Bethlehem Cultural Festival returns to Glasgow this weekend

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The Bethlehem Cultural Festival returns to the city this weekend after two years operating under pandemic restrictions.

The Bethlehem Cultural Festival returns to Glasgow this weekend to celebrate Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean’s rich and diverse cultural scene in the city.

The festival launched digitally in December 2020, and 2021 saw the launch of a mixture of in-person and digital events. This year’s events take place across the UK featuring both local and Palestinian performers - with the Glasgow programme including spoken word, electronic music, short films, and a celebration of the twinned city link between Glasgow and Bethlehem.

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On Friday December 2, the evening of spoken word showcases the creativity of Palestinian and Glaswegian poets and spoken word artists at the Ramshorn theatre, Strathclyde University. Running from 7.30pm - 9.30pm the line-up features Glasgow based Palestinian poet and translator Iyad Hayatleh; performance poet, writer and community arts worker Victoria McNulty; British Palestinian spoken word artist and published poet Tasneim Zyada and Palestinian London-based artist Mo’min Swaitat whose practice spans music, sound, performance, research, curating and film. Further info and tickets for this event are available here.

On Saturday December 3 from 5pm a synchronised lighting of Christmas Trees in both Nativity Square in Bethlehem and Glasgow Cathedral will take place which will also feature a Dabke performance by a group of young dancers from Aida refugee camp . A live stream performance from Nativity Square will also be active - featuring Yacoub Shaheen, a past winner of Arab Idol. This is a free event with no booking needed.

Then on the evening of Saturday December 3 from 8pm - 1am music lovers are invited to join a night of electronic music celebrating the diverse music scene in Palestine and the wider surrounding region at Glasgow’s Civic House with ground-breaking Haifa-based duo Zenobia, London-based artist Mo’min Swaitat, and Edinburgh-based DJ Hiba all set to perform. This is an 18+ event, tickets start at £12.00 and are available here.

Melissa Scott, Co-founder and Creative Director, said: “As much of the world’s thoughts turn to Christmas, the Bethlehem Cultural Festival team is bringing a diverse range of cultural events from Palestine.

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“We are building on the rich cultural heritage that this region has always had throughout the centuries, and try to go some way to remind the world of the positive cultural work being done on the ground every day. We find ways to demonstrate what connects us in an age when we are increasingly being told what divides us.”

Rounding off the weekend’s programme is an afternoon of Palestinian short films at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sunday December 4. Running from 12pm - 2pm the screenings have been co-curated by Sarah Agha (actress, writer and founder of the Arab Film Club) and Wisam Al Jafari (the award-winning filmmaker from Bethlehem). This is a 16+ event, tickets are priced from £7.50 and are available here.

Zenobia will also play at the Bethlehem Cultural arts festival.Zenobia will also play at the Bethlehem Cultural arts festival.
Zenobia will also play at the Bethlehem Cultural arts festival.

Cairsti Russell, Glasgow Programmer, said: “For most people ‘Bethlehem’ means Christmas. But many don’t know that Bethlehem and Glasgow are twinned cities. The festival aims to shine a light on the vast range of culture coming from Palestine at the same time as celebrating and developing further the twinned city relationship.

“Each event in Glasgow features artists and performers based in both Glasgow and Palestine, to showcase an amazing array of talent but also in the hope of building further collaboration.

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“This year we are very excited about the eclectic programme we have for Glasgow. We will be welcoming the Palestinian duo Zenobia, who are coming all the way from Haifa to play at our night of electronic music. Zenobia are considered the pioneers of Palestinian electronic music, so we are thrilled that their first gig in Scotland will be for the festival.”

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