Following on from the successful Middle Eastern Film Festival at The Filmhouse, the full blown MESP gets under way
The Middle East has become a region almost synonymous with conflict and crisis; a horde of nations bound together by Islam, oil and repression. These negative connotations are set to be challenged by the upcoming 6th Annual Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, stretching from 19 Feb until 15 March.
The festival runs in conjunction with the Edinburgh Filmhouse Middle East Film Festival and is packed with a diverse programme of talks, exhibitions, storytelling, lectures and music. The main aim is to promote peace and understanding of the diversity of Middle Eastern culture, acting as a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. Individuals with first hand experience of peace and conflict in the region — from artists to educators — will provide a wide variety of offerings during the month. Not surprisingly, the MESP has received financial backing from a wide variety of organisations, including the Scottish Arts Council and the EICSP, the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace.
Highlights include John Rogers’ lecture on global spirituality — an examination of the values of peace and love in the context of the ‘greed-driven’ global economy (3 March, St John’s Episcopal Church) — and Richard Holloway’s lecture on the role of arts and culture in times of conflict, which perhaps encapsulates the wider message of the entire festival, and reveals the emphasis on spirituality which permeates (St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, 4 March).
There will also be workshops throughout, including Margot Henderson’s exploration of ‘Mindfulness’ and poetry in Middle Eastern culture (6 March, Quaker Meeting House). Emphasis is also placed upon peace and spirituality in the context of Scotland and its inter-connectedness with spirituality in the Middle East. One of the more unusual events is the Tara Jaff concert, where ancient music from Kurdistan will be interwoven with Celtic harp music (14 March).
Overall, the festival has an inclusive and welcoming theme, driven by a desire to expose fresh perspectives on Middle Eastern culture: perspectives which may not otherwise be exposed through our media-based and military-heavy representations of the region. Given the UK’s involvement in the Middle East in recent years the MESP should provide refreshing anti-venom to our understanding of the region and promote a deeper cultural awareness. That's definitely good enough to garner our vote.