‘Why celebrate an event that happened 40 years ago?’ – A valid question and one I have been asked since discussing the World of Islam Festival with friends and colleagues. Just as common has been; “Why should I care? I wasn’t even born then?” It then becomes even more curious when considering we’re expected an audience of over 150 people for our event next week, with the vast majority being young people.

It all began less than a year ago, when I received an email from Dan Lowe, Curator of Arabic Collections at the British Library. He suggested we meet to discuss how we could collaborate and recommended we organise a workshop around the festival as it, “was really important for promoting Islamic culture in the context of British cultural heritage institutions. … and looking at its impact, historically but also critically.”

After receiving this email my team and I began to research the festival and like most, were absolutely blown away by its scale. The number of heritage items acquired for display and the involvement of the most prestigious heritage and academic institutions across the UK. However, it wasn’t long before we started to view the festival in the here and now. The inevitable and idealistic question arose; ‘Could there be an equivalent to the festival today?’

Focus very soon shifted to questions of representation of Muslim and Islamic heritage and culture in museums and archives. As well as those concerning the Muslim communities accessibility to its’ heritage and to where ‘our’ heritage should ‘live.’

Should British Muslim heritage be archived alongside existing and contemporary British histories?

Do we require our own space? Similar to the Jewish Museums in both London and Manchester and the Black Cultural Archives?

This makes the Q&A session next week even more important. It is an opportunity for both the community and heritage professionals to share their views questions and concerns around British Muslim heritage. Our conversations around the festival have reflected many of those we have had since the beginning of our project two years ago. In our most recent event, representatives from the arts, education and heritage came together to express their views from their respective fields. You can view their short ‘provocations’ from our What Matters? event here.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday and/or sharing highlights from our events in future newsletters.

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