Having spoken with Aser El Saqqa and Roya Arab, today we learn more about Alnoor Samji who looks after the evolving Volunteers Program for the Nour Festival.
Last book you read.
Disordered World by Amin Maalouf, an exceptionally well-written assessment of how we arrived at the current messy state. I loved the tone: often posing questions, providing the context as objectively as possible, and inviting the reader to make up their own mind. No magical answers, but plenty to think about.
Favourite place to grab a bite.
We’re spoilt for choice: if it’s a lovely day, Leonardo Caffe on Upper Richmond Road West has a hidden garden. Otherwise, on the opposite side of the road, Valentina serves a first-rate Italian take on the Full English. For special occasions, it has to be The Wolseley.
What museum or gallery do you most often visit?
Knight Webb Gallery in Brixton showcases both established and contemporary artists.
If you could choose one piece of art to live with, what would it be?
Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. It never fails to refresh the body, help you think things through and nourish the soul. The water trickling down the brook, the vivid azaleas in late spring, the remodelled duck pond and all the other wonders have been scattered on a natural canvas to produce a work of outstanding beauty.
Most touching moment from a previous festival?
Last year’s launch event was sponsored by the Embassy of Yemen. In preparation, the Ambassador took us on a day trip, to visit members of the Yemeni diaspora in Sheffield, including performers and artists. The warmth and hospitality were unforgettable.
This is the sixth edition of the Nour Festival of Arts. Have you been involved since the festival was established? How is the 2015 edition of the festival different than its predecessors?
I was invited to join the Nour steering group in 2011, the festival’s third year but the first time the Arts Service extended Nour beyond Leighton House Museum. It has grown each year, attracting new partners and audiences. This year, Nour returns to its roots as a pioneering arts education programme with a comprehensive learning programme.
Another important development is the festival’s volunteer programme. Whilst we have always required the support of volunteers, this year we have a structured process, with an initial team supporting the set up and marketing, and a further group of Festival Ambassadors and Workshop Assistants helping at events.
As “Europe’s most significant annual showcases of contemporary artists and culture from across the Middle East and North Africa,” what is one of the ways that the festival continues to interest and engage local and international audiences each year?
Often, festivals such as Nour allow nascent themes to gain momentum and capture the public imagination. I remember so well, the salon on Arab Science Fiction on the first evening of the 2013 festival. The discussion continues today around the world, with regular contributions on social media.
Alnoor Samji is a former partner of market research organisation, MORI. He now works independently, balancing research and cultural consultancy with extensive voluntary work. This interview was conducted by Lisa Pollman, freelance writer who connects Asian and Middle Eastern artists to the world.