When I first met Qaisra Sharaz in summer, I was taken aback with her warmth and generosity. Qaisra, an acclaimed novelist, scriptwriter, and award-winning activist welcomed me into her home like one of the family members and told me about MACfest, the Muslim arts and culture festival, while pouring more and more spoonfuls of rice onto a plate of food she had made me.
It was clear that MACfest is a passion project for Qaisra. The fest was created as a response to the Manchester Arena attack – Qaisra told me stories of hijabi girls and women scared to leave the house, living in fear from the effects of an individual’s actions and the effects it had to Islamic communities. MACfest celebrates communities and solidarity, not just within Islamic communities, but within all the religious and non-religious communities within Greater Manchester and beyond.
The beauty of MACfest is not just showing that Islamic communities are alive, but they are rich with culture. MACfest uses the arts and history to unify Muslim and non-Muslim communities. It demonstrates the variety of different communities within the Islamic community; events like the Manchester Muslim Poets Bonanza demonstrate MACfest’s commitment to showcasing Islamic art from different regions like Pakistan, Bengal, Iran and Somalia. MACfest has also attempted to include everyone, from having largely free events to hosting them in a wide variety of venues. This is clearly important to Qaisra who stated that,
“The festival engages people of all ages and denominations, including school, college and university students and local communities and is hosted in all mainstream venues, galleries, museums, theatres, and libraries. Our mission is to celebrate arts and connect communities and to spread sweetness and positivity- hence our slogan #SpreadHoneyNotHate.”
There is an exciting variety of events at the MACfest. For non-muslim volunteer, Barbara, “MACFEST is a joy, it’s brimming with fascinating learning about so many aspects of Muslim culture. When I look at the brochure, it’s like a top-class restaurant menu: I want to eat everything listed!”. She’s not wrong- MACfest has everything ranging from art and science to comedy.
The MACfest opening ceremony will be on the 11th of January. Tickets and a full list of events can be found on Eventbrite.