Europe’s first Egyptian Cultural Festival was supposed to take place in London between the 9th and 10th of November. But it was unexpectedly cancelled a week before the event, despite three years of planning.
The festival was designed to celebrate Egyptian cuisine, music and arts. The lineup included a wide range of acts from both Anglo-Egyptian and Egyptian background, such as Omar Hamdi, a British-Egyptian comedian. The event also aimed to spotlight Egyptian art, fashion and films.
Despite the extensive planning time, the Director and Founder of the festival, Ghada El Menoofy, cited last minute lack of funds as the core reason for the festival’s cancellation. The event was sponsored not only by private companies like EgyptAir and AlAhly Bank, but also the Foreign Ministry of Egypt.
The precise reasons for the event’s financial distress is unclear. In the cancellation announcement, El Menoofy also cited last minute Visa rejections of their “main sponsor”, and some of the Egyptian fashion designers. Food vendors also reportedly pulled out due to what the festival has described as a “lack of work capacity to operate”.
On Facebook, one user suggested engaging the British Council to sponsor the event, rather than “third party [nationals]”. The hosts replied that they are taking all preparations to avoid such visa issues in the future.
National cultural festivals are widely found in London. In October, German Oktoberfest events were celebrated around the capital. November saw a Russian Film Week, as well as celebrations of Diwali in Trafalgar Square. London Turkish Film Week will be occurring between November and December. The prominence of these events brings light to the diverse population of London, as the variety of cultural festivals increase. Events like these show a desire to not only celebrate one culture, but potentially to share it as well. In divisive and divided times, events focused on individual communities can be powerful moments of cultural embrace. However, whether these festivals are state-sponsored, or organised exclusively by communities within the UK itself, varies.
While the sudden cancellation of the Egyptian Cultural Festival may have been a shock to attendees, the hosts claim the event has merely been postponed. Currently, they believe it will be rescheduled for 2020.