab Spring. We had entries from Muscat to Norwich, and everyone was impressed by the high quality of the writing.
The four winners were chosen by an independent panel of distinguished judges: Steven Brett (artistic director, The Nightingale), Chris Taylor (director, New Writing South), Tanushka Marah (artistic director, Company:Collisions), Julian Caddy (managing director, Brighton Fringe) and Diyan Zora (creative director, Swivel Theatre Company).
As well as being performed at The Nightingale, awarded Best Venue at the Brighton Festival Fringe 2011, the writers received a year’s free membership of New Writing South.
Read the four-star review here!
Far away from 24-hour rolling news networks, these tense, witty, absurd and melancholy plays teach us something about what it means to be a human being yearning for freedom.
by Mags Chalcraft (directed by Tanushka Marah)
starring: Lara Sawalha, Sany Baki, Robert Cohen and Nabil Elouahabi
Gather Ye Rosebuds
by Silva Semerciyan (directed by Diyan Zora)
starring: Hattie Gregory, Victoria Jones and Diyan Zora
Waiting For Summer
by Peter Raynard (directed by Seíf Shehata)
starring: Günalp Koçak and Jason Will
The Cost Of Eggs
by Yamina Bakiri (directed by Tommy Lexén)
starring: Isobel Mascarenhas-Whitman and Vikash Bhai
Lighting design by Steve Lowe
Watch out for Bulbul 2013!
As part of London’s Shubbak Festival 2015, we bring you the following plays from some brilliant new talents.
Nahda: four visions of an Arab awakening
Presented in a diwaniya or salon setting, Sevan K. Greene’s Nahda: four visions of an Arab awakening is an exploration of contemporary Middle Eastern identity in the familial, political, economic and social contexts. Nahda also celebrates what it means to be the ‘Arab Other’ fighting for the freedom to establish identities that sometimes cannot exist between two worlds. What does an uprising of the self look like in a world where negotiating between East and West produces deep inner conflicts?
Bringing together three of London’s foremost Arab women playwrights, Hannah Khalil, Yamina Bakiri and Malu Halasa, Razor Sharp is a series of rehearsed readings of satirical plays responding to current affairs. Working with the same cast, these are plays by Arab women who are not afraid to put pen to paper and tell it as they see it.
Collaboration plays a key part in what we do. We’re always on the look out for new friends. Here are some of the work we’ve done in the last few months since setting up.
In April 2012, we were approached by the inspirational young people at Restless Beings to produce a short play in response to the amazing work they do around the world. The result was Invisible, which was performed at Kukusanya on 5th May – a fantastic evening celebrating Restless Beings’s fourth birthday.
In February and March, we worked closely with the University of Leeds to curate a series of film screenings, workshops and lectures. Here are some of the events we organised.
Sandpitters are social creatures. We love meeting new people and organisations. You might be a writer, a musician, an artist, a filmmaker, a director, a curator, a producer, a translator, an organisation or just someone with lots of interest: we want to hear from you!
Recently, we worked with the University of Leeds to curate a season of Arabic cinema, workshops and lectures. We worked with the human rights charity Restless Beings to produce a play responding to the work they do around the world.
Our partners make our events happen. If you’re interested in working with Sandpit, in any capacity, please contact us.
Arts Council England is a government-funded body dedicated to promoting the performing, visual and literary arts. Since 1994, it has been responsible for distributing lottery funding and this investment has helped to transform the artistic landscape of England.
The Royal Pavilion is a former royal residence located in Brighton, UK. Built for the Prince Regent, later King George IV, in stages between 1787 and 1823, this magnificent pleasure palace was revered by fashionable Regency society and is still a distinctive landmark for vibrant Brighton & Hove today.
The world-famous Brighton Fringe is an open access arts festival held annually in Brighton. It is the largest annual arts festival in England. In 2012, the Fringe had over 720 events taking place in over 192 venues across the city.
The Lizard Stage is a solar-powered festival and events stage and world music café which tours the country’s leading festivals. In addition, they host The Rollright Fayre in North Oxfordshire welcoming 1000+ festival-goers every year.
New Writing South is a literary development organisation for the South East, helping to create an environment in which creative writers and new writing can flourish. They offer writers development, encouragement, resources and opportunities.
The Nightingale is a theatre dedicated to supporting artistic development. Emphasising its passion for excellent work made for small spaces, it presents theatre performances across New Writing, Performance, Dance and Film, both on and off-site.
The Arab British Centre works to improve the British public’s understanding of the Arab world. It organises and promotes a range of cultural and artistic events relating to the Arab world, including Arabic language classes, exhibitions of contemporary art, public lectures.
CINECITY is a partnership between the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Screen Archive South East and the University of Brighton. It delivers a year-round programme of film and moving image events, screenings and exhibitions as well as the annual CINECITY Brighton Film Festival, the region’s major celebration of film.
Human Film is a European film production company committed to producing cutting edge films that entertain, inspire and revolutionise filmmaking to an art form, taking Art House themes into mainstream cinemas, challenging perceptions and raising questions.