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MACFEST 2023: Celebrating Muslim Arts and Culture in the UK

18 February 2023 to 30 July 2023 Manchester


Founded after the Manchester bombings of 2017, Qaisra Shahraz MBE had a vision of a united Manchester, free from division and accepting of differences. To fight back against racist and Islamophobic violence, MACFEST began in 2018, to help introduce the city into the world of Muslim culture, hoping to fight ignorance with cultural awareness. 

Year on year the event becomes more sprawling and encompassing over the city of Manchester. The history and culture of the Islamic world may be too rich and complex to translate over one festival, yet by including a huge range of events that highlight architecture, photography, history, literature, as well as music, festival goers can get a feel for everything.

This year’s instalment of MACFEST is set to be their biggest. Starting as a 10-day event, then a 15-day event in 2020, this year the festival will be occurring over a number of months, from the end of winter til the heat of summer. Joining forces with the newly formed Muslim Women's Arts Foundation and Festival, this year’s instalment promises a greater diversity of speakers and artists, shedding more light on women’s experiences and contributions to culture that often go unnoticed. 

Focusing more on culture instead of religion and politics, MACFEST draws cultural fragment from across the Muslim world; Afghani women artists, Turkish folk dance, Kuwaiti photography, Palestinian embroidery, Andalusian poetry, as well as British Muslims contributing their art and experience. An international festival with collaborators from all corners, coming with a massive 64-page brochure that boasts a dizzying number of events available, MACFEST will light up the city of Manchester with a jubilant celebration of all things Islamic, as well as its cultural hybridisation with British Culture.

The founder, Qaisra Shahraz MBE, was motivated to start the festival after the 2017 bombings, yet influenced by the racism her and her family experienced growing up in Manchester after moving from Lahore as a youth. Speaking to Manchester Evening News, she recalls an incident of “a brick being thrown which just missed my baby brother in his cot. You lived with that fear.” By introducing the people of Manchester, Muslim or otherwise, to the wide world of Islamic culture and all of the riches it has to offer, there is a hope that Manchester can become a safer, more accepting and understanding city for all of its citizens.